Today I'm going to give you a "Don't." Here it is:
Don't wait until the last minute to place your order.
You might think this would be common sense, but many people don't understand what's involved in custom printing and they wait until just a few days before they need the item (sometimes the day before!) and then call it in. In reality, there are multiple steps in the printing process and these take time.
First is the artwork. If you have a graphic designer at your company who can create press-ready art, you can save a lot of time in this area, but we will still check that art for errors when we receive it and we will send you an electronic proof for approval before sending the job to the production department. If you want to make any changes, another proof will be sent. This process repeats until you are satisfied with the art. If you need us to create the design, we are happy to do so! We have a full service graphic design department and can create just about anything that you can imagine. You should plan on at least a week for the art to be created, proofed and approved when it's being done from scratch. After the proof is approved, the job is sent to the press queue, where it is placed in line behind other jobs that were already in queue.
When your job is sent to the production queue, many times stock must be ordered for the run. Plates are made while waiting for the stock to arrive. After the item is printed, the ink needs to dry. This is a step that many people either forget or just don't know about. Offset printing is done with ink, not toner. It's not like going into your local copy center and making copies.
If your job needs any type of bindery, such as scoring, folding, drilling or stitching the job has to dry before the bindery can be done and the drying process normally takes 24 hours.
Jobs are inspected when they come off the production floor. We'd like to think that we're perfect, but unfortunately, we're not. People make mistakes. If an error is found in production or finishing, the job will be sent back to be run again. Does this happen a lot? I wouldn't say that - but it does happen occasionally and if you place your order too close to the due date, you may run into problems.
Packaging and Delivery
When the item passes quality control, it can be packaged and routed for delivery (or placed for customer pick up) the following business day.
So how long should you allow for all of this you ask? Standard production time for most items is 7 to 10 business days after we receive your approval on the proof. Some types of items will be finished sooner than that, and a handful will take longer. Can it be done faster? In most cases it can, but you may incur rush fees that weren't in the budget. The bigger issue is that, as I mentioned above, humans make mistakes. Especially when they're trying to rush a job. You know Murphy's Law - if anything can go wrong, it will. And if you cut it too close to your date needed and something does go wrong, there may not be time to reprint it.
Because I don't like to be negative, I'm going to rephrase today's "Don't" as a "Do" - Do Plan Ahead!