Customer supplied stock

Most printers (the smart ones, anyway) simply won’t print on a customer supplied paper. Not for love or money. Today i’m gonna take a stab at explaining why that is, because print buyers and general consumers don’t understand it, and the reasoning is illustrative of the printing process in general.

All printing, even digital printing, is analog. That is, there is a mechanical and/or chemical process that the paper has to undergo. Pigment (whether toner or ink) is mechanically transferred to the paper as it moves from feed to delivery. In any mechanical process, there is a possibility of waste and failure, and frequently that waste/failure is completely out of a print shop’s control. Preventive maintenance, training and careful environmental control can mitigate some challenges, but can never eliminate them. That’s why it’s a common trade practice to charge NOT for the number of pieces you ordered, but the number you actually get. Ever notice that line on printing estimates that says “subject to over- or under-run of 5%, billed accordingly”? It means that the printer has to predict, in advance how much waste there will be… and since they can’t, many move this predictive burden to the buyer. Printers who promise “exact count” simply MUST charge more for their work than those who bill for the actual quantity including “overs” or “unders”

Printers always have “house” papers. These are sheets they buy in bulk and hold in inventory. Because they buy a lot of these papers, they get a better price and can pass that savings on. But more importantly, they are familiar with these papers and can control the environment the paper is stored in: humidity and temperature are significant factors in how paper and presses perform. They can very accurately predict the amount of waste. Also if they screw up, they have the resources on-hand to just fix it… so the exact prediction of waste is unnecessary. When you specify a paper that is not a “house” stock, you will ALWAYS pay more… even if the paper itself is cheaper. They aren’t generally buying enough to get a extraordinary discount, and they have to allow for greater waste, as so many variables are out of their control.

When you provide paper, you take responsibility for providing enough overs for the job to be properly printed. This means understanding a whole bunch of pretty esoteric stuff. How will the job be run? How many pieces will fit on a page? What is the waste associated with make-ready? With pre- and post- bindery operations? Is the job easy or hard to print? Does the paper have any unusual characteristics?

And these challenges are multiplied. You see, if the printer buys the paper and is wrong about the waste factor, they can just go and buy more paper. but if YOU provide the paper, they have no recourse. And problems are MORE likely to occur on papers you provide, as the printer has no idea of how the paper has been stored, how it was transported or where it came from — all important factors. The printer is either forced to potentially deliver a product that does not meet their standards, OR deliver a quantity below that specified. Even the best craftsman with the best equipment will face this challenge. A printer who values their reputation simply will not take on the risks associated with customer supplied paper.

Why do customers want to provide paper then?

The usual given reason is the belief that they will save money that way. They wont. Leaving aside the fact that your printer can almost always get the same paper WAY cheaper than you can, the waste concerns require extraordinary care when printing on customer supplied stock, so presses run slower, bindery is dome in smaller lots etc.

Occasionally it is a question of availability. For whatever reason, the printer can’t source the paper. In most cases, it’s not that the printer CAN’T source it, it’s that they WON’T. Either they KNOW there is a problem with the paper or the supplier, OR it is only available in a retail situation, so they can’t get the discount they are accustomed to, and so can’t make the margins they need in order to stay in business.

A common reason turns out to be quantity. Since printers understand the reality of paper waste, they are unwilling to take on a micro sized print run. They know that to guarantee quality work on a 50 piece print run, they will have to buy enough paper to print 150 or 250 pieces. When the client sees the price, they think “huh? how can 50 pieces of paper cost so much? I’ll just provide 50 sheets.”

If you have a need for a non stock paper on a regular basis though… give us a call. So long as you’ll commit to using it, and often enough to be worthwhile, we’ll happily buy it and store it. Essentially making it a HOUSE stock.

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