Delivery Management: Increase Productivity, Customer Service, and Profitability

by Mark Porter, Dienamic MIS Software, Inc.

The past year has proven two things to those of us in binding and print finishing. One, we must be more productive. Our existing staff must be more efficient and perform more tasks with fewer resources. Two, we must provide extraordinary service, especially to our good customers. It is generally accepted that 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of our customers, so we need to lock those customers in to ensure it takes a bigger price difference or bigger mistake for them to take their business elsewhere.

Productivity and service are objectives that can be achieved in many ways, but one way is through delivery management. The binding and finishing companies – the post press industry by definition – cannot begin a job until goods are received from the printer. The efficient management of these goods, combined with the timely receipt of goods from suppliers, can greatly contribute to the profitability of a job.

Nobody has to tell you how competitive it is in the marketplace. Printers are continually being pushed toward smaller production runs, lower prices, and quicker turnarounds. Binders and finishers, as the last step in the production process, bear the brunt of this pressure. Even if the end customer provides an allowance for extra time in the production schedule, in all probability it will be sucked out by the design, prepress, and printing processes long before the job gets to the post press stage.

It is a constant challenge for binders and finishers to meet the production needs of their printing customers profitably. But there are procedures, policies, and tools that can be implemented to help manage jobs and increase customer loyalty.

Controlling the Flow of Jobs into Post Press

By managing the delivery of both printing from customers and purchases from suppliers, you can maximize the time available to produce jobs, thereby limiting the risk of incurring overtime costs, disrupting other jobs, or missing deadlines.

The key to this problem, like many problems, is communication. Knowing what you are expecting, when you have received it, or when it is late can greatly increase your ability to manage jobs. These jobs are then produced on time and more efficiently for your customers and more profitably for your business.

Communication starts with knowing what job is coming in and when to expect it. Too often jobs just appear in the shipping/receiving area, causing production disruptions. Not controlling the receipt of jobs exposes your company to customer claims that goods were received earlier than they actually were, forcing interruptions in the production schedule. Sometimes your customer honestly believes that the job arrived early in the morning – he doesn’t realize his driver diverted his route. Providing a notification of received goods not only can provide your company with the evidence it needs to support the actual delivery, but also can provide the customer with information to manage his delivery resources.

Maximizing Production Time

Giving customers the ability to pre-book jobs and/or shipments via a computerized goods management system provides your business with notice of what jobs are coming in and allows you to plan for their arrival. Offering incentives, such as providing first priority status, supplying notification to the printer when goods are received, or advising the customer when his goods are not received by the required time are all motivation for the printer to pre-book his jobs.

Once the jobs are received in-house, it is critical that not a minute of valuable production time is lost. As soon as goods are received, people both within your organization and at the printer should be notified of receipt. The quantity and the condition of the goods can be verified against the information entered by the printer. If the counts are short or the material was damaged in transit, these issues can be dealt with immediately. Placement of the goods within your plant can be documented and a skid tag can be generated and attached to the skids or containers for easy identification.

Often, jobs are not just waiting for printed matter from your customer but also spine material, dies, or other items from suppliers. A quick look-up of all receipts for that specific job will quickly provide the information required to coordinate production.

Building Customer Loyalty

The additional benefit of a delivery management process is that customer loyalty is built through the addition of convenience and value to the printer. The ability to enter print job information 24/7 provides a printer with unparalleled access to your services. If it is 8 p.m. and a printer needs a job done tomorrow, is he going to enter it into your system – thereby gaining a priority place in your workflow – or wait until the morning to start calling binders/finishers?

Back in the ’80s, just as the printing industry was getting into desktop publishing, files were being generated on disks and couriered to printers. One of my clients had invested in providing his best customers with modems. These customers then had the choice of generating disks, filling out courier slips, experience delays in delivery of the disks and – if there were mistakes in the file – repeating the procedure – or they could simply click a button and electronically send the file to our printing client. It was an easy choice and I am sure this customer service won jobs for his company. Automatic electronic notification when shipments are received or are late provides peace of mind and eliminates the time required for the printer’s staff to follow up with you. This provides the printer’s staff with more time to do their jobs.

Automatic electronic notification of short counts and damaged goods provides the printer maximum time to correct these issues and ensures the printer can meet the customer’s deadline. Obviously, the use of a manual delivery management system makes this process very time-consuming and difficult to maintain, but the Internet provides the perfect communication system for the receiving process. Through your website, customers can have the ability to enter data, such as sheets to be delivered. An automated delivery management system can email the customer and your internal staff automatically when events happen, such as shipments received, short counts, damaged goods, or late shipments. This ensures that everyone involved is provided the maximum time to produce the order or correct the situation.

A solid management process for receiving goods will increase customer loyalty, save time on both your end and the customer’s, and improve your chances of producing jobs profitably.

Mark Porter is the president of Dienamic MIS Software, Inc. Dienamic offers a wide variety of software products and services designed specifically for trade binderies and print finishers. Dienamic can offer full systems, including estimating/management information/e commerce, and individual software tools such as delivery management, die management, foil management, and budgeted hourly rates. Contact Mark Porter at (800) 461-8114 or visit