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I portfolioknow what you are thinking. ”We have a good working relationship with a digital print company and we send our cut-sheet work to them”.

Nothing wrong with a little collaboration and long may it continue for those who work it well, BUT, you might be missing the point.

The print buyer of today is increasingly looking for a one-stop shop because it makes his/her job much easier. We are all working a lot harder than we used to and demands on individual times have never been greater.

Put yourself in the print buyers shoes:- “ABCX signs have always given us great service but they just can’t do the cut-sheet so I have to find another supplier for that.” “On the other hand, XYZA signs and digital can do everything and there aren’t any delays in getting proofs back…hmm!”

It is easier for this print buyer to route all their work through XYZA because he has less people to call, less accounts to manage, less invoices to handle, less admin and the result is just the same.

If there is one primary reason that I can give you for expanding your portfolio it is this:- STOP SENDING YOUR CUSTOMERS INTO THE ARMS OF YOUR COMPETITORS!

I know what you are thinking now, too, apart from “who is this man and what does he know?”

  1. I don’t know if I have the skills in-house to handle cut-sheet?
  2. Where do I go to learn?
  3. How much does the kit cost?
  4. Can I afford it?
  5. What do I need to compliment my wide-format?
  6. Am I going to damage my existing business if I take my eye of what I already do?
  7. What finishing do I need?
  8. How does this fit into my existing workflow?
  9. Where are the paracetamol?

This can all seem a bit scary, but when you reduce it to bite-sized chunks, it becomes more digestible.

  1. Skills Cut sheet devices rely on skills that you already have although in some cases they are much easier. Most digital printers have a RIP as the front end and these days most of them are supplied by EFI. Some equipment manufacturers do mess-about with their own controllers but the should really learn to leave it well alone as EFI have the job firmly nailed. (N.B. Keep away from manufacturer RIPS, they aren’t very good and are there to cut costs, not necessarily for you.) The RIP will enable you to impose jobs, create hot folders for specific applications, control colour, proof jobs, add variable data, queue jobs…the list goes on and on. The most important thing to remember is that they are blissfully easy to use. You are reading this on-line aren’t you? So, you already know how to use a computer? You are half way there already. The rest is part of a training programme that you SHOULD get with your printer. Training is key and when you choose the printer that suits you, please ensure that your supplier is fully aware of your training needs.
  2. Where to learn? Most training is carried out on YOUR machine, in YOUR premises at a time that suits YOU. Are you getting the message? It’s all about YOU and what YOU need, when YOU need it. It is possible to find training courses through local colleges and even extended training through your supplier. The bad news is that this can cost money. The really great news is, that if you get in touch with me, I will tell you where to find money that will pay for your training!! (YES…FREE MONEY!)
  3. Cost of kit? Pieces of string are at play here, but this does depend on what you want to achieve. Perhaps the best way to measure the affordability of cut-sheet is to calculate how much you have spent on sending the work out in the last 12 months. Once you know your expenditure, against the number of sheets you buy, with or without finishing, then you are in position to interrogate a digital supplier about getting something in-house that costs less than you spend. Cost should not be the main driver, but it is one aspect. Of course, this does depend on how big a jump you want to take, but starting out is not expensive and the market holds a fair number of low-cost second user devices that will allow you to get started without spending a fortune. Second-user doe NOT mean second quality.
  4. Can I afford it? Going back to the top of this article, the real question is can you afford to ignore it? Digital cut-sheet is not expensive. Being without it could cost you a lot more. Machines can be leased or purchased and allowing for a service contract that is all-inclusive, you should be able to manage your output costs accurately. (N.B. Keep away from suppliers with a contract that includes the rental with your service costs. These are labelled ‘Managed Print Services’ or ‘Total Volume Plans’ and are financially BAD news.)
  5. Complimentary equipment You know what your customers ask for and you know what you can support, but what about the print jobs that you turn away? Cut-sheet digital can offer extended colours with 5th colour kits but his isn’t going to revolutionise your business overnight. If your existing printers can output white then you don’t need to have it in your cut-sheet, do you? Start with a straight forward CMYK printer, with a reasonable speed that can support the business cards, greetings cards, newsletters and direct mail jobs that you know your own clients need. Bite sized chunks…..you can chase the big fancy stuff some other time.
  6. Damaging your existing business? You are principally a sign and wide format print provider. This is your bread, butter and jam. All you want from cut-sheet is to give your existing customers that little bit more so they don’t look elsewhere. Don’t be drawn into discussions about 500 business cards for £5. Leave that to the idiots, they won’t be around for too long anyway. Cut-sheet should not drain your time and if you have the right device with the right type of workflow, you should find that automation gets the work out quickly, with the minimum of handling. If the company who you are talking to you about the print device can’t help with automation, then you are talking to the wrong provider.
  7. Finishing You probably already have a guillotine and maybe even a cutting table. The good news is that you don’t need much more. Cut-sheet devices can be equipped with in-line booklet makers, often for costs lower than buying an off-line system. This can include a square-fold finish giving you high quality booklets, or maybe C/Z folding to support direct mail jobs. The point is this, cut-sheet digital can give much more than you think without breaking the bank or crowding your floor-space with multiple devices. After all, you need that space for those enormous signs!
  8. Workflow You already have this too. Your wide format printers need to get their jobs from somewhere, so I’m guessing you are sending them from your Macs/PCs direct to the engine RIPS. No doubt your website is receiving jobs too, often by FTP or email (Customers do like to email huge files don’t they?) There is no real need to change the way you do things in the short term, however, at some point you might want to automate your workflow too. This includes linking to your MIS and automating job submission, even linking to credit card systems so that you get paid BEFORE you do the work. There are many workflow systems available, although as a starting point, I would suggest getting a robust and flexible web2print solution that can grow with your business. I don’t usually give recommendations in these blogs, but on this subject I would like to state that Coreprint from Vpress is a great system to get you started and the company is run by knowledgeable, print friendly people, based in the UK with developers close at hand. (www.vpress.com ). Web2Print should support all of your print devices, wide-format, cut-sheet and offset with links to your finishing devices.
  9. Paracetamol They are in your colleagues’ top desk drawer. She needed them the last time you had to farm out some cut-sheet work! You remember, it started with “Who can we get to do the booklets that go with these banners for the exhibition? Oh, and can they provide the flyers and business cards too?”

Get your cut-sheet process right and you will be sending less work out and spending less at the local chemist.

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