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What Constitutes a Good Web to Print Solution?

Posted Friday, September 11, 2015 by Ellen Hurwitch.

alt text Often I am told that web to print is too difficult to implement, or that there are too many web to print solutions on the market, and it’s too confusing to figure out which one is the best fit for my needs. Hopefully, this article will provide some guidance on choosing a viable web2print solution.

There are a few thoughts to keep in mind when looking for a solution: ease of use, customer facing tools, support (very important) and price/function ratio (bang for the buck).

Ease of Use

One of the most important aspects of any web2print software is ease of use. The solution has to be easy for the printer to set up, and for the user to use. You should closely examine the design tools provided by the software to create variable, stock, and inventory items. These tools should not be overly complicated or require programming skills. Also important are the mechanisms provided for uploading and managing the lists to be used for variable data and large mailings. Keep in mind interfaces to third party list providers. These will enhance your value add and encourage more print buying from your customers.

Towards that end, automated pricing functions are also important. Pricing mechanisms should include (at a minimum) fixed and variable item pricing, all forms of taxation, shipping costs, and account for various types of currency.

Customer Facing Tools

A good web2print software should always have capabilities supporting multiple B to B and B to C storefronts. Deployments of such storefronts should be fast, easy, and straight forward with lots of GUI support. The system should not be overly technical or require programming skills.

Some solutions require knowledge of coding which is generally not a printers’ forte. Unless you currently offer web development as part of your services, you might be hard pressed to deploy some of these systems. I have heard of one company where the person in charge of web2print walked off the job because she found the system too frustrating to work with.

Keep in mind the user experience (called UX in the tech world). It is very important for the end user to feel comfortable using the software for designing products and placing orders. How often have you gone online to order something and left the site half way through the process because the experience was too difficult and time consuming? Clearly, something you want to avoid with your customers as well.

Support

Be sure the producers of the web2print software offer at the very minimum online support. Make sure they provide Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). This is important if you find yourself in a legal bind. Most of all be VERY aware of the support costs. Some web2print solutions can run in the thousands of dollars in yearly support.

Related to this subject and just as important is hosting. Who is going to host this software? Will you be buying a server and engage your IT department in helping to install and implement? Or are you best served by looking for a cloud based solution that needs no IT oversight?

Bang for the Buck

Perhaps the most important question of all; the price to function ratio, how much does a full suite of functions cost in relation to other systems. Not all solutions do all things (although the software developers will tell you different). Most full featured systems will cost anywhere for $20K to $100K when fully configured with all the bells and whistles and with that, hefty support costs.

You may be surprised to learn that there are SaaS based solutions as low as $200 per month that are just as full-featured as the expensive solutions and have far less support cost (if any).

I’ve touched on several subjects and asked several questions but I hope that this brief article has provided some insight on evaluating the perfect web2print solution for your shop.

Ellen Hurwitch is Director of Operations for RedTie, Inc. a SaaS web to print solution provider for the print industry. For more information on RedTie software, please contact solutions@red-tie.com

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Fixed Price, FSC® Chain of Custody Certification Now Available To All Printers through Industry Association Collaboration

Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2015 by Jules VanSant.

alt textAvailable NOW to PPI Member Firms: The Regional Affiliate Certification Group (RACG) has announced that it now offers a program to the over $5M segment of the printing and packaging industry. Since 2010 RACG has offered a very successful program to the under $5M segment of the industry providing expanded consulting and group pricing to smaller firms. Long pursued, it has launched a program for larger firms providing assistance, consulting, and fixed pricing for FSC® Chain of Custody Certification.

The program is offered in a partnership through RACG with PIA Affiliates, American Green Consulting (AGC), the consulting firm servicing the current small printer group, and SCS Global Services, the certifying body chosen from the field. This offering features a friendly, supportive atmosphere where printers can review and discuss their needs with American Green Consulting who will provide necessary support on all elements of certification audits, FSC logo usage and other issues. Additionally, the RACG negotiated pricing provides a discounted, fixed price which includes all elements of the certification (audit – consulting – AAF fees– travel).

Already processing a few applicants, this program was announced at a meeting of affiliates of the Printing Industries of America last month and will be promoted to the membership throughout the US. Members of all affiliates now have access to a stable FSC® Certification program which allows them to service their customers in a full and seamless manner.

alt text Chris Gibbons, President of AGC comments, “We consistently receive requests for a simplified program for larger printers… stability, simplicity, and affordability are the most requested elements… this program provides the perfect answer.”

RACG president, Jim Tepper, said “We are very pleased to partner with SCS Global Services as they bring tremendous professionalism to this regulated process and have already proven to be a flexible and valuable part of this program. They have extensive experience with the printing and packaging industry and are very well positioned to deal with the unique issues of our industry in regards to certification steps and requirements”.

Enthused about this new endeavor, SCS Executive VP Robert Hrubes commented, “SCS Global Services is very pleased to partner with RACG on this important endeavor.”

The program is open to all printers who are members of PPI Association and PIA affiliates participating in RACG. Pricing, general information, and program applications are available through Jules@ppiassociation.org, on the RACG website (www.racgus.org), or directly from Marybeth Maloney at the RACG office, (508-804-4109).

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Ink Jet. Ready For Prime Time?

Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2015 by Bob Lingren.

As the technology is beginning to prove viable in the commercial print space, primarily because of quality enhancements, more and more firms are exploring the potential of ink jet presses. Some look at the technology as opening doors to new business while others see it as a way to reduce costs.

