Multi-layered print services need shrewd procurement.

Print and packaging

In this guest post, Procurement Leaders invites Office Depot's Craig Brown to discuss how procurement can manage a fragmented, multi-layered print market. 


When it comes to print, businesses not only vary in size, they also have a wide variety of design requirements and complex specifications, which can certainly be challenging from a procurement point of view.


After all, as the scope of customer needs gets wider, there is a risk that the number of supplier sources and relationships can become fragmented and difficult to manage.


Here are a few important considerations:


Skills for the sector


As a precursor, it is vital that a print procurement team involved in sourcing and managing suppliers has direct industry experience.


A team not only needs to be able to actively negotiate on price, but crucially, the individual components and specification of each product or service that's being provided. For example, an appreciation of how to alleviate VAT charges in an effort to pass any savings secured onto the customer is of clear benefit.


Relationship management


Moving on to vendor relationships, this requires careful consideration. Many would assume that the more direct relationships there are with vendors, the more costs will be driven down – especially as each layer of the buying process introduces an additional margin.


It is worth noting that interim providers can actually provide real value. For example, instead of developing a direct relationship with a paper mill, it can make sense to forge links with paper merchants who, due to their expertise and experience, are often better positioned to secure the right product mix and take advantage of their infrastructure to provide effective warehousing and logistics.


Level of service


Effectively managing the ebb and flow of a wholesale print supply chain requires teams to devise clear service levels that reflect the needs of both the provider and the end users. Unless this is established from the word go, the entire basis for ensuring that suppliers are efficient enough to perform can become skewed.


Even where this has been sufficiently achieved, there needs to be ongoing due diligence measures in place that review the size of a vendor pool, allowing teams to identify where individual suppliers could provide more value in terms of the other goods and services they provide. Team members must therefore have the technical and industry knowledge needed to separate a service provision into individual stages and assess whether it would be more cost effective for a supplier to take on either a specific stage within the print lifecycle, or indeed, an entire process or offering.


Technology upgrade


Utilising relevant technology in a bid to drive efficiencies throughout the print supply chain is crucial, but it is important to highlight that it is only an enabler. Without the right people and skills in place, the technology itself becomes useless. For example, a key area where it can make a difference is by reducing the costs for vendors by speeding up the time it takes to process transactions.


Adopting a tool that automates these quickly and efficiently can make a difference, but without the people skills needed to manage the stages in the ordering process where it could add most value, its benefits diminish.


Craig Brown is head of print solutions at Office Depot UK & Ireland.

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