Print is perishable. Like a pizza, printers have to deliver while the job is “fresh.” In our world, “fresh” means according to a sales order, from a menu of choices, and delivered in a timely manner.
Simple, right? And if the printer can’t deliver, the job doesn’t disappear….it simply moves to another shop.
It is hard to imagine any manufacturing business model where the manufacturer never gets the same raw materials to build their product. Think about any industry – the auto industry, the computer industry, the fragrance industry… heck even the restaurant industry – where all their
work is perishable. Thinking of it this way, print is very similar to most of these industries.
What if you visited your favorite restaurant chain, lets say Red Lobster (since it is the world’s largest chain, who knew!) and you were there expecting to order the Shrimpfest. Except on this visit, Red Lobster only has monkfish, no shrimp. (Sidebar: If you have been around a monkfish, you’ll know it’s virtually impossible to confuse it with a shrimp. I just saw someone on an old TopChef episode try to clean one and prepare it; it officially cured me of eating any fish for about a year, but I digress.)
Back to the Red Lobster example. They may even have another type of fish aside from monkfish – but whatever the case is, it’s not exactly the same dish you had on your previous vist…which made you want to come back. Maybe their oven has been replaced by a microwave. Maybe they don’t have panko breadcrumbs and have to use crackers this time. No matter the reason, all the materials are slightly different, but it’s the same order!
This will not meet your expectations and you won’t be happy. You may even stop visiting Red Lobster. The point is, due to the variation in an order, the restaurant may lose a customer and in the service industry, food or print, customers keep us alive. Consistency is vital to making customers happy.
Like lots of manufacturers, commercial printers bring together an amalgamation of different materials and technologies from different sources, some old and some very new, to fulfill an expectation. Many times, the printer does not receive the exact same materials each time they manufacture the job. The printer might have to chase the exact same paper, though the vendors and mills change all the time. Their conventional versus digital print processes work on completely different technologies and standards, often difficult to even get close. And the actual content or digital files they get to build the job probably have the widest variation, and unfortunately this issue is getting worse as customers create files and images from more and more digital devices and channels.
It is not a surprise that the printing industry has so much variation; the advent of new technologies has allowed many exciting new ways to capture the imagination and expectations of the print buyer. But the industry have done little to lessen the load on the commercial printer to juggle the manufacturing process around the ever shifting sands of supplies, suppliers, people and presses, and those pesky digital file formats. To help alleviate this issue, commercial printers should seek out true “partners” (not vendors) to aid them in adjusting to this ongoing shift and to embrace these new technologies. Some say food is the way to one’s soul…but for many its consistent print output!
Til next time,
Joey Print Pants