GPO Work: Worth the Competitive Bidding

By Deborah Snider, e-LYNXX Corporation

 

The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) awarded more than 16,000 jobs (also called jackets) in the $1,000 to $10,000 per job range in 2011 totaling almost $30 million to private sector printers. Close to 2,000 jobs in the $10,001 to $100,000 per job range totaling more than $50 million were awarded per data from the largest database of GPO job records which is at e-LYNXX Corporation. The majority of printers that win these jobs are small to mid-size businesses, many with 20 employees or fewer, according to the GPO.

There also is tremendous opportunity for printers capable of handling GPO’s million dollar plus jobs – often ulti-year programs. Examining GPO data back to 2006, on jobs won at the $1,000,000 or more level, there has been an average of only four bidders per job. These jobs averaged $3,004,000.

Although the GPO has more than 10,000 printers that have been qualified for its print supplier network, fewer than a couple thousand win any work whatsoever during the course of the year. This past year, more than 1,770 print suppliers obtained at least one GPO job. However, the majority of the $305 million in GPO work awarded in 2011 was to several hundred printers.

Competitive bidding data regarding one-time GPO jobs over the past six years is quite revealing. On average, jobs received 1 to 4 bidders when bidding time was 3 to 24 hours; 3 to 6 bidders when bidding time was 48 hours; and 5 to 15 bidders when 72 hours or more was allowed in the bidding process. Bidding for very large dollar volume jobs garnered 4 to 15 bidders.  

Program bidding is even less competitive. While these term contract solicitations are frequently on the street for three to four weeks, bidders usually number 2 to 6 participants. Deborah Snider, senior vice president at e-LYNXX, said this small number of bidders is due to a combination of a lack of printers who want to commit their equipment for a year or more and a very real inability to understand the GPO's award procedures for program bidding.

“Any printer that thinks there is no room to compete in the GPO market needs to look again, because the millions of dollars in federal printing that GPO awards annually is going to a relatively small number of printers, given the size of the United States print industry,” Snider said. “There is plenty of work to go around.”

The GPO awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in work each and every work day of the year. The key to being one of the few hundred winning suppliers is in knowing what GPO wants, how it wants it and when it wants it. A lot of procedures, regulations and red tape must be followed. Printers seeking GPO work must know and follow GPO rules. They must know how to navigate through governmental morass to be successful. This can come from years and years of hard knock experience -- often learning the hard way from costly mistakes – or from retaining experienced counsel and advice.

As experts on working with the GPO, a full-service print management firm will assist the printer with paper work handling, specification interpretation, proposal preparation, bidding process management, assistance through the production process, change order negotiation, invoice preparation and collection, and cutting through the government red tape. The firm also will provide full representational services, accurate information, market intelligence, past price histories, and access to all available GPO jobs and programs. The most effective GPO printers have two things in common – (1) they use a full-service print management firm to ensure their success and (2) they maximize usage of production capacity.

They receive from the government print management firm all available GPO jobs and programs that meet their individualized production requirements and capabilities. This allows each to bid on work which conveniently fills otherwise unused production time, thereby adding revenues and increasing profitability. This is key because production utilization for printers, using a full-service print management firm, increases from an average of 70% to full utilization of 90%to 95%. While some jobs are bid low in price due to competition, many other job opportunities – when managed by the print management firm in partnership with the printer-- command higher than commercial prices because of the job’s uniqueness, quick timing requirements or limited availability.

With a steady flow of government work, suppliers improve profits. Before GPO work, a printer can average 2.5% profitability on 70% production utilization. Add GPO work through services of an expert government print management firm to manage the relationship and the bottom line grows to about 14%.

“Any print supplier concerned about too much competition for GPO work should reconsider the GPO as an income source, become qualified by the GPO as a print supplier, and align itself with full-service print management firm,” Snider said.   “The outcome would be a boost for business once the GPO is developed as a solid secondary market – one that is dependable, one that is there when you need it and one that pays on time.”  

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