Written by Geoffrey Eisenberg, Vice President of Operations at Tidewater Direct

Some printers price jobs based on emotion, disregarding true cost at the expense of themselves and their clients. Tidewater Direct uses a mathematical computer formula to generate a price, ensuring that the price you get today will be the same price you get tomorrow. We believe that this pricing system offers accountability and transparency to our clients.

Understanding how a printer like Tidewater Direct creates a price can be a major advantage for a print buyer. Creating bid requests that are thorough and take advantage of a printers pricing system can yield lower prices and eliminate costly and frustrating miscommunication. The key to understanding a price is to understand the multiple components that comprise that price.

To arrive at a price per M, a printer must take the following fixed and variable costs into account:

Prepress (Fixed Cost)

Plates – this involves imposing and burning plates on a computer to plate processor for each color required to print. Each color requires a separate, one-use printing plate. For example, a 4 color process over 4 color process job will require 8 plates. A job that prints black over black, however, only requires 2 plates.

Proofs – Proofs can be created digitally (PDF) or as hard copy (sent via FedEx for approval). Each side of the image to be printed must be proofed through the printer’s prepress “engine”. This ensures files are replicated accurately, and gives the client an opportunity to review the artwork one last time before production. Each copy version requires a separate proof.

Press Make Ready – This involves bringing the correct paper to the press, putting appropriate inks in the ink fountains, hanging plates, and setting color and register. Each job requires a make ready, although multiple versions are further classified as plate changes. (Fixed Cost)

Material – Did you know that paper can sometimes amount to 60-70% of the cost of a print run? Material cost takes into account paper to be used for the job, including a modest allowance for make ready and spoilage during the print run. This also includes ink. (Variable Cost)

Print Production – print production is the process of running the press. The number up on an impression, ink coverage, and paper stock are variables that affect efficiency and price (Variable Cost)

Plate Changes – Plate changes occur when there are multiple versions on the same job. A version change generally uses a similar looking image, but can be caused by an offer rate change, a date change, or other minor copy changes. (Variable Cost)

Cutting – Many of the press sheets we produce are extremely large and require cutting before folding or packaging as flat. Cutting includes electronically programming the cutter for the job, jogging the sheets properly so that they can be cut with precision, and restacking as necessary. The primary variables that affect price and efficiency is the number up on the press sheet and the paper caliper (Variable Cost)

Folding – Generic inserts that fold have many variables. Using a 5” bundle as a standard, Tidewater Direct standardizes its production based on paper caliper and number of folds. In addition, gate folding and fugitive gluing affect folding efficiency. (Variable Cost)

Packaging – Tidewater Direct believes strongly in tracking packaging costs, and has developed bulk packaging methods to mitigate cost, environmental impact and ensure safe arrival. Nevertheless, we are always happy to provide cartons or gaylords are available at a nominal charge.

Shipping – Freight cost included in price per M includes the cost to deliver the material to the final location (Variable Cost)

Notably, pricing naturally reduces as quantity increases because pricing is comprised of fixed and variable costs. At low quantity levels, this can become particularly apparent. Tidewater Direct makes a regular effort to mitigate cost for its client in all ways possible.

Some of the most basic ways to save costs and avoid surprises in web offset printing include:

• Combining multiple versions onto one press sheet to reduce plates and plate changes (also referred to as “ganging” or “combination”)
• Combining multiple jobs to be delivered on one truck
• Considering paper basis weight reduction (for example – our presses can print on basis weights as low as 35 lb)
• Fill out our quoting form to get accurate pricing the first time
• Offer size flexibility
• Reducing making readies and take advantage of high-volume price levels by running a job one time
• When sending pricing grids, give accurate expectations of print quantities and ganging opportunities

There are many more ways to take advantage of direct offset printing to make it even more cost-effective to your clients. Allow Tidewater Direct to make a full review of your current print campaign to do an audit for potential price reduction today.