While it can often seem that everything is digital, many businesses still rely on various types of print signage including posters, banners, and signs. These static signs share valuable information in-office and in-store, pushing everything from advertisements to alerts to subtle reminders in a cost-effective and easy to update way. If your business is doing so, chances are you outsource print and design to a third-party. While this is effective in ensuring the quality of prints, it does detract from the primary advantage of using print, it’s less cost-effective.
Taking your signage needs in-house and taking a DIY approach can cut print costs considerably but should be handled carefully to ensure continued quality standards for print and design.
Identify Your Specific Print Needs
The primary advantage of outsourcing print to a third-party organization is that they handle the technology, security, and file management process. If you’re bringing print-services in-house, you’ll have to assess what you need and why. Here, you have to consider what you’re printing, how secure it has to be, who has access, and who should be able to use printers and other hardware.
There are two primary types of printers available for printing signage. These include wide-format and fast production printers.
- Wide-Format – Wide-format printers are computer-controlled printers with a minimum width of about 18” and up to 100”. These printers are ideal for posters and banners and many print vinyl and other non-standard printable materials as well.
- Production – Production printers are simply high-volume printers with similar print-capabilities to standard printers. These printers are often used for printing brochures, envelopes, office stationery, and so on. They are also used to print small-format posters and signs, typically in A4-A2 but not much larger.
If you can identify what you are printing, you can choose specific hardware to meet those needs. For example, if you want to take on printing professional signage and banners, you need a wide-format printer, but may need standard production printers as well.
You also have to consider:
- Quality output/size
- Print volume
- Number of simultaneous users
- Security needs
Considering these factors will help you to determine both the specific features your printers need as well as the number of printers you need.
Choose a Print Service Type
You will have to either lease or purchase print hardware, unless you already own it. Here, you likely have three primary choices, including a standard purchase agreement, a standard lease, and managed print services. Each offers its own advantages:
Purchasing Print Hardware
You pay a flat rate upfront but thereafter pay no fees for the hardware. However, you will pay for repairs and supplies. You will also be in charge of replacing the printer, managing usage, and implementing any software or network needed. In most cases, you can calculate how many years a direct purchase takes to pay off by calculating total estimated costs for a 3-5-year period and then comparing that with rental or lease costs.
You pay a monthly fee for either hardware-only or hardware plus servicing and supplies. Lease agreements vary per organization but offer basic hardware and service for a monthly fee. Here, you don’t need capital upfront, but you may pay a higher total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the printer.
Managed Print Services (MPS)
Managed Print Services are fully managed, meaning that the organization offering the services fully reviews your print needs, installs hardware and software to meet your specific needs, and then monitors usage to reduce costs. The MPS handles aspects such as repair, IT (connection issues, etc.), security, and supplies. Like with a lease agreement, you won’t need upfront capital to invest, but you will pay a standard monthly fee. However, MPS typically upgrade your print hardware as new technology comes onto the market, which can balance out considerably in your favor. Managed Print Services also include software to manage access and user rights, print quality, and print files, which will help you to stay in control of what is printed, what is costing you money, and how much each printer on your network costs.
Here, your largest considerations should be your existing resources, what you need from printing, how many printers you have, and how much you would benefit from additional services such as software and management.
Managing Banner and Signage Design
If you aren’t already designing print media in-house, it can be a considerable step to shift to doing so. You can either hand graphic design work to an existing graphic designer in-house with new specifications and requirements for print (files have to be larger, contrast has to be different, and so on), use templates and layouts and not deviate much beyond those, or continue to outsource file design. For example, it’s often much more practical to outsource work to a graphic designer than to overload someone who already has their hands full with projects for web and external business projects.
How to Create Custom Signs on a Budget
Moving your signage needs in-house can help you to greatly cut costs, but you do have to manage internal costs as well. Creating custom signage on a budget means reviewing your total needs in terms of hardware, management, and design to take on the minimum costs to achieve your quality and print volume goals.
It’s important to create a reasonable budget for printing signage. Owning your own printers or leasing through an MPS can greatly cut costs but you’ll only be able to cut so far. If you know how much hardware will cost per month, how much repairs or service costs will be, how much design costs, and how much paper and ink cost, you can easily calculate how much you’re spending per print. Making decisions to source paper and ink together or in bulk, carefully managing costs associated with software and hardware management, and reducing security risks can help you to cut these costs further.
Value for Money
It’s important to consider hidden costs as well as upfront ones. For example, if you choose to purchase hardware, you will be spending resources from IT to handle service and repair requests, will have bottlenecks while setting up a repair appointment, and will tie up HR or IT for management. If you source the same printers through an MPS, you’ll cut those expenditures, but will pay per month, you may see a profit here depending on your available resources, but it is a good idea to review your own costs.
Printing signage and banners can take up a considerable part of your marketing budget, but it still adds value for many businesses. Bringing your signage needs in-house, either through purchasing or leasing your own print hardware, can help you to greatly reduce costs, while reducing wait-times and dependencies on outside agencies. However, you should spend a considerable amount of time reviewing your needs, calculating what you want to spend, and choosing the right hardware.