What do we actually do? A look at print management – Part 1

Print management companies are always questioned as to what they actually do, and with good reason if you’re considering hiring one to look after your print. Although the process is quite complex and can get very technical, in the next 2 weeks I’ll try and explain a little of what we do on a normal day from enquiry to completion.

The Enquiry

The phone rings and a customer is considering their next marketing move – in this case a brochure. Now our customer has been with us for quite some time, so they know to approach us whilst they’re thinking of something new (not when they’ve had it all designed etc). We ask a few questions, something along the lines of “What do you want the piece to do for you?”, “who is the piece designed to be received by?” or “How are you going to distributing it?”. All these questions give us some indication of what the final item needs to do, how it needs to look or how it needs to be produced. This stage is critical in a print management companies process as the initial idea may need to be tweaked in some way (size, material or format).

The Specification

Having got through the enquiry and sorted all the finer details – we’ll go about creating a specification that suits all points. Here we’ll look at the most economic way of producing the job – what sizes fit on press best, and the pagination (amount of pages) that would work well. We’ll also look at the paper best suited to the job as well. This part has 2 sides – 1) the side that the customer sees (which we try to lay out using plain and simple language and 2) the side that the printers see (which contains more in depth instructions and print ‘geek speak’.

The Printer

Knowing the specification, gives us a clear indication of how the job would be produced, which in turn gives us the suppliers that can produce the item most effectively – this is not where the fun ends, as we will have asked the most important question at the enquiry stage of all… “When do you need it?”. This part is critical when speaking with printers. They have production boards planning approx 2 weeks ahead, which means if you don’t communicate when you need a job producing for, you’ll be planned in the next available space.

Accepting the job

Schedule, specification and cost have all been agreed and the job is due to move to print, this is where we will confirm all details one final time before proceeding, we’ll also talk about how the file needs to be submitted (unless they’re utilising our design service) and lead times.

File Check & Proofing

This important stage gives us control over our customers brand, receiving print ready artwork and checking through the file ourselves means that we can spot errors or tweak anything that we feel may lead to a poor print before the item goes into the production process. It also means we can check things like colour, fonts for consistency.

Proofing, dependant on the arrangement with the customer is usually handled by us, which means once artwork is accepted and approved, we’ll handle the production process for you. Whether this is checking a job as it’s running through the press (press pass), checking hi resolution proofs, or bringing up an electronic proof. In bigger terms (Point of Sale etc) we even have dummy copies made up to check everything works prior to pressing ‘go’.

I don’t want to over-load you with info, so next week – we’ll take a look at the next stage – from Print to Delivery

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