On-Demand (printing, CD, DVD and other goodies)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

News from the frontlines of ed battle, or how technology makes students work.

Everybody got used to video materials used in distanse learning and remote education classes. Interestingly, we just completed a project for a "regular" class where professor selected to create video of the letures and distribute it to the students. Moreover, technology allows to have links to articles, web pages, etc on the same DVD, so students can access most of the info from the same computer (run DVD video, read articles, review data, etc). It is expected that they will view lectures and study materials before the class and come prepared for a discussion. Poor guys, way back then, they could go to a lecture to relax, now they are supposed to work! :-). Now, is there a technology that would force people to think?!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Finally! We moved! :-)

Or should I write : " We moved and finally I got a chance to update the blog?". One way or another - a month ago we moved - 2 blocks away from the old location, but (a) to the new structure much more adaptable and convenient for our production needs and (b) we bought as opposed to renting, which started to make sense both financially and "business stability - wise". At any rate - if you are in the area, please stop by at 300 S. Pugh to say "Hi". Now that we settled in a new location, I (promise!) will blog regullarly (as in once every so often as opposed to once a year :-) . Thanks for your support, guys.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wow! I got some time :-)

It's Saturday eve and I finally got to doing what I ment to do for a while now - writing the blog. Thanks to everybody who noticed my absence. To answer your questions: yes, I am still alive, Delta L Printing is kicking and everything is running smoothly. It's just that the process of running smoothly in a growing company is much different to what other people mean when they say "running smoothly" :-). But that's O.K. We are nearing release of Printer Diamond / Educational -- the latest and greatest in the field of education management software. No kidding when I say "latest and greatest" -- it's not your run-off-the-mill LMS. Some of the features you will find in PD/E:
  • course management / scheduling
  • managing students / registrations / courseware materials
  • courseware ordering module
  • shipping module
  • reports

. . . but wait, there is more! (as they say in these late-night commercials :-)

But to make this "more" happen I got to stop here and go run yet few more test. We'll be online with PD/E soon - and when we will, you will have free trial to see for yourself. Hopefully, before the end of this year.

See ya.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spammers

Unfortunately, our blog has been discovered by spammers. It means that we are becoming popular, which is good, but it also resulted in a couple links to porn site posted to this blog. That I don't appreciate. As a result, I was forced to modify our liberal commenting policy. Now you can post your comments only if you are ra registered member. Another way is to post comments by e-mailing them to on-demand AT deltaLprinting DOT com.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

True cost of in-house printing

Just a little rant on a sunny afternoon.... Looks like many people do not realize how much in-house printing or CD / DVD production really costs them. Just recently we had a prospect ask a quote for on demand production of 500-page book. When he received a quote, his first reaction was: "This is way too much, we are currently producing this book in house for around $5.00".
We said "Wow!" and started counting. First, printing itself. In a regular office environment cost of one page printing comes to 2 - 3 cents whether you are using ink-jet or laser printer purchased in Office Depot or professional printer leased or purchased through somebody like IKON (the cost includes paper - we quoted high-quality bright white offset, plus toner or ink) .The difference is only that the cheaper/smaller printers use more expensive inks / toner, and the larger require maintenance contract (1.2 - 1.8 c per page right here, depending on your usage). This is $10.00 - $15.00 for printing "inside" pages. An average non-printer does not have opportunity and equipment to do professional binding in-house, so they are using binders (not very comfortable to keep, carry around or read when travelling). 3-inch binder plus outsourced color cover costs $5.00 (if you order both in large volumes, sinking your capital in printing supplies) bringing total to $15.00 - $20.00 for a "careful-do-not-drop-on-my-toe-12 inch x 12 inch x 3 inch 6-pound binder" Add in spoilage and the time time employees could devote to other tasks (what's the minimum wage nowdays?), necessity to keep track of supplies and deal with broken printer when you urgently need to finish a job - and a professionally-looking 7 x 9 inch book made on demand within one business day at a price close to what you pay for materials alone and shipped to the client looks as a really good deal. .. to us at least :-)
Seriously speaking, when comparing, include all these little extras. Binders and paper are not free even if you take them from the supply closet. And employee time... well, I have a word or two to share about employee time, but not today.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Surviving in the era of commoditization

Mastering and duplicating a DVD set for a new PennState course keeps us busy, but at the same time leaves time for contemplation of distance learning and our however small role in it. More than once over the last few years I ran into the articles (and ads) proclaiming the New Era in education, one dominated by internet delivery of the product - eductation and degree. In these articles internet is viewed as:
  1. A delivery system that delivers wisdom into your brain in the same manner FedEx delivers packages into your office
  2. At any time (overnight this, please)
  3. Anywhere
  4. At an accelerated speed
Nothing against the internet - we've been using it with great success for years, but it occures to me that profets of the New Era have another agenda in mind. Somehow manifestations like this never come from Harvard, Yale or Penn State for that matter. Its either UN bureaucrat (i.e. John Daniel’s editorial note in Education Today (UNESCO's newsletter) claiming that that McDonaldization is good for education) or somebody from a not-well-known (or negatively known) school promoting their latest and greatest program. Printing and media services industry has been fighting commoditization for a while and from our experience I can tell it's an uphill battle that can be won only if you position your product outside commorities' sandbox, avoid commoditization of your business, be it education or printing, or media. The question is how, but I'll get to that after I reload DVDs and clear jam in the press. May be next Saturday? :-)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Spending Saturday Working On Invoices

