The three places most people never visit on a print factory tour – and why you should make a point of inspecting them

I love exploring unusual places when I go on holiday.  The well known tourist sites are very impressive.  But everyone goes there.  They are geared up for visitors.  You rarely get an insight into the true culture of a place.

I prefer to try and discover less well known places.  This often gives me a much better idea of what a place is really like.

Print buyers should think like travellers

This is just one area of a print factory that should be important for buyers

This is just one area of a print factory that should be important for buyers

Print buyers who visit unusual places on factory tours will understand the print company culture better.  They will have a better understanding of the factory.  This means that they will be more in control of their jobs.  They’ll also be in a better position to create a true partnership with a factory.  So they will be able to achieve what they need from their suppliers.

But some print buyers do not see the need to visit the unusual places in a print factory.  They will find it more difficult to achieve what they need from their suppliers.  They won’t understand the factory so well.  That means that they will struggle to form the right supplier relationship.  And they will struggle to be in control of their jobs.

So here are three places I think you should visit on a factory tour

The car park

The car park can tell you a lot about a factory.  Here are some things you should look out for:

Are there separate directors’ parking spaces?  This may indicate a company culture that has a divide between management and the rest of the staff

Are there lots of flashy cars?  What does this say about the management?  And what does this say about profit margins?

Is it untidy?  Is this a company that does not care about the way it appears?

The car park can say a lot about company culture.  But there’s another place that tells you a lot about how efficient a company is.

The paper store

The paper storage area is well worth inspection.  You should ask about how paper is allocated to jobs.  Companies that measure this carefully will work more efficiently.  They will also tend to spend less of wasted stock and this is a sign of efficient purchasing throughout the company.

You will also have a good impression about how the company cares for one of the most important elements of your job.  Torn packets, dust and a lack of labelling all point to a company where quality doesn’t have a high importance.

There’s another way to check quality.

The file copy store

A company that cares about quality will keep file copies on file for three months.  They will be able to check up on any quality complaint during this period.  A good file copy store shows that quality control procedures are being adhered to.  It also shows a company that is likely to be well organised in all areas.

So those are three unusual areas that I believe that print buyers should visit.  Many will ignore these areas.

These places don’t really tell me how a factory works

On their own these three places are not enough to measure a factory.  You will also need to visit the standard places:  the production offices, pre-press and data management, the press hall and the finishing and despatch areas.

However, these three places will tell you a lot about a factory that may not be obvious elsewhere.  Some printers prepare for buyer visits.  They make sure the standard areas look their best.  But they ignore the areas that most buyers don’t visit.

Here’s how visiting a unusual place helped me on a factory tour

I once visited a printer that I had been told were very good.  Everything seemed to support this view.  The press hall was tidy.  All the quality controls were in place.  Things looked good.

But the storage space for file copies was a disaster area.  The printer couldn’t locate any of the sheets that I asked about.  They were just crammed in untidily with no thought for future use.  I wasn’t convinced that all the file copies had actually been kept.

When I visited the paper store, I found that it was a separate building.  The door had been left open on a rainy day.  I could see paper getting wet:  it hadn’t been rewrapped properly.

Visiting these areas showed me that this was not a printer that I wanted to use.

Here’s how to put these sort of visits into practice

  1. Arrange a printer visit
  2. Make sure you visit the car park, the paper store and the file copy area
  3. Discuss your thoughts back at the office

Whether it’s a factory tour or a holiday, you get more out of visiting unusual places

However, I’m not suggesting that you make a habit of visiting car parks when you go on holiday!
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2 Responses to The three places most people never visit on a print factory tour – and why you should make a point of inspecting them

  • Nice piece Matthew, but thought the bit on flashy car was a ‘cheap shot’? Most small printers are owner driven as you know. These owner/directors often had their houses in the line when starting these companies, and certainly took most of the financial risks.

    So when times get better it is unfair to criticise them for the indulgence of a nice car. Let the quoted prices show if they are competitive.

    • Matthew Parker says:

      Hi Paul, thanks for your comments. Remember, checking the car park is not just about the cars. The car park can tell you a lot about the company culture.

      Matthew

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