Print specifications: the problem with 99% of print tenders in 2021… (and how to fix it!)


So, you’re going out to tender for printing services with a primary aim of identifying the lowest print prices? Yes, you want quality and value-add from your print suppliers, but usually the main focus of any print tender is to make sure you’re not paying over the odds and won’t be for the duration of the contract.


Because you’re asking a range of printers to quote you their best print prices, it’s therefore vital you’re absolutely specific, accurate and detailed in what you’re asking for.


I mean, if you were buying tyres, you wouldn’t let some sellers quote you for bicycle tyres and others for car tyres.


And therein lies the problem when buying print through a tender – because print is a very challenging procurement category for most buyers.


It’s not your fault of course. Very few buyers have received the training they need and many organisations don’t have the budget to put the required training in place. But the unfortunate side-effect is that you and your organisation (as well as your print supply chain) may well be the ones who suffer.



The Complexities of Specifying Print for Tenders


It’s worth knowing the difference. Any printer that complies with any of the ISO standards below will be certified. Only the approved ISO bodies in each country (such as UKAS, the UK’s only national accreditation body) are accredited to assess the standards and they (or their accredited agents) are the ones who certify printers.


At Webmart, we once calculated we offer approximately 11 billion different specifications of print. 11 billion!


You see each print project is slightly different. There are variable quantities bought, paper stocks used – processes, formats, finishings, inks, fulfilment and distribution. And within each of these areas, there are a multitude of options to consider.


Consider paper. We have around 300 different papers on our SAAS print pricing platform. Each of these can be cut in a wide range of sizes and printed-on using several different processes; then they can be bound, folded, covered and finished in thousands of different ways.


And each of these different treatments have a cost implication.


Which means, when you’re buying print or specifying print for a tender, each of these aspects must be:


  1. a) Fully considered in every detail
  2. b) Correctly specified so every aspect is noted in a format that all printers will understand


On point a) the whole process starts with your print requirements and with understanding what you’re asking for. You need to know – when you’ve a piece of print in front of you – exactly what you’re looking at and how to turn that into a print specification.


Which if you’re not an expert buyer, is very much easier said than done.

One example of an inaccurate print specification: no specific quantities, delivery locations or text weight information makes it impossible to get accurate quotations from multiple suppliers.

Only when you and the people you’re procuring for (usually marketing) know exactly what you want  AND have managed to interpret it into a tightly defined specification, can you then send it out to your list of commercial printers in the knowledge they will fully understand what you’re asking for and all be able to quote, unambiguously, on the same thing.


At best, that means the pricing you get back will be inaccurate. At worst, it’ll render the whole tendering process futile.


Believe us when we say the vast majority of print tenders are run this way – and we have the mental scars (and data) to prove it.


Moving on a step, if you don’t follow these rules to the n-th degree, it’ll also subsequently mean that once you’ve awarded the tender to your favoured print supplier and start to place print orders with them, you’ll suddenly discover that the prices you get back on live projects may well be wildly different from the ones you expected.


And that’s not only stressful for you and stressful for your new print partner, but it’s only then that you (and more importantly your board of directors!) might become aware of the shaky foundations on which your print tender was built.


We’ll be adding more and more resources to these pages – including taking you through precisely how to spec out your requirements within a tender document. Meanwhile, if you need any help, please click the button above to discover how we can help. Or use the contact form/details below to get in touch.

Need help with your Print Tender?

If you’d like to invite Webmart to get involved in your print tender or need help with creating print specifications or finding the best printer mix for your tender, Webmart’s here to help.


Webmart has established partnerships with a wide variety of quality-ranked data handlers and traditional/digital printers across the UK. We work with organisations who run print tenders as well as participate in print tenders ourselves to help organisations optimise their print procurement.


Please get in touch by either filling the form or contacting us using the details below.

Media Innovation Centre

13-15 Wedgwood Road
OX26 4UL

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