Conventional thinking would suggest that firms must analyze costs prior to making the decision. While that sounds like obvious advice, it’s really not the first question that should be asked according to PIA Southern California’s Bob Lindgren.

link textAccording to Lindgren, the analysis should begin with identifying the work that will be produced on the new press. Are we looking at short run color, transactional B & W, variable data or a mix of all three? What comes next is a realistic projection of the volume of work and the price it would command, remembering that this is an exercise in value identification, not cost accounting. Variable data or specialized short run color creates new marketing power for the client, and given the capital outlay involved, pricing should be based on value - not costs.

Once we have a reasonable revenue projection, we can subtract the cost of paper, direct labor, ink and consumables to identify contribution to overhead. When we know this, we can see if the capital cost is justified for which discounted cash flow analysis is useful. Lindgren suggests a good rule of thumb is that the capital cost should not be more than three times the annual contribution to overhead.

The second scenario is that the ink jet press is a replacement for an offset press doing short run work or a toner based system doing variable data. In this case, Lindgren argues the revenue analysis is unnecessary as there is no reason to think that revenue will change because of using different hardware to produce the same work. In this instance cost savings need to be identified. These might include reduced paper costs in moving from offset because of the elimination of make-ready spoilage, or supply costs when moving from toner to ink jet. There may be wage cost reductions as well, but careful consideration has to be given to the question of whether they are realizable.

For example, if the work can be handled in two hours less per day, the same number of people are on the payroll and no savings has been realized. Because these cost savings are likely to be modest, they will not usually justify a significant capital investment. Lindgren maintains that if the business motivation in moving from offset to ink jet is to justify charging less, a better solution is to charge less in the first place.

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Free Community College Tuition - OREGON

Posted Thursday, August 13, 2015 by Association of Oregon Industries.

As we look to the future employee needs… now’s the time to be a voice for trade training and opportunities in PRINT.

Got a student heading to community college next year? Recently passed legislation may make it a little more affordable. Signed by Governor Kate Brown in July, SB 81, the “Oregon Promise” provides $10 million for tuition payments to students who complete high school in Oregon no more than six months prior to pursuing a certificate or degree at any of Oregon’s 17 community colleges. Approximately 4,000 - 6,000 students per year are expected to be served by the program, which will begin dispensing grants of $1,000 and up for the 2016-17 school year.

Although the statutory criteria for receiving a grant are not based on financial need, SB 81 does allow the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to establish additional eligibility requirements by rule. The HECC may therefore direct funding to students in programs that improve academic success or address Oregon’s specific workforce needs, and may give preference to graduates of certain school districts or high schools. This rulemaking authority provides flexibility for the HECC to address the ever-evolving needs of Oregon’s student population. In following this rulemaking process, AOI will advocate for funding to be directed not only toward students with financial needs, but also to those pursuing degrees in fields critical to Oregon employers.

To be eligible, a student must:

  • Have been an Oregon resident for at least 12 months prior to enrolling in community college;

  • Have received an Oregon high school diploma or GED certificate, or completed grade 12;

  • Achieved a cumulative high school GPA of 2.5+ or equivalent;

  • Be enrolled within six months of high school completion, in courses at an Oregon community college leading to a:

- One-year curriculum for students transferring to another post secondary institution; Associate degree; or

- Program in career and technical education.

  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

  • and accept all state and federal grant aid offered.

A student will continue to be eligible for the Oregon Promise after the first year if he or she:Maintains a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better;Makes satisfactory academic progress;Completes a FAFSA each academic year; andEnrolls at least half time each term for at least three terms each consecutive academic year.Full-time students (12 or more credits/term) enrolled for the full year (three terms) in eligible courses may receive grants covering up to the full cost of their tuition, although they will be required to pay $50 per term as a co-payment. Grants will be reduced by the amount of any state or federal grant aid received (e.g., Pell Grant, Oregon Opportunity Grant) down to a minimum $1,000 annual grant for full-time, full-year enrollment.

Even if a student’s tuition is fully covered by state or federal grant aid, they are eligible for Oregon Promise grants, which they may use for other costs such as transportation, books, and living expenses.

Information about the program will be available online at the Office of Student Access & Completion (OSAC) and the Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) websites.

Rulemaking is expected to begin this fall; for questions about the process, please contact Betsy Earls at AOI.

To view SB 81, you may go to the Oregon State Legislature website.

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Take Advantage of USPS Promotions in 2015

Posted Wednesday, August 5, 2015 by Jules VanSant.

alt textThe United States Postal Service has a number of promotions and incentives available to printers, particularly those that integrate direct mail with mobile technology. Each of the following promotions provide a 2 percent discount on eligible postage. You must register by November 30, 2015.

Color Transpromo Promotion

The Color Transpromo Promotion provides upfront postage discounts to mailers who use dynamic color print for marketing and consumer messages on their bills and statements.

Emerging And Advanced Technology Promotion

The Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion encourages mailers to integrate direct mail with technology, providing an interactive experience for customers. Mailers who create mail pieces that use at least one form of approved emerging or advanced technologies will receive a postal discount.

Mail Drives Mobile Engagement Promotion

The Mail Drives Mobile Engagement Promotion provides business mailers with an upfront postage discount on Standard Mail letters and flats that include a mobile barcode or print/mobile technology that can be read or scanned by a mobile device and leads to mobile-optimized shopping website.

To register, CLICK HERE.

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