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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Postponing a Job That’s in Progress

I can’t remember the last time I canceled or postponed a commercial printing job mid-flight, or at least right before the job went to press. It’s demoralizing, but depending on why it’s done and how it’s done, this doesn’t have to be either the end of the project or the end of the relationship with the printer.

The Back Story on the Print Job

PIE Blog readers may recognize the story of the fashionista and her color swatch book, akin to a PMS swatch book but for use in choosing clothes based on colors relevant to one’s complexion.

I had encouraged my client to buy an ongoing Creative Cloud license for InDesign. I had then created a template for her print book, and she had produced 22 different versions (master copies for her short-run job). Due to its run length, the project was to be printed on an HP Indigo digital press. And due to it’s short run length (it would be reprinted regularly as new clients bought copies), the job has been the poster child for “just in time” digital printing.

Well it crashed and burned this week due exclusively to a break up between the entrepreneur and her source of funding.

Personally, I think this is a short-term setback and not a permanent end to the job. (Granted, that’s easy for me to say.)

Future Directions for the Job

Under the circumstances, however, I have taken the following track:

  1. I alerted the printer today. The prior printer, who was going to do the job on a Kodak NexPress, had misquoted the project and had offered to either reprice the job (for a significantly higher price) or to back out of the process. The current printer had stepped up and had produced a single-page ganged-up test sheet including a handful of color swatches from the job. He had printed this test on the chosen paper stock and had UV coated the sample to show my client how a cover coating might affect the colors in the print book. Needless to say, both printers had invested a lot of time in the project over the course of a year.
  2. I asked the current printer to calculate how much the work done up until now would cost. I made it clear that my client planned to come back once she had found funding for her entrepreneurial efforts. I said I knew the printer’s time was valuable, and I wanted him to be adequately compensated. He is looking into this.
  3. I told the printer to expect full funding when my client came back. She would provide the entire cost with a check or credit card before starting the job. This demonstrated good will, respect, and an intent to postpone but not cancel the job.
  4. I asked the client to review the single-page test sheet very carefully. It would be the starting point for the new job once she had secured funding. I asked her to note on the test sheet the CMYK percentages of each color swatch, the target PMS for each swatch (if she chose to match them on the Indigo), and any comments she had concerning the color fidelity of each swatch. This reflected my conviction that the job would in fact continue in several months.
  5. I reassured my client. I told her that neither the commercial printing vendor nor I would abandon her due to this unfortunate experience. We both planned to continue the job in the near future.

The Take Away: What We Can Learn

  1. Sometimes things go awry. Cutting ties in a case like this would have been counterproductive. After all, my client had created 22 press-ready print book files in InDesign. She had shown good faith and an intent to proceed. I do not know exactly when the job will start up again. However, if I had cut ties with the client, or if the printer had cut ties with me, there would have been no chance to pursue the job—which could easily grow into an ongoing project with periodic reprints.
  2. Not asking the printer for a bill for services to-date would have shown a lack of respect for his time and effort. I might have gotten away without paying, but it would have damaged the relationship. Furthermore, when the job resurfaces, this printer would have had less inclination to work with me, or my client.
  3. Not asking my client to analyze the single-page test job and provide feedback—even at this point–would have been to miss an opportunity to plan how to proceed after she has secured funding. After all, the job (and her reactions to the sample file color swatches produced on the HP Indigo) is still fresh in her mind.
  4. In your own commercial printing work, a situation like this may come up—perhaps once or twice in a career. I encourage you to think before you react. Sometimes apparent failure just means that you need to change your direction a bit and then start again.

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