If you are reading this article, you have obviously already asked yourself: “Why shouldn’t I print outside of UK?” What prompted you to do so? Are you just looking for better prices? Were you disappointed at some point with the local partners you’ve worked with so far? If the leading factor is the search for a better price, then some options naturally arise – Eastern Europe, China… China is too far away, and we do not know the work of our colleagues there very well. We admit it. That is why we will focus on Eastern Europe.
Whatever the reason for looking for a solution outside the UK, you are probably immediately overwhelmed by many questions, that we can directly define as doubts: What if the lower price is at the expense of quality? How can I trust people I’ve never met? What if it’s an elaborate scam and I pay and get nothing? What if my book or catalogue doesn’t arrive in time for the presentation?
Don’t let doubts overwhelm you. Use this article as a checklist when choosing an Eastern European printing house for your projects.
Forget about stereotypes
Let’s start with the typecasting of everything related to Eastern Europe. The legacy of the Cold War has placed a “natural” mistrust that has without reason built up over the years. There is nothing behind this mistrust, just a cliché devoid of meaning and logic.
That is why we will invalidate it from the very beginning. How? Well, easily. Eastern Europe is Europe. Don’t forget it. There is almost no country in Eastern Europe that is not a full member of the European Union. This means the availability of a good transport system, no customs duties and legal guarantees based on European legislation, rules and regulations.
A serious Eastern European company could not afford to compromise on a united and pretentious market such as the European one. So, forget about the wall, about uncertainty, about stereotypes.
The technology is the same
Eastern European companies’ access to high-tech printing machines is beyond any doubt. This is required by the highly competitive free European market, which would not allow the combination of quality and price not to be at the required level. European funds have made many economic sectors in Eastern Europe extremely competitive.
It is your right to demand perfect quality, accurate colour reproduction and optimal colour range. Printing machines must be selected so that they can offer you flexibility, high quality and consistent and predictable results for each of your orders.
Ask the printers on your list what technologies they use. Do it even if you will not understand most of what the information they will give you. Ask them to send you photos and videos of the production process. Although few in number, some printers also offer 3D Virtual Tour from their production facilities. This is because there are companies that pretend to be printers, but they are not. They are only intermediaries who provide a service. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, if they themselves have good control over the processes and quality of workmanship. We emphasize this fact because many clients want to work directly with a printing house, not with intermediaries.
Although technology is becoming more advanced (sometimes so much so that we do not even have time to adapt) and increasingly autonomous, the human factor is still an integral part of a successful printing process and a perfect end result. The qualifications of the people of Eastern Europe are in no way inferior to those of their Western European counterparts. And there, as everywhere in the world, everything is a matter of personal attitude towards the profession, experience and continuous self-improvement.
Training in the field of printing begins in specialized schools and continues in universities. Often this “craft” is passed down from generation to generation, from father to son and / or daughter, and becomes a family tradition that leads to a qualitative accumulation at the national level.
Even during the Cold War, the printing industry in Eastern Europe underwent serious technological and expert development, despite the emphasis on the production of propaganda literature, newspapers and magazines, and less variety in printing products for various industries such as packaging, boxes and labels.
The history of Bulgarian book printing dates back to 1494 – only 39 years after the printing of Gutenberg’s Bible (1455). On the eve of the liberation from Turkish slavery (1878) in small Bulgaria there are 20 printing houses owned by Bulgarians.
Experience is experience
It is important not only for the people working in the printing house to be experts in their work, but also for the company itself to have the greatest possible experience in the printing business. Because more experience means more problems solved over the years, there is greater security for any current and future projects. Investigate how long the printers on your list have been on the market. And more importantly, find out if they have experience with foreign partners. Just ask them if they have experience with UK clients and companies. Do they have experience with companies from your business sector? This is important not only when we talk about customer service by an associate (salesperson or account manager), but throughout the printing cycle – from inquiry to end result.
More or less every line in this text is about quality. The things you need to know to understand the print quality offered by Eastern European printing. You already know that you are working with a real printing house, you know how long it has been on the market, you have seen and met some of the staff. You know what you want to get as a final result.
Ask them directly, “Can you do this for me? Can you apply this or that effect or finishing technique? Do you have this type of paper in stock?” Send them your requirements. Send them a sample or a similar product. If the printer answers that, they can ask for samples. Make sure first hand that the quality they guarantee matches. Ask what options they give for remote quality control – real colour samples, electronic proofs, digital proofs, wet proofs, blank dummies, check copy.
We assume that the good price is the goal of your “journey” to Eastern Europe. We didn’t start with it because it would be irrelevant if the conditions described above were not met. The price in most cases would be lower. Why is that?
In some countries, there is a more relaxed tax policy, which allows printers to reinvest in technology and optimize processes that reduce the cost per unit of output.
The cost of labour is also lower than that of the old Western European economies. This does not mean that people are exploited. The standard of living in these countries is lower, and this allows for lower costs for most goods and services. To assure yourself of the good working conditions in the printing house, you are considering looking for information on the application of standards such as those of Coface.
Eastern European economies are catching-up economies, which means that the unit price of production and the standard of living are constantly approaching those of Western European countries. Of course, this process is slow, which makes Eastern European printing companies the perfect long-term partners for you.
There are objective reasons why you do not have to worry about whether your printer will meet deadlines. In Eastern Europe, the production process in a printing house can be defined as more flexible. When necessary, night shifts are included in the schedule, and the working week can become 6 days, so that printing happens on time. This, of course, happens without violating the employer-employee relationship and contacts nor the laws of the country.
Delivery to the right place at the right time
We live in a world of global connectivity of all types, including communication and transport. In such a dynamic world, freight forwarding is becoming an increasingly secure sector. It is very likely that the company you will hire will work with world leaders in courier services such as TNT, DHL and others. Some companies also have their own transport company, which makes delivery even more secure because drivers know the transport system and easily reach addresses coordinated by a logistics expert. Customers, in turn, receive accurate and timely information about the delivery of their printed product.
Do they speak your language
If the company offers competence in your native language, this is another way of eloquently showing you competence. Seamless communication in an industry like print, in which there are so many specific terms, is extremely important. That way, we can rely on the fact that no one will get lost in the translation.
Go to the printing house
Every capital in continental Europe is 2-3 hours away by plane. If you want to find a long-term partner, go to them. Meet live with the people you will communicate with for each order, see the production and feel the atmosphere. You will be home again in 24 hours. All doubts will have disappeared.
Most companies set aside space on their sites for customer feedback and to display the logos of companies they have worked with or are working with. Go to their social networks and see what their customers have to say on the feedback pages. Choose a few customers, contact them and ask for references to the service and product they have received. Request references from a UK company specifically as well.
Sustainable printing should no longer be seen as an abstract globalist concept. Green print should be the responsibility of every self-respecting printing house.
Along with competitive prices, high quality and timely delivery, you have the right to look for partners who pursue long-term policies regarding sustainable environmental printing. Find out if the papers the printing house uses come from responsibly managed forests and are FSC® and PEFC certified, and if the technologies they use are environmentally friendly.
We took a walk around Eastern Europe, we went into production, we saw the people who make things happen, we touched on what can be made by them. We have given you some tips to help you trust the right Eastern European companies. Do it and gain a competitive advantage in the UK market with a quality product delivered on time and at a great price.
Pulsio Print is a major European printing company with a high-tech print production base in Sofia, office in Paris and well represented in Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the USA and some African countries. The company is a leading innovator in the field of optimising print processes and is constantly striving to break new ground when it comes to efficiently fulfil customers’ orders with the highest quality for the best possible price.
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