Four ways automated print pricing can make a buyer’s life easier (and how to choose the right system)

Do you struggle to find enough hours in the day?

Whether you’re a full-time purchaser or managing a more general administration role, the pressure on your time has never been greater.  Companies expect more and more from their staff. There is a real focus on efficient processes.

The trouble is, it can be difficult to work efficiently if you are sourcing print.  There is a huge range of different products and processes. This means that you can’t just rely on one printer, or even a small group of suppliers. Each company has a slightly different range of equipment and specialisations.  Every product needs approaching in a different way.

Sometimes it’s a hard task to make sure that you are approaching the right companies for a particular print specification.  This requires specialist knowledge that many buyers do not have unless they have been buying print for many years.  Even if you know what you are doing it can be difficult to make sure you are finding the right supplier and the right price. It’s also a time-consuming process.

However, these days there is another solution.

Automated print quoting systems can make a real difference

Automated print quoting systems can make your print buying much more efficient.  Here’s a screenshot from the 3 Print Prices system.

Automated print quoting systems can make your print buying much more efficient. Here’s a screenshot from the 3 Print Prices system.

These days, the right systems can offer some very intelligent solutions. They also offer some significant benefits to buyers.  The most obvious of these is the time saving. Buyers usually approach three suppliers to quote on a job.  Typically, this is a very manual process. The buyer sets out the specification.  Each printing company works out a price on their system.  They then e-mail their quote back to the buyer who compares costs.  This all takes time.  With an automated system, many more suppliers can be approached. The whole process is automatic and pricing is virtually instant.

There’s another advantage to the automated process.  There are less likely to be errors.  With traditional estimating there is a lot of re-keying of data. One error in data can lead to incorrect costs and a whole load of problems later on down the line.

Next up, automated systems reduce the knowledge requirement of buyers. Choosing the right press for a job requires a good technical understanding of print. Even good buyers and print estimators sometimes struggle to work out the best press options. Automated solutions can now quickly compare a whole range of solutions.

Finally, automated systems make reporting much easier. It is no longer necessary to struggle to crunch spreadsheets in order to report the right information.

So what should you look for if you are investing in a system like this?

How are suppliers selected?

All systems need suppliers to provide quotes. However, not all systems choose suppliers in the same way.  Some systems allow any printer to join and quote.  Others carry out a pre-selection procedure. I would always recommend choosing a system that carries out some sort of selection procedure.

How are prices created?

This is a vitally important element of the system. The best systems actually work out all the different potential press configurations at each supplier.  Less sophisticated systems rely on more basic calculations.  These do not always give you the best price.

What service levels are included?

Some systems have more humans behind them than others. Can you actually get to speak to someone if you encounter any problems?

How easy is the system to use?

If you are new to the world of print, will you find it easy to create a specification. Some systems expect you to be reasonably knowledgeable about print. Others use simple graphics and questions to guide you through the process.

What is the range of products that the system will work with?

Again, there can be quite a variation in what products you can actually purchase using an automated system. Ensure that your system covers all the key products that you will need for your company.

How adaptable is the workflow?

What happens if you need to make changes midway through a job? Will the system be able to cope with this? Or will you need to start the quote process all over again?

What happens when you place an order?

Make sure that the system also has a good job management system.  Will it raise all the right communications when are ready to proceed with a job?  How will you be informed of job progress?  How will proofing be handled?  Can the system create useful purchasing reports.

However, even if all these questions can be answered satisfactorily, some buyers are still nervous about automated purchasing systems.

Isn’t giving up control of your supplier base a risk?

If you have a very tactical approach to particular suppliers there may be a risk here.  If a printer is part of an integrated supply chain then moving to an automated quoting system may not be appropriate.

However, most print is purchased on a just-in-time basis.  The companies are not integrated into a supply chain.  Therefore changing supplier does not offer a risk as long as there is a pre-selection process carried out by the quoting system provider.  This sort of print purchasing is perfect for automation.

There is an added advantage for this type of print.  Purchasers will have exposure to a much wider range of suppliers.  This means that they are much more likely to find the best supplier fit for their jobs.

Here is a potential solution for those looking for a system like this

I was recently shown a new system by www.3PrintPrices.com  Their solution ticked all the boxes for me. If you are looking at an automated pricing system it is well worth checking their solution out.
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