A printer’s relationship with a trade bindery is often tumultuous, frustrating and even antagonistic. It is frequently flavoured with tension, mistrust and misunderstanding. Things can run smoother and can happen faster with more goodwill and a better understanding of the challenges a trade bindery and print shop each face. A mutual appreciation of each other will result in long-term relationships, which can be more enjoyable and profitable. The following are 10 ways that a printer can improve relationships that are risk free, do-able and sensible.
1. Visit your bindery
By all means, visit your bindery. I am intrigued by the number of printers who have dealt with the same binderies for years and have never visited the binderies’ premises. A simple, quick visit can tell you a myriad of things about the bindery. Notice things like the reception of the front office, the appearance of the plant’s employees, orderliness and the general appearance of the plant. If the plant looks like a disaster, there is a high-probability that one of your jobs will also look like a disaster. If the bindery’s employees exhibit an open, upbeat, caring attitude, you might assume it will carry over to your job when it comes in the door.
2. Build Personal Connections
Have a number of your employees meet with a number of the bindery’s employees. We frequently host lunches in our conference room followed by extensive plant tours. Depending upon the composition of the printer’s envoy (estimators, salespeople, production staff, etc.) we would introduce them to their counterpart in our bindery. It is intriguing to see someone relate to a person they have spoken to but never met. These meetings help to build self-confidence, trust and understanding.
3. Define Technical Terms
Spend a little bit of time with your bindery supplier agreeing on definitions of technical terms. Even within the same market, different binderies use different terms to describe the same thing. For example, one calls a folded product a 6-page, another calls it a single gatefold and another calls it just a gatefold. I have frequently seen mistakes costing thousands of dollars which were the result of a misunderstanding of technical terms.
4. Understand The Paper Work
Take some time to understand the bindery’s paper forms, such as quote forms, invoices and delivery slips. There are some shops where all of the quotes are faxed in without accompanying phone calls. Some quote over the phone and the response is faxed in. Others operate 100 percent verbally, both ways. More and more quotes are being faxed by the bindery eliminating the vast majority of phone calls. It gets through to the bindery faster than telephone tag, and it allows the bindery to evaluate the quote (is there needed information missing? Is it the kind of job that is suitable to their operation? Does the bindery need to get outside prices for the components of the quote?). This speeds up the timing of the quote and improves accuracy.
5. Agree On Payment Terms
Establish agreement about payment terms. Are the bindery’s terms or your terms a certain number of days from the shipping date, a number of days from date of invoice, or a number of days from receipt of the invoice (Heaven help the bindery then!). Are discounts applicable, for example two percent at 10 days at the discretion of the bindery.
I have seen occasions where the printer’s accounting department, for whatever reason, has not paid a previous invoice and half-way through the production of a new job, the production person advises their contact in the printing company that the job is C.O.D. and then everything goes sour. The establishment of payment terms is extremely important.
6. Guidelines For Samples
Establish some guidelines regarding samples. In our organization, we have 12 distinct policies from printers regarding samples. In some circumstances, bindery samples are made from selected sample stock determined by the printer, or a pre-determined quantity of samples are shipped to the printer on completion of a job, and there are even times when samples are sent to the printer as soon as the job begins production in the bindery.
7. Quality Control Procedures
Get a feeling for how the bindery oversees quality control. For instance, do they pull and maintain sheets from each stage of the job (e.g. a prescribed number at the cutter, folder, stitcher, tipping machine, round corner machine and shrinkwrap machine).
8. Quality Methods
Do they have an official, written quality control process that clearly establishes quality standards in each one of their operations, such as ISO 9000 Certification? Is each individual box stamped by the worker number and/or the person who packed it?
9. Overs And Under Policy
Work with the bindery to arrive at a mutually-acceptable policy regarding overs and unders. Some printers have a fixed number regardless of the quantity of the job, such as three percent. I have often thought the fixed percentage was a little strange because three percent of 5 million is an awful lot of paper! Some printers have a standard policy of zero overs. Some have a different overage percent depending upon the quantity and/or style of the job and/or their final customer. Other printers make up their policy as they go along and it all too frequently ends in trouble.
10. Show-Off Your Plant
Have some of the bindery people visit your plant. Serve them coffee and give them a plant tour. Give yourself a chance to show-off your plant and staff. Ask your bindery supplier to bring a half dozen people from different departments. Let them get a flavour of your company’s character, size and product mix. Once they have a complete picture of your plant, they can understand your problems and frustrations – and a picture is worth a thousand words.
Business is about people; not computers or machines. People who mutually understand, appreciate and like each other are able to perform to their optimum. Implementing these 10 points will lead to a long-term, profitable (and believe it or not, enjoyable) relationship with your bindery supplier, and will get you further along the road to your goal than any other method I can think of.