In spite of students gone for the summer (we're across the street from PennState, so naturally during fall-winter-spring get some walk-in traffic :-) , we got busy with several projects. Add to this shorter Memorial Day week and Saturday becomes about the only chance to catch up with current projects and paperwork. One thing jumped at me: about a year ago we picked up a client who planned to produce 15 - 20 manuals per month (they used to do it on their own, but I was able to convince them, we can do a better job and since we're on-demand, they would also have better response time and less headache. According to the latest 3 months' invoices, they are averaging 100 manuals per month plus we picked their CD duplication business as well. (That's also something they used to do in house). The customer not only increased volume 5-fold, but also established several distributorships around the world. Not that it 's all because of us :-) , but I like to think on-demand production of the high-quality materials certainly helped.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Software use in on-demand DVD, CD, printing materials production

Can on-demand ordering of DVD, CD, printing materials be done using old methods, such as phone, fax or regular e-mail? Experience shows, it does not work very well.

On demand production assumes frequent orders (on a daily or weekly basis) of materials that are updated often. Materials is usually ordered in small quantities, and often needs to be shipped to several different addresses. Without software that streamlines the process sooner or later several company employees will place the same order, other order will fall through the cracks, incorrect version of the document will be printed (when document is updated
often and each new version is e-mailed to the printer, in a couple of days nobody will know what the latest and correct version is), documents will be shipped to incorrect locations, etc., etc.

So a good software system is very essential to the process, and at least it needs to include ability to manage documents, upload and replace files, preview documents for which order is being placed, ability to place orders, track orders, review order history. There are many other useful features that on demand production software may have - many of them can be specific to the company's way of doing business.

Friday, May 06, 2005

On demand production - when it works and when it does not.

There are many cases where on-demand production works really well and some when it doesn't.

Some examples where on-demand works best:

- Software companies do not need to order / stock or produce themselves manuals and CD -- they can get them shipped to the clients when the software is ordered. Each shipment will be produced

with the latest bug fixes and updates.

- Distance education institutions outsource material production, fulfillment and related technical support -- they don't need to be concerned with guesstimating number of students that would register for a specific course, ordering printed materials and media from different companies, fulfillment and technical support.

- Knowledge consultants - sell books and CDs / DVDs without investing anything in inventory, and are able to adjust all materials with the new developments in the field.



There are still situations where traditional long run works still better, for example you want to distribute 100000 copies at once :-)

And finally, if you just wrote new "War And Peace" (size-wise) and plan to sell it on your web site for $9.99, I have a bad news for you -- production cost will be prohibitive given your sale price.

Just my $0.02 triggered by today's conversations with clients, possible clients and impossible clients :-)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

US Mail vs. FedEx

A call from a prospect today:
(Prospect): We are interested in CD and DVD on-demand production
(Me):
Great, that's what we do

[ Discussion of details follows]

(Prospect): So, if you receive an order for a DVD by 11 a.m., you produce it the same day, then put it in the envelope, stick a $0.37 stamp on it and drop it in the mail?
(Me):
In my experience using mail for fulfillment is the best way to poison relationship between us.
(Prospect): ????
(Me): What happens if customer calls you and says he never received anything?

(Prospect): I guess we will have to re-send the DVD...
(Me):
Who picks the tab for duplicate production?
(Prospect): You can send by registered mail.
(Me):
But then the price would be significantly higher than $0.37 plus I would have to send an employee to the post office to spend time standing in line. On the other hand, we have daily FedEx pickup na dcan ship any way you want it - from Priority Overnight to Ground. All in all it will be not much more expensive (in some cases even cheaper) for you and we will always know when the package was delivered, where it was delivered to and who signed for it.No room for doubts (i.e. "Did they really made that DVD and send it out?")
(Prospect): I didn't think about it this way.
..........................

Side note: do you remember, it was time (about 1998-99?) when Amazon tried sending books to customers by mail? Do you remember how long it lasted? Three or four months, if not less. Then they switched back to FedEx. And since I am shipping a lot every day I know exactly why :-)

Monday, May 02, 2005

We are not alone, are we?

A few days ago got contacted by a prospect from Hong Kong: interested in on-demand books + enclosed DVD. Nothing out of this world -- we have several overseas clients who order from us for distribution to their US customers. Works much better than shipping books, manuals, CDs or DVDs from Australia, for example, both in terms of speed and price. Today, however it turned out that this prospect wants us to ship to their customers in Hong Kong and SE Asia.... Don't they have on-demand production there? I always hear that "The Asian Tigers" are very technologically advanced, so I would expect on-demand DVDs shouldn't be a big deal there (here we do this every day :-) Huh?

Friday, April 29, 2005

What's MediaOnDemand and why is it here?

Day after day I answer questions. Sometimes I'm surprised I get something accomplished besides answering them. This is an attempt to create a cross between "Frequently Asked Questions", "What I Should Have Learned In Kindergarden If I Paid Attention", and Printing, CD and DVD On-Demand Production Center