What you don’t know about printing can hurt you. Not physically, although there are rare times when people have been hurt physically. Printing presses, after all, are unthinking machines. The rollers, just like those in old-fashioned washing machines will pull through just about anything they can grab. I once heard a story of a woman with long blond hair carrying a baby through a printing press exhibit. The over-eager press salesman instructed her to lean over for a better look at the working parts. You guessed it, her hair caught in the rollers, and quicker than you can imagine she was pulled into the mechanism. The foolish salesman panicked and instead of either taking the baby, or turning the press off, went screaming through the display floor shouting for help. Cooler heads rushed over, turned the press off, and held the infant while the mother was painfully untangled. No serious damage was done, but do you think the young mother was disposed to recommend buying that particular brand of press, even after collecting her settlement money?
I could go on reciting injuries caused by presses or bindery equipment. I once came within a millisecond of losing a hand on the folder of a cold-web press. Fortunately, the lead pressman was alert and hit the big red stop button before the tip of my right index finger was totally smashed to a pulp. Yes, I got nipped and that nip taught me to respect the heavy iron.
The kind of hurt I’m referring to is more insidious. It isn’t like getting smacked by a baseball bat; it’s more like catching a virus. The baseball bat delivers immediate pain, but the virus doesn’t show itself until days or weeks later. By then you may wish you’d been beaten by a ball bat instead of having the flu or worse. In the case of print buying mistakes, results may not show up right away. It may be years before you discover that there was a better way.
Let me give you another example. I was introduced a few years ago to a retail clothing firm specializing in the large and tall market. They had established friendly ties with a printer just around the corner. It was a good relationship that extended back some twenty years. The problem was the clothing concern had grown over twenty years and honestly, had outgrown the capabilities of the printer. It’s not that the printer was doing a bad job; they just weren’t the right fit anymore. It was like putting a 50 XXL customer into a size 48 regular suit.
It didn’t take me long to see the problem and I got bids from printers and mailing houses better equipped for their current needs. They were shocked when the price came in $3,000.00 less and we cut the turnaround time by two weeks. It was difficult for them to say goodbye to their old printer, but saying goodbye was a no-brainer.
My customer was upset when they ran the numbers and discovered how much they could have saved over the years, but whose fault was it, really? The printer got the blame, but the printer didn’t twist any arms to get the work. There was an implied question; can the printer do the job? Of course, they could. Bucket brigades can put out a fire, but a modern pumper truck is more efficient. If all you have is a bucket brigade, and your living depends on the bucket brigade, you will do your best to meet the need. If what you have will get the job done, use what you have.
The bottom line is don’t trust your current printer to tell you if there is a better way. They have a business to run, press payments to make, and employees who need to put food on their tables, turning away good business runs counter to common sense. Don’t blame the printer if you don’t have enough business acumen to make better decisions. If you walk across broken glass barefoot, you can’t blame the glass when you get cut.