Printers of All Sizes Can and Should Compete for GPO Work

Printers of All Sizes Can and Should Compete for GPO Work

Too often printers think they have to be capable of producing multi-million dollar jobs in order to compete for the approximately $400 million in work that the United States Government Printing Office (GPO) awards annually to private sector printers. That is a myth, according to Deborah Snider, senior vice president of e-LYNXX Corporation.

“The truth is most jobs put out for bid by GPO are in the $3,000 to $5,000 range and most often involve what average-size printers do on a daily basis -- envelopes, tags, color copying, kit folders, cut sheets, four-color process and promotional specialties to mention a few categories of print jobs,” she said. “GPO puts these out for bid as one-time jobs or jackets and as multi-year programs.”

The majority of the firms doing the federal government’s print work are small businesses, according to GPO officials. Many have 20 or fewer employees. So, the idea that a printer has to be a large-scale printer is one that needs to be dispelled. Only some of the 2,500 printers that actively vie for GPO work are corporate printers that have multiple plants in different parts of the country.

In addition to its headquarters in Washington, D. C., orders for GPO work come from GPO offices located in Atlanta, Ga., Boston, Mass., Charleston, S. C., Chicago, Ill., Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Tex., Denver, Colo., Hampton, Va., New York, N. Y., Oklahoma City, Okla., Philadelphia, Pa., San Antonio, Tex., San Diego, Calif., San Francisco, Calif., and Seattle, Wash.

GPO offices have a preference for quick jackets – or work for which bids are required back to GPO within 24 hours. The work does not have to be done in a day, but the bidding does. “Quick bid jackets often draw a higher price because of the quick-turnaround bid requirement,” Snider said. “As a matter of fact, 81% of all GPO jacket bid requests are for quick jackets.”

Program work, or multi-year projects, accounts for $180 million each year. These do attract larger printers, but they are not exclusive to them. Program awards vary from a few thousand dollars to substantial amounts, such as the $171,174 that was awarded last year by GPO for the printing of various envelopes for the United States Department of Justice. It is not unusual for programs to be for a million dollars or more, but relatively fewer printers bid on those size jobs.

An advantage that a giant corporate printer may have over a smaller printer is the ability to do larger jobs in shorter times. Whatever the size, printers realize early on that it is in their best interest to team with a GPO bid service firm for assistance, Snider emphasized.

“The value of teaming with the right GPO bid service firm is that it will have on-staff expertise to assist any size printer with becoming GPO qualified and then helping with what can be an arduous course of government rules, regulations and red tape. The key to a successful partnership is finding a GPO bid service that will provide every available GPO bid opportunity that matches your capabilities,” Snider explained.

Only one firm, Government Print Management, subscribes to GPO’s comprehensive jobs listing service that provides daily all available jobs put out for bid by all of the GPO’s offices. Government Print Management also has the largest and most comprehensive archive of GPO job histories –an archive that includes scope, pricing and the winning bidder of GPO jobs dating back to the1980’s.

“The depth and breadth of that data provide invaluable analytics that are helpful when determining how to price and bid on GPO work,” she said. “Since low bid typically wins with GPO, printers competing for the work must understand GPO’s precise requirements as well as their own printing capabilities.”

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. Snider said those percentages are based on a printer working with an experienced GPO bid service firm, identifying opening production capacity and discounting prices to fill non-productive, non-revenue generating schedule openings.

Winning GPO work consistently is key, because unless GPO is developed as a secondary market production utilization cannot be increased from a print industry average of 70% and dwindling to full utilization of 90% to 95% by filling what would otherwise be down time.