Going Beyond the Printed Piece - Post-Print Fulfillment Services Offer More Opportunities for Output Providers
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Going Beyond the Printed Piece - Post-Print Fulfillment Services Offer More Opportunities for Output Providers

Print providers need to rethink their business models, and be able to supply their customers with the broader scope of services that go beyond providing output options.

By Bill Schiffner

In today's highly competitive marketplace, there is still a bit of disparity between those print businesses who embrace new services and technologies and those who cling to old strategies.

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  • To survive in this tough economy, print providers need to rethink their business models, and be able to supply their customers with the broader scope of services that go beyond offering output options.

    More and more output providers are trying to offer their clients a one-stop shopping solution. By doing so, many specialty services are being brought in-house. Post-print fulfillment services, such as finishing and distribution, which were once considered an afterthought, are now being seen as value-added services helping to build relationships with clients. Other fulfillment services can range from installation, product rollouts, and warehousing, to sophisticated web-based programs that offer clients an intuitive interface with order and inventory management.

    'Offering fulfillment services provides a definite competitive advantage in today's marketplace. It used to be a value-added service, but today it's more than that. It's all about warehousing, inventory, planning and the logistics of the printed products,' says Johnny Shell, vice president of technical services at SGIA. 'Everybody is looking for that one-stop shop. If a client can get their printing and fulfillment from one output provider, it makes their job a lot easier.'

    For some graphic houses, post-print fulfillment capabilities have aided them in forming long-term commitments with their client base, while allowing them to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

    Yunker Industries
    SGIA member Yunker Industries is a prime example of a print provider who has consistently been able to grow their business through the adoption of these cutting-edge fulfillment services and technologies. The Lake Geneva, Wisconsin-based firm is a single-source provider of in-store marketing, promotional, reimaging and store decor programs for brands and retailers. Its breadth of in-house capabilities include design, prototyping, program management, installation management, wide-format digital and screen printing, finishing, warehousing, fulfillment and web-based inventory management. By having the forward vision, and finding the right mix of services and technologies to support that vision, Yunker has been able to grow in markets where others have not been as successful.

    'Yunker is an industry leader in the design, engineering and manufacturing of all types of interior signage for the retail space. We offer our clients end-to-end program production and management solutions, as well as excelling in providing full turnkey capabilities in wide-format digital and screen printing, finishing, warehousing and fulfillment,' says Jon Nedland, vice president of marketing and business strategy, at Yunker Industries.

    'By combining market research, design, manufacturing and fulfillment, we help customers get solutions to the store faster. We are committed to developing the highest quality products, and provide superior service utilizing cost effective materials and manufacturing methods,' he adds.

    Large Retail Clientele
    Nedland reports that about 90 percent of their clients are retailers, and are usually working with them through multiyear contracts. 'We produce graphics for a large amount of stores on a multiyear basis. For some of those clients, we provide straight design and print, while for others we offer print fulfillment in terms of product and then also fulfillment and distribution for installation services.'

    He points out that some of their value-added fulfillment services are offered to clients that they have two- to four- year contracts with, so there are elements they will be printing for them on a consistent basis. One of the unique programs they provide is access to a Web portal, which allows clients to order additional signage, track orders in different locations, as well as streamline costs during the project.

    Web-based Services
    'We offer our Web portal service after we already have a program in place with either a brand or a retailer. We provide them access to this portal via our website. This service gives our clients that ability to order replacement signage on demand. For example, a fashion retailer may have paddles that go on clothing racks that take a lot of abuse on a daily basis. Utilizing the portal, they can order new ones for different locations where they need them. One of our largest retail clients uses this service as a graphics replenishment program for all of their stores,' Nedland explains.

    He adds that Yunker utilizes the portal as a value-added service in terms of not only going after new business but also retaining current accounts. 'To help our clients manage the process, this portal has the ability to drive the ordering process down to the store level. It helps them quantify all their transaction costs. They can also track which types of graphic products are being ordered, and it helps them cut costs and streamline the total ordering process.'

    For example, Nedland points out that, for one customer currently using the service with over 1,200 stores, they currently hold over 2,000 active SKUs. 'For this one customer, we average more than 8,800 portal orders per year, with more than 160,000 items shipped. This has reduced the average transaction cost of processing an order at the client's corporate level by 88 percent!'

    'Most importantly, this service extends the relationship with the client after the initial print job is done. It's a steady piece of our business. The portal solution has also given us the ability to increase our warehouse and installation fulfillment services because they are directly related.'

