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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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Book Printing: Don’t Blindly Trust Delivery Paperwork

Part of being a good print buyer is being a proficient sleuth when it’s necessary. When something seems confusing or goes wrong, or when you just can’t get the answer you need, it pays to do your own research. Not all responses to your questions, however confident in their tone, will be accurate—no matter how well intentioned.

The Setting of the Delivery Snafu

A client of mine just had 5,000 6” x 9” perfect-bound books printed. They are government textbooks, and all but 100 copies were slated for delivery to the fulfillment house. Boxed in cartons of 20 print books each, the total run comprised 250 boxes. The fulfillment house needed to receive 245 boxes, and my client’s office needed to receive 5 boxes (the aforementioned 100 books).

To ensure accurate delivery, my client went out to the fulfillment house and counted the copies noted on the pallet flags (paper notations on the wrapped skids of cartoned print books). The total added up to 250 boxes of 20 copies each.

Unfortunately, this didn’t make sense, since the total would have left no boxes for my client’s office. So I called the book printer.

The printing sales rep at the book printer did some research and told me the truck had left the plant with both deliveries (my client’s office copies and the fulfillment house’s copies). According to the delivery manifest, the five-box delivery at the client’s office had occurred, and then the 245-box delivery at the fulfillment house had occurred shortly thereafter. If the pallet description of the boxed books said there were 250 boxes, this meant there were 100 overs (100 more copies than requested by my client)—and the printer said my client could have them free of charge.

Not Quite Enough Information

This offer sounded good, but I didn’t like the lack of certainty. I trusted the sales rep completely, but I wasn’t absolutely sure had had been given accurate information by his delivery people. Moreover, holding more copies of the books than needed at the fulfillment house might incur an extra charge. Either the fulfillment house would need to store them (for a fee) or deliver them to my client (for a fee). My client had ordered the total she needed for the end-users. More copies could be a nuisance.

So I called my client and asked whether the office copies had been delivered. She hadn’t been to the office yet, so she wasn’t absolutely sure. Then again, her boss had said he liked the books. To me that meant they had been delivered (or her boss wouldn’t have been able to review a copy). My client agreed. So I called the book printer’s customer service rep.

The customer service rep had done some digging. Apparently, the five cartons of books had been removed from the wrapped skids. Five boxes had been removed, but the pallet flags had not been altered, so they still noted a 250-box delivery. Moreover, there was no notation of overage anywhere.

With all of this information, I approached my client:

  1. For the 5,000-copy press run, a total of 250 boxes (20 books x 250 boxes = 5,000 books) had been produced and delivered (according to the delivery manifest).
  2. No printer paperwork mentioned any overs.
  3. According to my client, a delivery had been made to her office (of how many boxes, we weren’t certain).
  4. The CSR had found written evidence that five boxes had been removed from the total and delivered to the client’s office, even if this had not been noted on the wrapped skids of books that arrived at the fulfillment house.

Therefore, the greater probability was that:

The driver had left the printer with 250 boxes on skids. He had broken out five boxes upon his arrival at my client’s office and had neglected to note this on the skids. Then he had driven to the fulfillment warehouse and had delivered 245 boxes of books. And there were no overs.

How You Can Use This Information

  1. A number of people were involved in this state of confusion. Each had only a piece of the total picture of what had happened. Only when all of their respective stories were compiled did the most likely explanation appear.
  2. So in your own print buying work, when something seems amiss or confusing, the best thing you can do is gather information from as many people as possible. Start with the sales rep and the customer service rep. Have them check all delivery manifests. Have them also check for any miscellaneous scribbled notes left in haste by any truck drivers.
  3. All of this points to the value of a long-standing, mutually supportive partnership between the client and the vendor. In your own work, a book printer with whom you have forged a partnership will be more likely to take the time to help remedy a problem. Someone new might just become defensive. A partner will work with you to resolve the difficulty to your satisfaction.
  4. Remember that just because something has been written down, it is not necessarily accurate. It may also be incomplete. However, it’s still useful to review delivery manifests (or any other kind of work order, should your particular problem not be related to delivery).
  5. Remember that printing involves many steps (scheduling, prepress, printing, finishing, cartoning, and delivery, just to name just a handful), and these steps involve many people. People are fallible. Some print jobs will invariably have problems. If you realize this, you will be less likely to approach the printer from a position of blame and more likely to approach the issue along with your printer with an eye towards its successful resolution.

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