Thinking Ink: 4 Ways To Cut Costs
Controlling the cost of ink might seem like hoping to change the weather. After all, your printer makes the purchasing decision, and the ink manufacturers manage the rising costs in petroleum, pigments and chemicals. As an end user, you’re at the end of the chain, but there are four ways to tackle this cost element.
First, consider the gap between the price to the printer and the price to you. The impact of the markup is negotiable at contract time, even when renewing. Because printers have latitude in this area, it’s always worth challenging ink prices for concessions. To a printer, markups are found money, and he might prefer to find you as a customer instead.
Discerning the markup itself isn’t easy, largely because printers go about buying ink differently. Large printers purchase in big volume and achieve discounts that are initially designed to improve their margins. As a negotiator, you want the printer to see the need to share his competitive advantage with you. The great ink deal a large printer has made can be more valuable if it secures business for him, so play that card. Some printers make their own ink, and this bit of vertical integration can be another source of pricing flexibility.
Even with all this in mind, it’s hard to know what the prevailing price should be. You won’t get a lot of help by comparing quotes, for printers vary on more than their markups. The spread you’ll see may not only be a reflection of markup, but also an expression of the printer’s pricing style. Some printers consider reselling ink a little profit kingdom in itself, and others see it as a necessity of doing business.
To understand the printer’s methodology, you can’t look at the ink price per page alone. Try combining the presswork run rate for a 32-page signature with the price of 32 pages of process ink. Compare these aggregate rates for all your bids, and you’ll see if a given printer is trying to lure you with eye-catching ink or presswork rates that are counterbalanced by the other cost center. Combined ink plus presswork rates tend to be much more similar across a set of quotes.