    Warehousing Services
    Yunker's 70,000 square feet-plus of dedicated warehousing allows them to fulfill a wide variety of customer orders where they assemble custom kit packs, fulfill inventory orders and drop ship numerous orders for single projects and sustained rollouts for many large retailers on a daily basis.

    'Our warehouse provides us with many options. We are able to preassemble projects before they are shipped, store client's signage, as well as their inventory, for future projects.'

    He adds that, for some of their larger programs that require remote distribution centers (DCs), they will offer remote DCs on demand. 'If we are doing a four-month reimage program, we will rent out remote DC space where we can ship, collate and go directly from that location for installation.'

    Other Value-Added Services
    From remodel programs to store-in-store projects, to décor programs, Yunker offers full turnkey services ranging from site surveys to single- and multi-store installations. 'We also provide our larger clients a service called the store attributes program where we capture key attributes of each location. For example, if we are doing a window graphics program for 500–1000 stores, we are looking at the number of doors; the number of windows, and the heights of windows so we know what the variables are before we go to print. We always try to suggest doing a survey of a store chain prior to going on press, so we are not overproducing and can avoid obsolete inventory. It's sort of like an insurance policy for our customers. They spend a little bit up front to get intelligence on their store chain, but they are going to save a significant amount in the long-run, related to either going back on press, rush charges or expedited shipping charges.'

    Yunker also offers their clients extensive in-house finishing capabilities that allow them to provide a wide variety of end-to-end solutions. 'From die cutting and routing to sewing, assembly or laminating, we have what it takes to complete the production process in a seamless manner.'

    'At the end of the day, it's all about making our customer base that much more productive and efficient. If you can give them the tools and data in addition to the physical product, it puts them that much further ahead of the competition,' Nedland concludes.

    Markley Enterprise
    SGIA member Markley Enterprise, Inc. is a full-service print provider based in Elkhart, Indiana that specializes in the design, production and distribution of sales and marketing support products. The 52-year-old company has been supplying signs, banners, trade show graphics and point-of-purchase (POP) displays for their long list of clients for decades, but probably the most important reason for their recent success was the decision they made 12 years ago to offer online warehousing and inventory management services.

    'Our warehousing and inventory management solutions provide each of our clients with a comprehensive system to distribute and manage their print inventory,' says company President Tim Markley. 'It's probably the number one service that we sell.'

    Markley Enterprise offers custom reporting, online ordering and inventory management as complete solutions to their promotional print services. Markley says they first started offering the service on a limited basis in 1998.

    'Customers were a little hesitant at first because they felt they would lose control of certain aspects of the project, but once they got comfortable with it, the service really started to take off. As we grew this area of the business, we needed to build a separate warehouse facility in 2000, and we then began online ordering. Our 20,000 square foot warehouse is located right next door to the interstate, so we are in a great location to ship materials all across the country,' he points out.

    Taking to the Cloud
    He adds that one key to their success was installing a warehouse management system that is Cloud-based. It's a multi-tenant system that's tailored for each individual customer's needs. With this intuitive system, we have the capability of having an order on a truck, ready to go out, within an hour of it being placed.'

    Their warehouse is also completely wireless, and their inventory is updated in real-time, which Markley considers another important reason for their success. 'We can run reports and track everything up to the minute. It's a big plus of what we can provide our clients. We become their back office. They get the best of both worlds. They don't have to do it themselves, and they have a great inventory and distribution system they can depend on.'

    Markley says that offering these services has helped them pick up some added print work as well. 'We have a boat manufacturer that uses our system. They were so happy with how we did things they gave us all their brochures and catalogs in addition to their signage. Today we print and distribute all their promotional printed materials.'

    Inventory Control
    He points that they run inventory based on demand. 'We build inventory based on usage. Marketing materials can change weekly. By doing it this way, we don't have a lot of overage. We have another customer who is a wholesaler of building materials with 120 locations across the country. When we took their print business on, they had an inventory of $1.6 million worth of printed stuff. We were able to streamline than number down to a little over $600,000. That was big cost savings for them.'

    'Right now I'd say, without these services, we would have been hard pressed to grow like we have. Our ability to cultivate our business in the past 12 years is because we offer innovative services like these. To be successful in this business, yes, you still have to focus on the print end, but that can't be where it stops. You have to be involved in other areas after the printing is done, and that is one of the things that has really helped us grow,' he concludes.

    Bill Schiffner has covered the imaging industry for more than 20 years. He has reported on the many new digital technologies that have reshaped the imaging marketplace. bschiffner@optonline.net

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, September/October 2012 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2013 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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