Does Your Print Provider Subcontract Out Work?
When your job goes to press, does your
printer do all the work in house? You may be surprised by
This is not a problem if the process
that is subcontracted out is a specialty task, such as die-cutting,
thermography, or perfect binding. Most printers do not own
all equipment needed for every specialty process, particularly
if this equipment would be used infrequently. Its
not good business sense to have equipment stand idle. In
cases like this, it can be to your benefit to have the outsourcing
take place, particularly since the printer is then responsible
for the quality of work the subcontractor provides.
In addition, your printer might subcontract
out a complete, self-contained component of a larger job.
For example, if you are producing a magazine at a web-offset
printer, and you ask the printer to produce cover wraps
or inserts for the magazine, this smaller job might fit
better (more economically) on a sheet-fed press. Therefore,
your printer might broker out this portion of the job.
The time to worry is if your printer
subcontracts major portions of your job or the entire job,
particularly if it is a high-profile piece that has to be
perfect. Perhaps in this case you should look more closely
at the kind of work in which this printer specializes to
make sure this is a proper fit.
In general, consider the following:
- Do you thoroughly trust your printer?
- How long have you worked with this
- Are you comfortable with your printers
coordinating the activities of other supplier(s)?
- How much of the job will your printer
- Is your schedule so tight that
outsourcing could put your schedule at risk?
- And is your printer willing to
take full responsibility for the quality of the entire
If you can answer yes to all these
questions, then your printers subcontracting elements
of a job should not be a problem, as long as the total price
of the job is acceptable.
Always remember to tell your printer
about bleeds when you spec jobs for competitive bid. Bleeds
require extra paper around the printed document that is
then trimmed away to give the illusion that the ink goes
past the edge of the page. If you spec a particular trim
size for a job, and bleeds are not taken into account when
the printer prices your job, you may get a nasty surprise
when the final bill comes.
For example, a job that would have
fit adequately on a 25" x 38" sheet without bleeds
may need to be printed on the next larger-sized sheet to
allow for bleeds, color bars, and trim marks. That larger
sheet might no longer fit on the press on which the job
was initially bid, and the next larger press will probably
cost more per hour to operate. In addition, the supply of
paper needed for the job (lets say 1,000 sheets of
28" x 40" stock) will probably exceed the cost
of the same amount of the smaller cut sheet (25" x
38") the job would have fit on with no bleeds. If the
job has a long press run, the portion of the bill allocated
to paper may be substantial. So what began as a design decision
can quickly become a financial nightmare.
So always mention bleeds when bidding
your jobs. Tell your printer how many sides of the job bleed
as well as which sides bleed. Sometimes your price will
change, and sometimes it won't. Its a surprisingly
easy specification to overlook, but forgetting to tell your
printer could prove costly.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]