Production: Think Bigger and Better
It's time to think bigger and better: bigger savings, bigger efficiencies, better negotiations. Dispose of the status quo. The print environment is changing and so, in turn, must your catalog production cost-cutting efforts.
Above all else, embrace the digital world and all its technologies. Yes, it’s a print catalog, but digital is your means to that end. Whether it’s digital asset management (DAM), prepress or a proofing solution, there are opportunities to trim costs and create time in the schedule.
To save the most production money possible this year, focus on these six key factors.
1. Get on the DAMwagon. DAM systems are databases that store, archive and provide easy access to all your digital information — namely, copy and images. The benefit is a centralized resource that can be altered and added upon by numerous sources — your art department, merchandisers and vendors, among others — based on your parameters.
These systems usually require a bit of up-front planning and even some changes to your workflow, but the payoffs follow over time. As a reference, over the past year, our firm helped catalogers launch Cumulus and EZ-Catalog with their page layouts, which resulted in cost savings during the first year. Greater benefits are anticipated this year and next as they fine-tune their processes.
2. Prepress efficiencies. Established print standards and technologies are as affordable as ever, so you have more options to trim your prepress costs. Efficiencies can be as simple as sending your images overseas for online masks (clipping paths/silhouettes), retouching and color corrections, or as advanced as producing your own printer PDFs and contract proofs.
As with DAM, this takes a good understanding of technology, as well as a bit of planning and preparation, particularly with your printers. But once systems are in place, costs can be substantially reduced from any outside providers.
3. Online proofing. Take advantage of this “green” solution by using one of the many digital proofing services that connect team members locally or globally. Proof-it-Online is a product that requires no software installation or user licenses. It’s simple to use but powerful enough to make a difference in your bottom line by cutting turnaround times and costs.
In one workflow example, online proofs are released to a team leader at a different location who oversees the review process. To make corrections, that lead kicks the file back. If all’s fine, the lead can select a review team to build, identify and manage the proofing process internally.
This proof cycle includes multiple manufacturer approvals in varying locations. Although proofs could be sent to reviewers all at once, this workflow has the proofs sent in a predetermined order using an e-mail notification system and an allotted time frame. Upon completion, the proofs are returned to the team leader, who has a final chance to review markups and add or delete comments — all without paper.
4. Slim jims are still worth considering. The dark cloud surrounding slim-jim-size catalogs, which can be mailed and processed more economically as letter-size mail, seems to be dissipating. This shape could be an effective option for your marketing considerations.
The downside is the possibility for three bigger tabs (as opposed to two in the past). The upside is postal savings of 20 percent-plus. Although some lettershops will experience trouble with the additional tabbing requirements, catalog printers can accommodate this change.
Additionally, many of these catalog printers now offer in-line solutions for slim-jim print production efficiencies, so you’ll recognize double savings on postage and manufacturing.
While we’re on the postal subject, the new USPS regulations are upon us this month — is your mailing area compliant? Is your printer ready for the Intelligent Mail Barcode in May? Get cracking right away on these if you haven’t already, so you don’t get caught with additional charges.
5. Negotiate. In our special cover report on operations and fulfillment (see pg. 14), Jeff Kline makes a strong case for negotiating better parcel shipping rates. Of course, all industries are feeling the strain of the economy, and your vendors need you now more than ever. Your survival is their survival. So contact your production partners as well, and demand assistance on terms, pricing and anything that can help you, whether you have a contract or not.
If you’ve developed true partners in the past, test the “thick and thin” of the relationship. Remind them of your loyalty. Don’t be afraid to find new resources. Within the last two months, we’ve recognized savings of up to 20 percent in paper and printing just through competitive negotiations.
6. Co-mailing. Catalog Success Strategy columnist Stephen R. Lett and others have touted this practice extensively for the past year-plus. It’s obviously nothing new, but co-mailing offers only get better as we head into the heart of the recession.
In the past, your options were to co-bind in-line (catalogs paired with similar-sized mailing partners, with participation limits due to bindery pockets) or to co-mail, which could generate larger mailing pools with greater savings.
Co-mailing did provide an additional offline manufacturing step. The latest hybrid co-mailing solutions, however, combine the two established technologies into one package by offering multiple trim formats in-line. Printers continue to offer catalogers more opportunities to reduce their postage costs from 3 cents to 5 cents per piece.
Dawn Flook is director of production for King of Prussia, Pa.-based Catalogs by Lorél. You can reach her at (610) 337-9133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.