"If we place an order, we can determine exactly what we sent out," he says. "If we get a call a couple weeks later as to what we sent out, we have a strong tracking system of what was sent out and when."
Also using PlanWell is MBC Precision Imaging, Inc., a 36-year-old Columbia, MD shop that was family owned and operated until being acquired by ARC in March 2007. MBC Precision Imaging has 16 locations and focuses on large-format printing, with color graphics departments and certified graphic artists on staff.
PlanWell software, says digital imaging specialist Melissa Smith, allowed her company to transition from a wide-format printer into a technology leader. "Our clients don't appear to be looking for the cheapest price points, but they do seek solutions to meet crucial deadlines accurately," she says. "We're proud to have those solutions. And we have gone from being just a printer to being our clients' partner."
Cushing Company in Chicago embraces a different type of software, says executive vice-president Joe Cushing. The 80-year-old full-service printing company with a reputation for on-site services chooses ReproMax DFS/PDM, Cushing reports.
"We did a thorough research of the market, and it was the clear cut winner," he says. "And it was one of the most thorough research efforts our staff has done."
The Cushing Company researchers particularly appreciated the fact that ReproMax is versatile, open-ended and can be expanded via seamless upgrades.
ABS Repro's Markovitz believes if a service is offered at no charge to clients, the company making the offer is essentially signaling the service has no value.
To the contrary, he says, online plan room, digital file processing, and other digital services all offer tremendous value to clients. Unfortunately, many of the bigger chains of repro companies have been leading pricing trends downward, he says.
"The most unimaginative way to compete in the market is on price," he observes. "And it's a foolish strategy because you hollow out the market for everyone, making any victory phyrric. What we have always tried to do is put together a package of pricing for our clients that recognizes the value of the services we provide, while staying profitable...and competitive on prices. This is even more important during this transition from paper to digital output, and is compounded by the current economic conditions."
ABS Repro works with its clients to determine their specific needs, how they will use the plan room and what services they deem most essential. The company then structures its plan room prices in a way that meets the needs of both parties, and presents the proposed charges to the clients. For some clients pricing will be offered on an ala carte basis, and for other clients pricing will be presented as a comprehensive package. "We make sure we know what they need and don't need, so they get maximum benefit for every dollar they spend," Markovitz says.
Cushing Company, meantime, offers three components of pricing. One is an annual subscription for a client portal, the second a monthly maintenance for upgrades and unlimited licenses, also covering the cost of redundant storage, Cushing says.
"The third is where people say, ‘Please post these live and index them,'" he adds. "They can upload themselves with no charge, or use Cushing to upload, index and perhaps for the file conversion—for a per sheet fee."
At MBC Precision Imaging, Smith reports her company has a standard package price that covers specific basic features of the plan room, and a "Professional Package" covering all the bells and whistles for a higher price. Before pricing is established for any client, MBC Precision Imaging conducts a thorough client assessment. "In a competitive situation, we do negotiate, but we never offer the service for free," Smith adds. "That's because we realize there is a value associated with it."
Georgia Blueprint's McEntyre says his shop bases the prices of its plan room services on the documents clients have in the system. "We'll charge your for holding these documents on file; they're taking up storage space on our servers," he says. "We charge by document. The more features they need from the system, the more cost is added...features might include BidCaster, instant print, instant download."