Printery Expects Online Growth

HOLLAND — An online ordering system set up 18 months ago now generates only a small volume of the transactions The Printery conducts.

But in the years ahead, company President Mark Van Vliet expects the print jobs coming from The Printery’s Internet portal — — to grow steadily as clients recognize the speed, continuity, accuracy and convenience the online procurement process offers when ordering printed materials such as business cards, envelopes, letterhead and marketing materials.

“It’s a real timesaver for the order-entry process,” Van Vliet said. “It saves time, and therefore cost.”

Among the clients that now use The Printery’s Online Printstore are Haworth Inc., Perrigo Co. and freight hauler USF Holland. The Online Printstore in now limited to The Printery’s largest and highest-volume clients, Van Vliet said.

The system allows clients of The Printery, the small press division of the SVH Group in Holland, to order and proof printed materials online. The biggest benefit is the streamlining of the procurement process, particularly for large employers that have multiple locations around the country, Van Vliet said. Orders from a location are electronically transmitted to the corporate procurement office for approval, if needed, then forwarded to The Printery, eliminating the need to fax order forms and proofs back and forth or have them picked up and delivered.

The Online Printstore essentially provides a client a virtual sales representative that can handle their transactions any time. Van Vliet sees online procurement as complementing, not replacing, the role of a sales representative in a client relationship.

“There’s really no substitute for developing relationships with customers on a person-to-person level and that will never go away. But at the same time we feel this provides a great opportunity for our customers to streamline the process,” he said.

That streamlining in the printing industry has been occurring more frequently in recent years, as the industry adopts Internet technology for procurement. Corporations that are now requiring procurement officers to conduct a certain percentage of their transactions or bidding online are partly driving the change.

“There is a clear, compelling need for printers to begin to provide e-business services for both large and small customers,” stated an industry outlook issue a year ago by the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, an industry trade group.

One of the larger online print shops is, a Web portal the statewide trade association Printing Industries of Michigan and industry parties set up in 2000 so automakers could order their printed materials online (see related story, page B5). The site has since grown to serve many industries nationwide. Printers that are members of the Printing Industries of America pay a fee to participate.

In addition to the efficiencies of online order entry, Web portals for printers also provide clients continuity to their printed materials. Companies with multiple locations placing print orders often end up with employees using varying logos, type fonts and colors, depending on where they work.

Through an ordering portal such as the Online Printstore, The Printery’s clients can better control graphic standards and assure that all of its printed materials are consistent, SVH Group Marketing Director Elizabeth Smallegan Ebihara said.

“It keeps it all the same,” Ebihara said. “We have all the latest (graphic elements) approved by the executive management.”           

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