Tuesday, May 6, 2008

If you want it tomorrow, order it last week

It wasn't that many years ago that if you told a commercial printer you wanted your 4-color business cards next week, they would laugh in your face. The standard turn-around time for color printing was 21 days or three weeks, whichever happened first, not including shipping time.

Some parts, but by no means all, of the printing industry have modernized, have developed highly automated work flow, and can accommodate the desire for right now! results, but there is a premium price to be paid for it.

One of my favorite printers is Print Place in Arlington, Texas. Print Place is a highly automated low-cost printer with outstanding service. If you are savvy enough to know how to provide a commercial printer with the type of digital file that it requires, I recommend you take a look at it.

After the design work has been completed and a digital master is ready to be sent to the printer, there are two remaining components to delivery time: 1. The time the printer takes to complete the job, and 2. Shipping time. Print Place offers four different in-house turn around times ranging from five business days to one day. Print Place ships through FedEx, with its standard five, three, two, and next-day delivery times. Combining the printing time with the shipping time, we have a variety of time frames ranging from ten business days for receiving the print job, down to as quick as two days. Every reduction in delivery time results in an increase in cost, at your option.

The following graph shows the total printing and shipping cost for 1000 4-color business cards from Print Place for different delivery times after the job is submitted. As you can see, for two day delivery the cost of shipping exceeds the cost of printing. This example uses the shipping costs from Arlington, Texas where Print Place is located, to Louisville, Kentucky where I am located.

If you need 1000 color business cards in less than 48 hours, that too can be accomplished by using a totally different technology. Overnight color laser printing, at FedEx-Kinkos for example, is available, but the printing costs alone would be in the neighborhood of $130.00, without including any shipping costs.

When it comes to color business cards, "right now" is a possibility, but it is an expensive option.

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