Making Print on Demand Work for You
“Print on demand” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
What is Print on Demand?
Whenever I talk to someone about print on demand, I spend the first ten minutes defining what it means so I know we’re on the same page. To some people it means printing a single bound book. To others it means that you print the exact amount that is needed whenever the need arises, sometimes its 10 units sometimes it a 500 units. To others it means using digital print engines verses offset print systems.
At the end of the day, defining what “print on demand” means is less relevant then understanding a client’s need, and finding the best solution to meet that need.
What’s Really Important…
In working with associations and institutes who are struggling to manage print, inventory and fulfillment costs, I try to take the production process out of the equation and focus on issues that matter most to the organization.
Issues such as:
- how often is content changing
- what are annual publication sales
- what print quality is required
- what type of binding will strengthen the client’s image
These are the issues that impact the brand of an organization and no one really cares if you use print on demand, micro-inventory or long-run, offset print production. If you’re responsible for managing your organizations content your focus should be on getting the highest quality product at the best possible price.
This doesn’t mean print on demand is not a critical component to the print and fulfillment process. It is. New digital technology has greatly reduced the cost on short-run production. If a vendor is not utilizing production quality short-run digital print engines you may be forces into longer print runs to get the per unit cost you desire, that means higher inventory costs and less flexibility with content changes. Neither is good for you brand. But the focus for the person responsible for production should not be on defining the production process it should be on defining your needs. It’s your vendor’s responsibility to define production solutions.
If you’re working with a professional print and fulfillment vendor, they should be able to guide you to the production and inventory strategy that makes the most sense for your specific situation.
Considerations for Publications
Below are some of the issues that need to be considered when determining the optimum production and inventory strategy.
- How frequently does content need to be updated?
Many organizations are in the habit of managing their content updates based on their print runs. This makes logical sense, but if you would like to make updates on a more frequent cycle, it’s worth talking to your vendor to find out if they can produce cost-effective short runs that will allow you to respond to your changing content needs.
- What are quarterly and annual sales for a given publication?
It important to understand your depletion rates on your various publications. If you’re going through a few hundred units per quarter you may ask yourself if it would be better to print quarterly runs and be able to make more frequent content changes. This might be a better strategy than printing a 1000 units and not being able to make changes for a year.
- What are the inventory carrying costs?
You also want to understand the caring cost for inventory. Inventory costs are normally fairly low on incremental bases. Most of the time, I find inventory costs are not a large factor in determining run lengths. Usually, the cost is associated with waste. Often times association produce longer runs to get per unit costs down, but then the product doesn’t move and ultimately you’re forced dispose of the material.
- What are production costs for various runs lengths-10 units, 100 units, 500 units?
To really understand the effective break points in per unit cost, you need to have your vendor give you costs at various levels of production. This will give you the information you need to make decision around production runs.
- How much flexibility do you need around your product?
What if I need to add tabs, update covers, add color marketing pages, change binding types? Can these be handled on a short-run digital press? One of the big advantages of using production grade digital print engines is they can insert tabs, color divider sheets, color marketing pages right in-line with the production run.
These are all consideration you should have as you make decisions around inventory and production run lengths. The key finding a trusted vendor who can guide you through the process based on your specific needs.