We developed our in house print buying/sourcing platform throughout 2007 and by 2008 our testing procedures finally came to and end and we were ready to use it live.
It was an exciting time – for many of us. It was so new, some on the team thought it wouldn’t work. No one had tried something quite like this before and like anything that’s cutting-edge, there’s a big possibility that it just won’t work.
Well since that time, we’ve come a long way. Our sourcing platform (Printelligence) has become an essential part of the business and we place a large proportion of work through it. And with our commitment to using only technology that benefits our suppliers too, it’s allowed us to feed back vital business intelligence and market data to them too. Over the years around 600+ individual print suppliers have used the system (with around 300 actively using it today). It allows us to get real prices from a huge number of printers for a wide range of printed items – and it gives our suppliers information about their performance in the market too (all data is anonymous and aggregative).
And crucially, that data is stored to allow us to carry out data analysis. The analysis will of course be aggregative – no individual suppliers or specifications or data that’s any way traceable or attributable to individual suppliers or projects will be released – the security of that data is sacrosanct. But in a similar way we provide market data back to all the printers involved in each and every pricing estimate, we’ll be analysing aggregative data providing broad-brush insights into the price of print over time.
It also needs pointing out that this is data sourced only from Webmart Ltd. projects. The platform is increasingly being used by 3rd parties, however none of this analysis will ever access this data.
So what data are we using?
Definitions of each product type – such as ‘brochure’ or ‘leaflet’ – are notoriously vague. One person’s brochure is another person’s catalogue. So we’ve left it for the customer to decide (since how the item is going to be used and their own customers’ expectations of the product are key to the definition) so where the client’s called a project a brochure, it will be analysed as a brochure.
Tied to each project title is a detailed specification describing that project in terms of size, pagination, colours, paper type, finishing, proofing, packaging and delivery. So for a brochure, we can see the entire range of specifications which are associated with that product type.
In the case of brochures, the specification can range from 4 pages 210 x 230mm on 130gsm woodfree silk stock, folded and carton packed, all the way up to a 108 page 210 x148mm on 90gsm woodfree uncoated, perfect bound and carton packed. When requesting a price from printers, we typically request a price that includes the paper, print, finishing and delivery.
These tend to be the extremes in terms of pagination so the majority of jobs will fall well within these extremes. So the data will contain a broad range of what constitutes a ‘brochure’ and will include a wide range of quantities – from small to very large runs.
Once we’ve taken the full range of projects which constitute a ‘brochure’, we’ll then start the analysis.
We’ll start off by looking at the pricing variance. We know we get a range of prices for each project – the range depends on supplier efficiency, press configuration (are they the right printer for the right job?) and available capacity. It also of course depends on how many suppliers you ask for a price from – you need the reach of a print procurement platform to be able to communicate with a large number of printers. This will give us our first view of the % difference in brochure prices over time.
It’s important to note that when requesting prices from suppliers, we actively choose printers with the most suitable press configurations and invite them to give us prices. Other printers can self-select themselves too if they think they are suitable and can give a competitive price. So typically, the prices received back (and hence the pricing variance reported) are not from a random selection of suppliers who didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of giving the most competitive price (like a screen printer giving a price for 100,000 catalogues!) but are from the right sort of printers which an expert and experienced print buyer evaluates are most suitable for the project.
That said, we then extract the lowest price received and the highest price. We then produce that figure as a percentage (highest price as a % difference from the lowest) and then clean the results of any erroneous data (where divide by zeros occurred or the occasional price was so low it skewed the data into a 000% difference!). We then group the data into Quarter years (starting with Q2 2008) and Bob’s your dad’s brother, we have arrived at the raw data with which to construct our graphing.
We’ll be looking at a range of product types over the coming weeks and months, starting with the pricing variance found when buying brochures. If you want to know whether you’re paying the right price for your print or get a view of the range of prices available to your customers, watch this space.
UPDATE – Check out the finished brochure printing graph!