Successful GPO Print Suppliers Form Partnerships

By Deborah Snider, senior vice president, e-LYNXX Corporation

Three quarters of all printing for the federal government is provided by public sector printers, and that is a proud partnership that dates back to when the United States Government Printing Office (GPO) opened its doors on March 4, 1861 – the same day Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated the 16th President of the United States. For 151 years, the GPO has depended on thousands of printers nationwide to keep the public informed.

In her FY 2013 appropriations request for the GPO, acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks told the U. S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations, Committee on Appropriations:

“Other than congressional and inherently governmental work such as the Federal Register, the Budget, and secure and intelligent documents, we produce virtually all other information product requirements via contracts through a partnership with the private sector printing industry. In fact, our procurement operation handles approximately 75% of all work sent to GPO for production, currently amounting to $350 million to $400 million annually. This system is one of the Government’s longest running and most successful programs of utilizing the private sector, which is represented by more than 16,000 individual firms registered to do business with us, the vast majority of whom are small businesses averaging 20 employees per firm. Contracts are awarded on a purely competitive basis; there are no set-asides or preferences in contracting other than what is specified in law and regulation, including a requirement for Buy American. This partnership provides great economic opportunity for the private sector.”

The partnership formed by the GPO and private sector printers is a procurement model that others would do well to study and emulate.

Having qualified and carefully selected vendors is fundamental to building a strong partnership. Before the GPO offers any vendor an opportunity to compete for GPO printing jobs, the prospective GPO print supplier must be pre-qualified by the GPO to do work in one or more of five print quality categories ranging from functional printing, such as business forms, to high-end books, charts and other top quality pieces. It is to the printer’s advantage to obtain the highest quality certification possible since it will be qualified to bid for work in all levels below that certified level too. Achieving top quality certification requires submitting the best packet of samples that the prospective GPO print supplier can pull together. Often, this requires assistance from an experienced GPO bid services firm because working with the GPO is very different from working with private sector commercial customers.

Understanding, as a contractor, the many rules and regulations of any government agency can be a daunting task. The GPO is no different because it, too, has precise requirements for everything from bidding on a job to packaging and delivery to invoicing. Not complying with GPO procedure can result in a job being rejected by the GPO.. It is best to align your business with a firm that understands the intricacies and complexities of working with government procurement.

Once the print supplier is in the GPO’s vendor pool, it can start bidding on GPO work for which it has been qualified. As with any other sales, this requires knowledge of the market to be successful. The first thing to know is, more often than not, low bid wins. To price work to win, the most successful GPO printers schedule GPO jobs for times when no other work is booked. This is when pricing can be lowered, realizing that reduced income is better than no income at all.

When preparing a bid, it is important to know the history of GPO job types – winning bids, bid winners, bid losers, special requirements, etc. Market intelligence such as this will make the difference between winning or losing a bid. The largest repository of GPO jobs history information is maintained in the archives of Government Print Management – the full-service GPO bid services firm with which most of the top GPO print suppliers partner.

The print supplier that wants to develop the GPO into a profitable secondary market – one that fills production gaps that occur with commercial work downtime – needs to establish two partnerships. The obvious one is with the GPO. Less obvious, but no less important, is the one with a full-service GPO bid services firm. GPO is the partner that awards the work. The bid services firm is the one that helps you win it.

Once a printer starts winning GPO work consistently, it can expect to increase its profitability from an industry average of 2%, before GPO work, to 14% or more afterwards. Production utilization will increase from a print industry average of 70% to full utilization of 90% to 95%. Those percentages are based on a printer using proven tools and services developed for printers seeking GPO work, identifying open production capacity and discounting prices to fill non-productive, non-revenue generating schedule openings.

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