Webmart’s process for finding the best UK printers for your print tender.
When you’re running a tender for printing services – whether for a private company or in the public sector – you’re broadly looking to find high quality printers that can produce your print at the lowest price.
Two things are worth mentioning up front. Firstly, it’s key that you understand that every printer is different. There are so many variables when it comes to print, that even slight differences between presses and finishing lines can have a huge bearing on how efficiently each printer will produce each type of print.
It’s tempting to downplay this factor as many printers with very different presses will offer to produce your print. And they often can – you’ll get your print delivered to your warehouse and it’ll most likely look just fine. But believe us when we say placing each print project with the most appropriate printer (with the correct certifications) will have a massive implication for the quality of the job, for on-time delivery, and on the final invoiced cost.
Secondly – and before you even think about talking to your print supply chain – you need to be 100% certain what specification you’re after and know how to communicate that specification in a way your printer will fully understand – leaving nothing to guess work.
You’ll find heaps of information on what to look out for when creating an accurate print specification here.
And you can always request help from Webmart to get your print specifications into shape.
UK Printer Profiling
OK, now those two points have been clarified, you’ll need to build up your UK printer profile database.
You’ll probably have your own list of trusted printers, and that’s a great starting point. But casting your net wide is vital if you’re going to find the best value in the market.
You have two options here. Either contact printers directly – and the BPIF’s database of UK Printers is a good starting point at https://findaprinter.britishprint.com/. Or you can use an intermediary – a specialist print management or marketing agency where you can tap into their print supplier rosters and use their expertise and insight.
When working directly with printers, Webmart’s process is to contact a new printer and talk through their processes, clients, certifications and so on, before inviting them to become a supplier. It’s a ‘getting to know you’ part of the process and it’s most effectively carried out on the phone.
Supplier Evaluation Form and Portal
If we’re happy that the printer seems to have the right sort of profile (they’re personable, match our company ethos and have the right capabilities), we then invite them to complete our online supplier evaluation form at our online print supplier and dynamic pricing portal.
We established the portal in 2006 to communicate print specifications to our UK supply chain where they could submit their best (sustainable) prices on the spot-buying marketplace.
And because it’s a portal that many members of the UK printing industry actively engage with, it’s also used to manage printer profiles and our approved (and declined) supplier lists.
The first stage, of the process is for new printers to complete a comprehensive supplier evaluation form. That gives us a clear view of their manufacturing capabilities in terms of:
- Hardware (a kit list)
- Print types covered
- Product specialisms
- In house specialities
- Capacity management
- Quality assurance processes
- Service levels
- Misc – contact details, key personnel
Most of these items are reasonably self-explanatory, but here’s some detail on each.
A printers’ list of hardware (including presses and finishing lines) is of course important, but only if you have the in-depth knowledge to understand what each press can achieve.
More pertinent to inexperienced print buyers is the list of either print types covered (digital, sheetfed etc.) or printed product specialisms. Our lists include packaging, magazines, promotional, catalogues, direct mail, point of sale, pre-press, flexible, paper only and general commercial print.
In-house specialities may include items such as trimming, ink-jetting with variable data, spine gluing, mailing facilities, laminating, varnishing, stitching, perfect binding, shift working and so on. If you can list out all the specialities your specifications of print require, you can build up a list of specialities relevant to your supply chain.
Capacity management can contain a list of printing hardware and turnaround times for estimates, availability for given dates. But more advanced systems – such as our dynamic pricing module – allow printers to dynamically manage their press capacities.
Click the link for a detailed look at some of the key printer certifications we look for, including ISO 9001, 14001, 27001 and FSC and PEFC. We also document where a commercial printer has a VOC reduction process, BPIF membership and is carbon neutral.
Service levels may well be managed within your SLA. Ours are included in our supplier evaluation form as well as in our Printer Fair Trade Agreement.
No substitute for a site visit
Webmart is very unusual among marketing services agencies in that we see huge value in getting to really know our printer partners, so we regularly conduct site visits.
Obviously, it’s a time-consuming process, especially when you have a roster of over 200 print suppliers on your books, but regular visits build and then cement relationships and allow us to assess the conditions, competencies and standards of printers in a much more hands-on fashion.
Process of constant review, ratings and rankings
Of course, an up-front technical evaluation of a print supplier’s capabilities is just the first step.
A more important part of the process – one that helps cement those longer term relationships -is to continually review, rate and assess each other’s performance and turn that assessment into a digestible and actionable insight.
Webmart achieves this through two methods.
Firstly, is a regular supplier review process, both with our suppliers and separately within Webmart staff to ensure we have the right profile of suppliers required by our business and our customers.
Secondly, after each project, we have a series of automated questionnaires sent off to all parties involved in each project. That means we question our printers, relevant Webmart print project managers as well as our customers; covering aspects like communication, partnerships, problem solving and future innovations. That way we get a 360° view of each project and understand ways in which each can improve together in the future.
All our scores, as well as the scores of all our print suppliers, are put into a performance graph and displayed across our locations as a key performance indicator for our print project management and category management teams.
All in all, finding the best UK print partners and monitoring their progress is not rocket science, but it does take time, investment and a companywide commitment to on-going assessment. It’s also a two way process because, like any partnership, to be fair, equitable and work at it’s most optimal, it requires a certain level of transparency and understanding on both sides.