To Tour or Not to Tour (a Printing Plant): That Is the Question
by Margie Dana
Some print buyers think it’s important to tour printing plants; others see little if any value in going to the trouble. As long as their printing jobs are done correctly, as expected, on time, and on budget, they feel no need to see the facility.
How much do you care—or should you care—about the printing plant that your company uses and what goes on there? Here’s my answer: It depends.
When There’s No Need to Go
If you occasionally buy printing, and/or your jobs are pretty run-of-the-mill, and/or your company doesn’t spend a lot of money on printing, you probably do not have to visit the plant.
If your books are being produced in another state or another country and you are an occasional print customer, or if you buy only a small amount of printing for your firm, you don’t have to do a site tour.
If you source printing solely online, you won’t see the plant.
If you think printers are all pretty much the same, you won’t be taking any tours.
If you do your printing through brokers or print managers, you will rely on them to source the work and to know the facilities intimately.
If you wouldn’t know a Heidelberg from a Xerox iGen3™ and don’t care to learn, you need not tour a plant.
Who Ought to Take the Trip
On the other hand, I know plenty of professional buyers in corporations and organizations who wouldn’t dream of working with a printer unless they visited the site first.
These tend to be the most experienced print buyers (10 or more years) who are responsible for significant spending on print. Or they handle very specific types of work that is produced by specialty printers only. Or they need manufacturers who offer the highest levels of security.
Big-budget customers have lots of reasons to want to, and need to, tour printing plants ahead of time. Buyers who have print manufacturing experience insist on checking out the plants too.
What to Look for
These are the basics to check when you tour a plant.
Cleanliness. Is the plant generally clean and tidy, or is it a holy mess? The condition of the plant could reflect the way this printer will treat your work. Female print buyers tell me they also want to see clean bathrooms. Laugh if you want; I’m just passing along what I hear. And most print buyers are women.
Camaraderie. Do the production people seem to get along with your sales rep, or do you sense some snarkiness? Many buyers want to see a good relationship between their rep and the press people. Apparent friction is a bad sign. Good relationships mean your work is more likely to sail through production.
Equipment. Is it clean and well maintained? This is key. If a printer takes care of its equipment, there’s a better chance that it’ll take care of your work.
Redundant equipment. Seeing multiples of every type of major press at a facility would give me comfort. It’s a signal that a plant can accommodate its client base and that it has on-site options in case of emergencies. (You don’t want to hear, “Sorry, we can’t meet the deadline; the press broke down.”)
Managers in evidence. Do you notice people in charge? Introduce yourself if you can. It’s a comfort to see sales managers, GMs, or, better yet, the owner of the company present and active.
Take the time to ask questions about what you’re seeing. Learn something new with every plant tour. Among other things, showing your face at your preferred printer’s facilities is a smart relationship-building strategy. An up-close look at printing presses is an exciting adventure for many of us, and when you’re interested, enthusiastic, and inquisitive, your relationship with that printer-partner will benefit.
Margie Dana, an independent marketing specialist who focuses on improving the printer–buyer relationship, was a corporate print buyer for 15 years. Her free weekly e-newsletter, Margie’s Print Tips, comes out every Monday. To learn more, visit printbuyersinternational.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2010 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.