A Few Thoughts on Delivery of Print Jobs
A printing RFQ (request for
quotation), or a printer’s estimate, should be approached
as though it were a contract. If you need a particular
printing or binding procedure and you don’t specify
your requirements in detail in your RFQ, the estimate you
receive will not match the final bill. Conversely, if the
estimate you receive does not specify all elements of your
print job, you cannot assume everything is included.
Here’s an example.
If you choose a printer outside your immediate geographical
area -- perhaps because the prices are lower than those
of a local vendor -- you should clarify for your printer
the exact delivery destination(s). While a local printer
may include one local delivery in the estimated price, a
printer outside your area probably will not automatically
roll the cost of delivery into the final price. In the first
case, a local printer probably can deliver your job in a
company-owned truck. The non-local printer may need to use
a trucking company or a delivery service.
And the problem is compounded
if you have more than one delivery destination. Let’s
say you want samples delivered to your office, some copies
delivered to a fulfillment house, and the balance delivered
to a storage location. It’s very easy to overlook
this final aspect of print production, but it can be costly
to do so. To be safe, ask your printer to specify the cost
of delivery from the printing plant to the specific ZIP
Code of each delivery point, and include in this request
a notation of how many copies need to be delivered, how
they should be sent (FedEx, UPS, etc.), and how they should
be packaged (e.g., “in cartons not to exceed 40 lbs.
Another specification often
overlooked by print buyers involves the delivery conditions.
Does the destination point have a loading dock, or will
the delivery person need to bring the boxes of publications
up the elevator and into a commercial suite within an office
building? Such an “inside delivery” is more
time- and labor-intensive — and hence more pricey
— than unloading a single piece (a wrapped pallet
or skid of publications) with a forklift. Breaking down
a skid and delivering the boxes one at a time can involve
a significant surcharge. And if you don’t specify
this need in your RFQ and your printer assumes loading dock
to loading dock delivery, you may be unhappily surprised
by the final price.
Finally, if you have inside
delivery within a single building, note for your
printer how many separate suites within that building will
need to receive copies of your publication. In some cases,
your printer may need to deliver multiple cartons of different
sizes containing differing numbers of the publication to
recipients on multiple floors of an organization. All of
this will affect your final price.
To illustrate this point, I
recently provided an estimate for magazine production and
distribution to a potential sales client. A summary
of the delivery breakdown follows:
- Printer will double-box (approximately)
two-thirds of the magazines in cartons of 100 and the
balance in cartons of no more than 60 copies.
- Printer will deliver 6,730 copies
of magazines to four separate locations along the Eastern
- Three deliveries will be to loading docks and the fourth will be an inside
delivery to one location on one floor in the building (includes 2,100 copies
plus overs; these are the cartons of no more than 60 copies).
- The base cost for the four deliveries
by truck is $1,900.
- However, there is an additional
surcharge of $185 just for the one inside delivery (more
than 9 percent of the base cost).
As you can see, all details are
specified, and inside delivery is not cheap. The surcharge
for inside delivery would rise quickly if there were multiple
deliveries in one building, if there were several inside
deliveries in a number of buildings, or if the copy count
were to increase.
One distinguishing property
of printing paper is its coating or lack thereof. Paper
coating, usually made up of a vehicle and clay or pigment,
can be gloss- or dull-coated, or somewhere in between such
as satin-coated. Coating allows the pigment of the ink to
sit up on the surface of the substrate (paper, for instance)
as it dries rather than soaking in, bleeding, and spreading.
This property, called holdout, allows for very sharp halftones
(black and white and color), good color fidelity, fine screen
rulings, etc. Dull coating is easier on the eyes since it
diffuses light reflected off the paper. Gloss coating enhances
photographs by making them very crisp, so crisp they often
seem to jump off the page.
The opposite of coated paper
is uncoated paper, and this comes in a variety
of finishes as well. In order of smoothness, they are: antique,
eggshell, vellum, smooth, and luster. These levels of smoothness
are produced during the papermaking process by passing the
paper through a series of “calendaring rollers,”
which are vertical, cast-steel rollers with polished ground
Both coated and uncoated paper
can be supercalendared (passed through an additional
vertical series of alternating steel rollers and rollers
filled with cotton or synthetic material). Supercalendaring
makes the paper smoother and denser, and glossier and thinner
as well. This is because the polished steel rollers are
extremely flat and glossy, qualities that are actually transferred
to the paper itself. In addition, the pressure of the rollers
squeezes the paper fibers together, making the paper thinner
As an example, consider the
advertising inserts included in newspapers, many
of which are printed on cheap, supercalendared groundwood
paper. This paper is thin and usually not especially high
in quality or brightness, but it will accept moderate ink
coverage and it will produce reasonable quality photos due
to its density and smooth surface. Basically, the rollers
smash the paper into a thin, hard, flat substance that will
allow ink to sit up on its surface rather than seep into
An additional step in adding
finishes to paper is the application of the embossing
roller, which presses relief patterns into the paper after
it comes off the papermaking machine. Finishes added in
this way include linen, tweed, and pebble.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He 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.]