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16 ProPrint March 2015
Balancing your increasing costs against customer retention is seen as one of
the hardest aspects of running a print business. Kirgan says pass ‘em on.
Put your prices up
When my father owned our
business, he did the quotes,
and the ones I did he signed
off. He had a strict pricing structure I
stuck to and all was good.
After he retired I kept to his rules
religiously. Ma rk ups on paper,
margins, press time estimates –
everything stayed the same. I was
convinced if I deviated one cent my
customers would flee in horror.
Time went on and inevitably my
costs went up. I passed on the paper
increases but everything else stayed the
same. And then came the day I realised
I just was not making as much
anymore. The fixed costs I had ignored
had crept up and the margins Dad had
used to recover them were not doing
the job anymore.
These were things like electricity,
rent and wages, none of which I could
do much about. If I wanted to maintain
my profitability I would have to do the
unthinkable and put my prices up.
I lost sleep worrying about it. I tried
to work out how much business I would
lose if I put my prices up, and wrestled
with the hope that I might make more
money off the clients that remained.
Maybe that would leave me more room
for better margin jobs, but then again
who would give me work if I was now
the most expensive printer in all of
It was such a loaded decision that in
the end I did what I almost always do
with problems that come with extra
ambivalence, and went back to what I
learnt in my economics degree. Work
the problem and be rational. I had to
raise my prices.
So I went through all my pricing
spreadsheets (no wasteful MIS for me,
then or now) and increased the
margins. It was not much, about five
per cent on top of everything, and as I
type this I can still remember the
sweat running out of me as I hit the
The next few quotes came in, both
from existing clients and prospects and
I sent them out with the new prices,
sick in the knowledge that I was going
to lose them all. But I didn’t. Sure I lost
some, but the same proportion as I
My regular clients barely noticed the
increase. The ones who did just grunted
put the work out to tender in response,
but if they did we did not lose any of
them. In fact we kept growing at the
same solid rate we had been year on
year and I was back to making good
I learned the lesson and have never
been afraid to put my prices up since.
Sure we lose quotes on price a’plenty,
but a customer you win on price you
will lose on price and I do not want
them wasting my time.
Be not afraid. Put your prices up.
Baden Kirgan is managing director
of Jeffries Printing Services
Weuse the term workflow as
though it is one thing; it is
actually many things. At the EFI
Connect Conference in Las Vegas, it was
apparent that moving from a marketing or
communication need to a final printed
product requires many steps:
This might be the development of a
marketing program or the need to
communicate with a certain constituency.
There is usually discussion about audience
and channel. This is a customer activity.
This involves budgeting and ROI analysis.
Cost estimates must be developed based
on print specifications. Paper must be
ordered and scheduling is also an issue.
Today’s MIS systems streamline the
estimating process and allow many
alternative scenarios to provide clients
with printed products that meet their
The writers, photographers, and designers
get their marching orders. After much
work, pre-proofs, and changes, the result
is a printable file.
The job file must now be delivered to the
printer. According to a panel of printers at
the EFI Conference, almost all files come in
in electronic form. Some printers have
implemented store fronts which process
the job and provide an electronic proof.
Automated software now pre-flights the
file for production. Electronic proofs
(usually PDFs) are the norm. A proof is the
simulation of the expectation of the
eventual output of a reproduction device.
Of course, on a digital device, a proof is a
run length of one.
The printer then queues the job for
printing. In some cases the file will be sent
to a CTP device and plates will be
produced. In other cases, the file will be
sent to a digital printing device.
The printed sheets must be cut, folded,
collated, and bound. In some cases,
primarily with digital printing, the
finishing is inline.
For mailing, the printed
products must be
addressed and organised for postal
processing. They may also be bundled,
shrink-wrapped, placed in car tons, and
shipped to one or more locations.
The job is billed and stored for retrieval.
Because most printing today is short run,
re-printing is a common occurrence.
JDF links many of these steps but only if
the system provider has applied CIP4
Workflows have evolved from metal to
mechanicals to film to direct to plates to
digital. One of the reasons that printing
companies have cut their costs and labour
is because they have implemented
There is no such thing as one workflow;
there are many workflows. The successful
printer will figure out how to integrate
them for the most efficient and cost-
ef fective production approach.
Frank Romano is professor emeritus
at the Rochester Institute of Technology
Workflow is a workflow of workflows
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