Three specification questions that can reduce the cost of printed items by over 30%

The print industry is dying

There are huge amounts of overcapacity. Printing companies are tendering suicidal prices.

So all a print buyer has to do is to keep pushing, pushing, pushing on price. They will have no problem in keeping to even the smallest budget.

Actually, that is very far from the truth.

Costs are rising. The number of printing companies that have failed recently means that capacity is not as plentiful as it was. If a buyer thinks that buying price is easy they need to think again.

A much easier way to reduce costs is to challenge specification


Changing size is just one way you can dramatically reduce print costs

Buyers who challenge specification will achieve more with their budgets. They will stay in control of the finances. They are also likely to create better relationships with their suppliers.

Buyers who fail to challenge specification are less likely to create good partnerships with their suppliers. They will be constantly beating them up on price. But they will also be struggling to achieve as much as they might with their budgets.

If you want to get as much as you can for your money, you really need to think about your specification. Here are three things you should review on any specification.


It is very tempting to stick with the papers you know. But in doing so you may be spending more than you need to. Paper mills are making big advances in the stocks that they produce.

If you haven’t looked at paper specification in a while you may be surprised at the results that you can achieve. The improvements in whiteness, surface and bulk mean that you may well be able to specify a lesser weight or grade of stock.


Many print buyers stick to the A sizes. After all, it is what everyone is used to. But there are many occasions when we don’t have to stick to standard sizes.

If you can specify a slightly smaller size, you may be able to get many more items out of a sheet. That can reduce your item cost substantially.

Print run

One of the biggest areas of wastage that I see it into many copies of an item being printed. It is tempting for buyers to order extra copies as the run-ons are very cost-effective. But often these extra copies end up gathering dust in a cupboard or warehouse.

Buyers should always challenge the number of copies being ordered. They may be able to make substantial savings.

Here’s how I saved one company a large sum of money

This company produce an annual product catalogue. One of the first things that I did when I received the specification was to look at the paper. To my mind, it was clearly over specified.

I was able to find a much lighter paper, without compromising too much on the whiteness. The bulk of the paper also remained the same.

Customers had the same value perception of the catalogue. But the budget was reduced by well over 30%.

Some print buyers feel that they are not able to make changes like this.

What do you do if the budget holder dictates the specification?

It is still the role of the buyer to challenge specifications. Nearly all budget holders are very grateful if they are told that the savings can be made.

If a buyer does not change specification they become an order placer rather than a buyer.

Here are three action points to make sure you challenge specifications

  • Review the paper stock
  • Research if another size may be more economical
  • Challenge the number of copies being ordered

You may be surprised at how quickly the savings mount up. Is easier, and more pleasant, than beating suppliers up on price.

However, specification challenges should be more than just about price. In my next article, I’ll be looking at how to improve return on investment through specification.
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