How print buyers can make major cost savings with simple specification changes

I am very fortunate to have great contacts in the print industry from the world over. Matthew Parker of Print & Procurement in England has not only been a trusted resource of information, but a mentor as I have progressed through the print trenches. Today, I feature a guest post from his blog.  JP


Can you imagine life without the car? For most of us it’s now an essential part of our lives. But it took a challenge to the way things were to create the car.

Henry Ford is reported to have said that he ignored what his customers wanted. He said that, if he had asked them, they would have asked for a faster horse drawn carriage. He needed to challenge the specification of the horse and come up with something totally different.

Print buyers need to challenge specifications too

The right changes in print specification can create much lower print budgets. Find out more

The right changes in print specification can create much lower print budgets. Find out more

Print buyers who do not challenge specification won’t have the same relationships with their internal clients. They’ll just be seen as order processors. They won’t have any control over the work they are placing. And they certainly won’t achieve the best results possible for their clients.Print buyers who challenge specifications will create stronger partnerships with their internal clients. They will show their client’s how print budgets can better controlled. And they will achieve better results for their clients.

Here are three ways to challenge specification and get those great results.

Have a look at what the job is being printed on

Many people are far too generous with paper specification. Paper can often be on too heavy a weight. I recently saved a client over £10,000 on a catalogue by reducing the paper weight. But the effect of this change was barely noticeable because we used a bulkier paper stock.

I also find that sometimes the grade of paper is specified that is more expensive than it need be. This can actually make the product less effective. I often see forms printed on expensive art papers. But it would be much easier to write on an offset.

However, paper is not the only way to reduce costs on a product.

Review the size of your product

If you are producing leaflets in large quantities there are good opportunities to review costs. The items are likely to be planned up on a sheet. This means that many items will be printed on the same sheet. By reducing the size by a few millimetres it is often possible to fit more on a sheet. The number of sheets to be printed is reduced. And so is the cost of the job. I have sometimes seen a 20% reduction in the cost of a leaflet after reviewing sizes.

Items that are printed on web presses can also have cost savings. This is achieved by reviewing the reel width. Making a magazine 10mm narrower can have reduce paper costs by 4.5% or more.

But sometimes reducing costs can have nothing to do with paper and size. Sometimes it is possible to reduce costs without changing either of these elements.

Challenge the print run

I sometimes see print buyers examining specifications in great detail, but not reviewing the print run. However, there are many instances of wasteful over-production. There is often a temptation to print more “just in case”. A good print buyer should see whether all this production is necessary. But sometimes they should do this in reverse.

I recently showed a client 16% savings by printing more items. They were busy producing small batches of standard items. And the savings were achieved by combining them all in one long run and managing the delivery.

Naturally, we sometimes spend a lot of time working on solutions like this and find they are rejected.

What happens if the budget holder isn’t interested?

I have seen a number of print buyers present solutions such as the ones that I have described above. But they went into great technical detail. And they forget to focus on the key factor that the budget holder was interested in: the saving.

Go to a budget holder and start by telling them that you believe that you can save them X% on a job. Then you will always be listened to.

Sometimes they will feel that a change isn’t worth it because the actual saving is small. It is important that you remind budget holders of a key rule.

Lots of small savings add up

I did some work with a publisher and suggested that some magazines would benefit by changing from perfect bound to saddle stitched. On each magazine the saving was small. But we were looking at over twenty magazines. And the combined saving was worth a substantial five-figure sum to the publisher.

But it requires the print buyer to take the initiative for this sort of work.

Here are three action points for you

  1. Gather samples of your ten most common jobs. Challenge the specification, paying attention to paper, size and print run. Ask a printer to help you if necessary.
  2. Price up the savings.
  3. Highlight the potential savings to your budget holders. Then ask for a meeting to discuss the changes further.

This article has focussed on some fairly simple changes to specification. But as you gain trust with your budget holders, you can become more radical. You can suggest personalisation, augmented reality and even NFC.

You could become the Henry Ford of print!


You can find Matthew’s website here.  You can also follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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