Posted by: AG | May 19, 2009

How to Cut Prices in Printing – part two

The previous article gave an example of a key question that you could ask to begin chipping away at printing costs. It focused on the layout and design aspect and would be targeted to the graphic designer or design firm preparing your final art. The next question you should always consider carefully is more oriented toward the marketing manager:

While the question seems surprising to some, the fact is many print buyers yield to temptation and order far more printed pieces than they actually need. One of the obvious factors that lead buyers to order more than necessary is that the cost per piece drops consistently as the quantity goes up.

The cost for most printing large jobs is presented as a “cost per thousand,” and is given as something like $50/M on a printers estimate sheet. When I gave estimates in the past, most customers would ask for a quote based on a variety of quantities – they might ask for the cost for 5,000, 10,000, and 15,000, for instance (from here on I’ll use the established letter “M” to represent 1,000, which came about because the the Latin word for thousand is “mille,” as in millimeter, milligram, milliliter, etc.)

When the customer received their estimate, they would see something like “5M – $95/M; 10M – $75M; and 15M – $65. So the print buyer quickly notices that if they buy the larger quantity their unit cost is much lower. In this example, going from $95 down to $65 per M would save the customer over 30% for each additional piece they print. And therein likes the temptation to get more than you really need.

Well, in case you’re thinking that all you need to do is not buy too many, which becomes trash in your dumpster, there’s also the opposite problem: ordering too few. Depending on what you’re printing and how it’s to be used, printing too few can be an expensive mistake. For instance, let’s say you’re printing an important hand-out and you must have enough for anyone that requests it. If you printed 10M (at $75/M from example above) your total cost would be $750 ($75 x 10). But if you ended up running out too quickly and discover you need another 1,000, your printing cost for such a small amount might be in the neigborhood of $250/M, or $250! That’s because your paying most for the set-up time required which is the same for any job – large or small.

If you do the math (divide the $ cost by the quanity) you discover that your first 10M pieces cost you $ .075 each, but the order for 1M will cost you $ .25 per piece. You’ll see that the cost per piece went up about 3 ½ times or 340%. Dizzy yet? Well, had you simply ordered 15M to begin with you would have paid a total of $975 (at $65/M). But by having to order in two separate press runs, you’ll instead pay $1,000 ($750 + $250) for just 11M. Had you planned ahead carefully, in other words, you would have saved $25 and had 4,000 extra pieces to hand out.

I’ll sum up the reasons why the cost keeps going down as quanity goes up: excluding your design costs, which you’ll incur once, you avoid all the pre-press costs, like the following:


  • Reviewing, and fixing files for output;
  • Preparing negatives
  • Preparing proofs
  • Burning plates
  • All of those are major cost components of every printing job, no matter how small. After the job is on the press, and running full speed, the additional time it takes to print another 5,000 pieces is fast and not that expensive. You’re really just paying for extra labor and paper.

    So choosing the right quanity to print is a balancing act between not wanting to throw away unneeded materials and avoiding short reruns of the same job. Take the time to do it right and you’ll keep your printing costs lower.




    Have we chosen the best quanity to print?


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