To be successful with packaging printing production you need to have a close and good working relationship with a number of service providers. It is wise to consider the choice of working partners carefully.
When you compare different service providers, first think through what kinds of demands you will be placing on them. It is also important to consider what phases of the production you want to do yourself and which ones you will need help with. If you do large parts of the production yourself, it can be cheaper, but at the same time you take greater responsibility for the end result.
Remember that one service provider may be better than another for certain types of production, often because of the equipment needed. Below we will go through some different factors to consider when you choose service providers.
Quality and Competence
Competence and quality are often among the most important factors when you are choosing a service provider. You have to know what kind of assignment you will need help with, and what kind of competence is needed from the service provider to achieve the quality you want.
Service providers’ competence and level of quality are often difficult to judge before you have actually worked with them, but there are some things that can give indications. One way is to ask the service provider if you can see some jobs done for other customers.
You can find out if the company has certain areas of specialization. A com- pany that specializes in image editing should be reasonably proficient in this area but probably is expensive. If you don’t need especially high image quality, you may be able to work with a service provider who doesn’t specialize in this area. Otherwise you will be paying a relatively large amount for your images despite the fact that the quality is not especially important.
You can also ask the service provider to describe what factors and work steps they deem critical for good results, how they plan to work with you, and in what way they can ensure quality in the work flow.
Delivery Times and Delivery Guarantees
Delivery time and delivery guarantees may be decisive factors when you are choosing a service provider. Even these areas can be hard to judge beforehand. In principle it is a question of how quickly the service provider can complete particular tasks and how dependable the provider is.
You can ask the service provider how the delivery time can be guaranteed. Guaranteed deliveries can in some cases be absolutely essential, such as with the production and delivery of advertising. Sometimes it may be necessary to insert some sort of clause in the agreement covering the possibility of delayed delivery. If you need a quick turnaround, it can also affect the price.
Capacity and Resources
If you need to produce large volumes of product in a short time, it is important to find out if the service provider is used to such demands and has the machinery and personnel capacity. It is also wise to find out whether the service provider can handle both your job and projects for other customers at the same time. It is important that there be many people who can do the same things, so that not all the work rests on the shoulders of a few individuals.
Organization and Working Together
Find out what the company’s organization looks like and how it works with customers. How important will you, as a customer, be to the service provider, and will you receive the service you expect? Are there designated contact personnel? Will the contact person always be the same, or will it vary depending on the type of task?
Proximity and Availability
It can often be an advantage to be geographically close to your service provider, especially if fast delivery times are important and you have high quality demands. If delivery time is not of the greatest importance, there may be economic reasons to turn to a service provider located farther away. Some of the drawbacks of dis- tant service providers are that it can be hard to be on hand for the makereadies and it may not be easy to make quick decisions if there is a problem.
Another important question may be service level and availability outside of regular work hours. Find out what the hours of operation are and when and how the contact personnel are available. Printing houses and prepress companies often work in shifts or have some form of twenty-four-hour system. Companies that work in shifts can often produce more and offer shorter delivery times than companies that don’t.
References and Communication
Ask to see samples of typical jobs the company has done. Are they similar to the type of project you are inquiring about? Request the names of previous clients, and find out how their jobs went.
Graphic print production to a large extent involves working together and communicating. Talk at length with the service providers and make sure you get to know each other. Choosing work partners for graphic print produc- tion often means that you are beginning a relationship that will last for years. Changing service providers may mean you have to start all over again to build a well-functioning working relationship, and this can lead to unforeseen costs.
Standard Practices and Conditions
Find out what specific agreements are to be made between you and the service provider. Find out both your responsibilities as the customer and what the service provider is responsible for. Service provider conditions, quality guarantees, and copyrights are areas where it may be especially important to have detailed knowledge of what each side expects and will provide. Even details about payment procedures and accounting methods are important.
Quality and Environmental Work
Sometimes you can have special requirements in regard to environmental impact issues. In this case you should find out what standards and procedures the service provider has in place, and whether the provider is certified accord- ing to ISO 14001. The same applies to quality issues. There are also standards here, ISO 9000, but it can be important to remember that these standards apply to quality management procedures, not to the final product. Find out what the service providers do to ensure quality and how they work on steadily improving in that area.
Economy and Future
The graphic print production industry is in constant flux, and many companies in the field have a hard time staying in business. For this reason it is important to assess a company’s economic stability and ownership. It can also be interesting to find out what the service provider’s plans are for future projects and direction as well as business strategies to guarantee the company’s long-term survival.