Spotlight on... the print supply base

Wider public sector organisations seeking an effective print and digital solution and requiring continued access to key print suppliers read on.


I’ve never really understood why print management organisations discourage any direct engagement between their print suppliers and the client. To me it suggests that all the experience, knowledge, expertise, industry insight, technological advancement and innovation is contained within the print management company itself. 

This is an arrogant approach surely, whereas the reality in my view, is that although print managers can be quite expert and be driven by innovation etc., the real expertise, understanding, ideas, improvement and innovation come from long-standing suppliers many of whom have served the industry and their clients for many years.  

Using their detailed understanding of their own equipment capabilities and taking account of the enormous variety of material stock and finishing techniques they have generated complex, futuristic, inspirational, delicate and highly effective products that have inspired generations. 

A criticism from clients when faced with working with print management organisations is that they do not get all the benefits associated with that close working relationship as the link is broken and the route to market has to be via the ‘man/woman in the middle’ resulting in that wealth of knowledge, available from the supplier, inaccessible. In my experience, this has put organisations off the thought of a print management solution altogether. So let’s fix it!

To be fair, it’s not as straight-forward as just putting the link in place and letting the engagement occur – the pitfalls include:

  • The print manager losing control of the job or work that they are trying to manage
  • Clients making special arrangements with the supplier which are not communicated back to the print manager – eg re-proofing, re-working, revision of timetable, different materials etc the list is wide-ranging
  • Clients cutting out the print manager altogether and going straight to the print supplier with their job – even though they might not be the most appropriate supplier for the work in question
  • Clients getting prices direct from the supplier without talking account of the print manager’s fees

With a little thought, each one of these challenges can be overcome and with improved communication by all parties (which could be part of the terms and conditions) the issues could go away. Communication and co-operation are the two key words to resolve this.

At CDS, we like to keep close to our key suppliers and at the same time, we have clients who want more direct access to their supply base. We are not fazed by this and where we need to, we make it happen. It makes for better relationships, greater engagement and far better results.

We also take this concept a stage further. We hold innovation events where key suppliers are invited to showcase to our print managers what they have or can achieve. They talk through their capabilities, alerting us as to how the industry is changing/improving/advancing and best still, we also invite our clients to attend these events and encourage them to challenge the suppliers to come up with innovative and inspirational solutions. 

This approach is available to all CDS’ clients including those from the wider public sector that are looking to access print management and digital solutions through the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Framework RM3785.

The CCS framework offers all public-sector organisations the flexibility to source a fully-managed, end-to-end print and digital solution that includes associated services, such as design, storage, fulfilment and distribution, postal dispatch, scanning and stock management. The framework offers a straightforward, quick, cost-efficient and direct route to market.

My company, CDS trades ethically, honestly, and transparently. We promote a sustainable print market whilst being firm but fair with the supply base and most importantly, we pay our suppliers promptly. We are one of six good suppliers on the CCS framework.

If you would like any help or advice related to this article, please contact:

David Burton, Crown Commercial Services Director at CDS:

Tel: 0113 399 4000
Mob: 07710 533 615

Interested? For more information visit our webpage which has lots of information around Crown Commercial Services Framework, or visit the CCS Agreements website.

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