I read an interesting article today on Printing Impressions’ Digital Printing center which surveyed in-plant managers on their purchasing processes. The article prompted managers to reflect on what they wish they had done during the purchasing process of digital color presses. Benefits from digital color presses are abundant: the ability to finish jobs quicker (and cheaper), the ability to produce higher quality printed outputs, the ability to incorporate variable data printing, etc.; but the purchasing process can still be scary. The last thing any manager wants is even the slightest form of regret after a major business decision and hefty purchase. Therefore, I’ve tried to distill the major themes from executive answers into a few key points:
1. Do your research. The average purchase decision ranges from a few weeks to a few months. During this time, consult every source of information possible. Visit the websites of vendors you are interested in, view their press demos, and compare the press spec sheets. Sales representatives are valuable sources of information, especially since they should be considered experts on the machine they are trying to sell. But we all know they are not entirely impartial and a purchasing decision could be better informed by seeking out balanced and neutral information from other industry experts. Which brings be to #2.
2. Consult your network. Seek out the opinion of industry people who do the same type of work you do. This can be done through existing personal relationships with other print operations or through consulting your online network in the form of LinkedIn groups. A quick search of Digital Printing Group on LinkedIn reveals that numerous print professionals choose the online option, inquire about specific products, and receive thoughtful and detailed replies.
3. See your options print in person. This was a major theme as nearly every manager polled highlighted the need to see the press perform in person. What was interesting in these recommendations is that most managers recommend viewing the machine in a working business location as opposed to the vendor showroom. Doing so gives the added advantage of being able to speak with machine operators and owners akin to #2 on this list. If you do not personally know anyone who operates the machine you are interested in viewing, your sales rep can likely make a connection for you and help schedule a visit. Some managers even mentioned running their own jobs on machines – either in a showroom or at another organization – to see how the machine performs on their specific projects and to better understand the workflow from start to finish.
4. Research the cost of operation and consumables. Don’t forget that the purchase price is not the only price consideration when purchasing a new printing device. You’ll also want to take into account the cost of consumables – like toner – as well as relevant costs per click, electrical costs, etc. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the true cost of operating the equipment.
5. Consider training and service reputation. Make sure to ask your sales rep about the training that comes with a purchased product. Robust training makes your operators more knowledgeable, significantly reduces the time spent to ramp up a new machine, and reduces errors that may occur during the early days of implementation. Some vendors even have business development programs which may provide additional sources of value by helping you make the most of your new purchase. You should also be critical of the vendor’s service capabilities and reputation. While you want to avoid complications, you also want a vendor who can respond quickly and effectively and has a proven reputation of doing so, in case complications do arise. Again, consult your network to learn about your vendor’s service reputation.