Like Printing Money...

Addressing the challenges of print procurement


Greg Portell, a principal at A.T. Kearney who has been involved with print procurement since the dot.com era of the 1990s, emphasizes that the consultancy's goal is to leave a client in a position to manage its print spend on its own through the transfer of solutions and skills. "We're building these tools and making these changes so that our clients can maintain control of the execution," Portell says. He adds that part of A.T. Kearney's role is facilitating cross-functional discussions within a client. The consultants can provide transparency into the tradeoffs that Procurement and Marketing have to make to meet the overall business requirements.

e-LYNXX, through its American Print Management service offering, provides print domain expertise to help a client's procurement staff better manage the company's print spend, along with its patented business method aimed at allowing the company's suppliers to compete based on their production status. e-LYNXX also provides a Web-based management system tool to provide visibility into, and greater control over, the print spend.

Similarly, InnerWorkings will place a print category expert onsite at a client to facilitate the purchasing of print and print-related materials. Through its technology platform, dubbed PPM4, InnerWorkings offers a network of about 7,000 suppliers across the globe, with detailed equipment specifications so that they know what the suppliers can provide, quality ratings on the individual suppliers, as well as historical pricing data. That helps the InnerWorkings staff ensure that they can match their clients' needs with just the right supplier to meet those requirements.

Other companies offering a combination of procurement solutions and print industry expertise include Cirqit.com and NewlineNoosh (formerly Noosh). ICG Commerce, the procurement services provider, offers category expertise around print and also will help its clients source the best technology to support their print procurement efforts.

The good news is that a category as loosely controlled and widely dispersed as print offers significant potential for short-term savings. ICG Commerce asserts that its average savings on print procurement range from 12 percent to 35 percent, while e-LYNXX pledges to "reduce procured print costs by no less than 25 percent or you pay nothing." And InnerWorkings reports that it has helped its client McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions, a division of McKesson Corporation, "generate realizable and meaningful efficiencies for McKesson Patient Relationship Solutions in excess of 30 percent."

One key success factor in ensuring those sorts of savings is to view the supply base as a partner, print industry experts say. InnerWorkings' Belcher asserts that suppliers can benefit from participating in print procurement initiatives because they are more likely to win more business that is better suited to their capabilities. And A.T. Kearney's Prasad notes that the supply base has a keen understanding of the costs and efficiencies in print. "Companies that have the capability and sophistication and leverage to share information with suppliers and collaborate to reach a solution that is a win-win for both parties can tap into all the expertise that exists within the suppliers," he says.

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