Nationwide Laminating & Finishing
Nationwide Laminating & Finishing: Helpful Tips

Laminating Corner: Good Paperwork Saves Time and Money!

By Brian Hills
Published in Quick Printing

Have you ever packed up a job to send to a finishing services company and thought, "Oh what the heck, they will know what to do without the paperwork?" Have you shipped it without a purchase order or any other instructions? Come on, 'fess up. Even though we risk opening Pandora's box, we've all done it at one time or another. Regardless of our past sins, it's time to stop taking these "shortcuts" because they simply cost too much money and time.

Each week, my laminating company receives at least two jobs that just show up without instructions of any kind. Even though it's happened hundreds of time, I still can't believe graphic arts professionals will send their work without a purchase order, rule-up sheet, dummy, blueline, previous sample or even a handwritten note. While it's flattering that people think enough of us to dispense with business formalities, the lack of paperwork slows down job turnaround times and costs everyone a lot of money and wasted time.

Good Paperwork
Unfortunately, there are no universal paperwork standards that apply to all the niches of the graphic arts industry. When laminating companies get work sent to them with nothing more than brief notes saying things like, "please laminate," someone has to get to the phone, battle telephone tag and ask questions such as:

At least once a month, Nationwide Laminating will get a job that's nearly impossible to trace. In addition to having no job instructions, some packages are completely missing any indication of where they came from in the first place. If UPS or FedEx delivered the job, at least we can trace the shipping origin. But, if it came from a retail mailing company, or even worse, was mysteriously left in our receiving department while someone was on break, Shirlock Holmes-style detective work becomes necessary. On many occasions, our people have tried to find the sender of nearly anonymous jobs: sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Servicing work with little or no paperwork quickly turns decent jobs into big losers because of lost management time. What really hurts is when the owner of the unlabeled package calls two days later and asks, "Why are you taking you so long?"

Some Tips
If you have old samples, bluelines, mockups or rule-up sheets, provide them to your laminating services company. Whatever materials are needed to print the job properly should be sent with the job. Rush jobs that need materials overnighted or couriered back and forth cause a lot of headaches for no reason. Providing the right documentation up front will save you time and money in the long run.

Many jobs become scrap because simple questions aren't asked during planning stages. Assume you have an 11"x 17" book cover that needs to be laminated on one-side. Since one-sided laminating jobs require trim margins on all four sides, they are ruined when the sheets are cut to final size before lamination. Some companies don't know this, try to save themselves a minimal cutting charge, cut the job to final size and discover they're in for a reprint. While laminating companies may be able to get away with less than the customary ½" to 1" margin, all one-sided jobs need a margin of some sort. It's really painful when a printer has to throw away 5,000 sheets with beautiful four-color printing on it because somebody tried to pinch a few pennies without asking for advice from a finishing professional.

Avoiding varnish is another way that printers can save money on laminating jobs. Sometimes varnish is necessary to facilitate the normal ink drying process, but in general, don't waste your money varnishing pieces to be laminated because the end product won't look any better. A quick phone call to your finishing house will give you the answers you need. Most companies like Nationwide Laminating appreciate opportunities to answer technical questions because saving time and money is a great way to increase their marketplace value.

Tales From The Crypt
Don't you love getting work from infrequent customers who ask, "Do you remember the 8½"x 11" job you did for us a couple of years ago? We want it done the same way again." When the job shows up with incomplete paperwork, thousands of other jobs may have come and gone and remembering the details of this particular one is humanly impossible. Once we were in a situation like this and we were amazed that we still had the old paperwork. However, our enthusiasm was dashed when we read the old customer supplied specifications, and they said, "Match the previous job."

When a lot of time passes between the quotation stage and actual production, laminating customers shouldn't consider their phone calls placed weeks or months earlier as a substitute for proper paperwork. Most busy laminators will have written up hundreds of other jobs in the meantime and won't necessarily remember the details of previous conversations.

Sometimes, laminators have work arrive with all pertinent materials and specifications supplied - except job quantity. We recently were given a laminating job, ran it, billed it, and then learned that our customer only wanted 100 sheets done even though they shipped us 500. In the absence of other instructions, post press industry standards are to run the whole job. Even at a McDonalds restaurant, customers need to specify a quantity - small, medium or large - before placing an order for fries or a soft drink.

Billing is another area that can suffer because of poor paperwork. A while back, my company ran a job without adequate written instructions, billed it and when it came past due, neither our customer nor we could remember any of the pertinent details, other than it was 500 8½"x 11" sheets. In this case, we clearly had to shoulder some of the blame, but the powerful lesson once again is that inadequate paperwork on either side unnecessarily strains relationships.

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I know that many quick printers pride themselves on being responsive and don't want to be saddled with big-company style red tape. Nobody is suggesting that quick printers should adopt a "Cross-Your-T's and Dot-Your-I's" kind of culture, but proper paperwork between customers and laminating service suppliers is necessary for efficient production, reduced turnaround times and consistently low prices. Good paperwork habits will let you do more printing. Isn't this your real goal in the first place?

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