Evaluating Vendors: Where Does a Printer Begin?

We know that supplier evaluations are important, but how do we evaluate them? Here's a very basic formula to follow. This subject will be covered in more depth during Wednesday 12:00PM GRAPH EXPO Theatre (Booth 3457) session, "Smart Strategies to Use When Acquiring Equipment."

Financial Worthiness

Pull a Dun & Bradstreet report on vendors and potential suppliers. Your customers are doing it to you and you can be assured that large print buying clients are scrutinizing your payment history, cash on hand, net sales, net worth as well as every other financial detail of your company. This step cannot be overlooked or minimized.

Vendor/Supplier History

Did this supplier just come on the scene? Are they an upstart? Have they been in business for 100 years and never had anything newsworthy that you can easily Google? Remember, you are not evaluating the sales person calling on you at this point; you are evaluating the organization they represent. Investigate, research and then investigate again. Understand who is running their ship. Who are the people making decisions at the upper level of their organization? Big suppliers do not always equate to big quality. Know who you intend on working with and their history.


The bottom line on this is that you cannot expect your suppliers to value something that you do not value. If on-time delivery is not a priority for your organization, you can't really expect it to be a priority for your suppliers. The underlying message is don't expect a supplier to be something they are not. Ask leading questions, such as, "Does your company have a vision or mission statement?" I have an absolutely limitless number of phone calls, e-mails, faxes and direct mail pieces sent to me every day. Many of them state that they bring a "value proposition." Ask your supplier the next time they toss this $20 word around what their company's value proposition is all about. If they pause, fire them.


The benefits almost never include the features. Features are those things that are shiny and lack substance that distract us from the benefits. The benefits are those things a supplier can bring to your organization that will either improve the quality or productivity of the products your customers require or those things that save the company money that enhance the organizations competitive advantage. You can easily tell the difference. A benefit is almost always described as a noun, (person, place or thing). A feature is almost always described as an adjective, (comparative and superlative descriptions). A feature is almost always something that describes a noun. For example: 80# Coated Gloss Grade 2 can also be described as a feature as 80# Mirror Gloss Ultra Grade 1.978. Look for the benefits and remember the devil is in the details. Do not be distracted by the shiny objects or features.


The old carpenter's adage of "measure twice, cut once" comes into practical application here. Utilizing the measurement experts within your organization is an easy way to launch this portion of your initiative. Beware of the pitfall of measuring just for the sake of measuring. Keep it simple and maintain a consistent application of the measurements, and no supplier will ever accuse you of a biased approach in your methods.

Overall, regular supplier evaluations are a great way to ensure compliance with your print company's needs.

Reprinted with permission from GreensheetBIZ. The GreensheetBIZ newsletter for the graphic arts industry is edited for senior industry executives in the printing, publishing and converting industries, as well as educators and suppliers to these fields. Doug Tompkins, the author of this article, is with McCormick-Armstrong Co. Inc.

GRAPH EXPO Theater Session (Booth 3457)

Smart Strategies to Use When Acquiring Equipment

12:00 - 12:30 pm