Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas cheer or another cock-up?

(Cock-up is not as rude as it sounds: from letterpress printing when type was “cocked up”. It was obviously an expensive mistake, unless timely spotted by an eagle-eyed operator.)

But enough of the education. I don’t know what your Christmas lunchtime was like. It’s a very stressful period in our house. “Will those men be back from the pub for 3.00pm?” worry the womenfolk. (Years ago it used to be 2pm, but times change.) “The parsnips are drying out fast”, or words to that effect. “Can we squeeze in another half (hrmm)?” from the opposite sex – a good ten minute walk away at five to three.

A little while later, the confrontation. That’s when the timing of the good ladies reveals itself. The Royle Family yesterday revealed what the good cheer (and plenty of it) will do to offset turkey still undercooked (pop bits in the microwave); gravy cold and difficult to pour; potatoes like crisps; and the afore-mentioned parsnips needing only a match to start a house fire.

Oddly, in my old printing company and I suspect many others, when there was little work and the minders had time on their hands, there were more cock-ups than usual. So there has to be a balance. People need to be relaxed (not too relaxed) with enough time to do the job properly – not feeling under pressure. And maybe a brief rest after to savour their achievement (Not too long, though. Sometimes I wildly mused that the alcohol would be better used in the minders than in the damping.)

Knowing what’s needed in the job and planning its production to a deadline is vital. It does please the consumers when the job is both good and on time. It’s also good to minimise waste. Take the Christmas dinner. We don’t all want turkey for five days (days 4 and 5 in various curried formats) or bubble and squeak for breakfast ad infinitum. Actually I don’t mind the last one.
So your New Year’s resolution should be to organise the ingredients (costing), sort out the cooking timings (kitchen production planning) and work to a practical deadline (schedule for pub opening hours).

Compliments of the Season and I wish you all a very prosperous New Year! (If I could only remember where I hid the port, I could enjoy the last of the stilton.)


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Strictly Come Printing

There has always been competition. You may remember the historic Judgement of Paris. There, on Mount Olympus, the hapless judge (Paris the handsome) was choosing the most beautiful between Hera, Aphrodite and Athena. The prize, apart from the title, was a golden apple. Paris was to get his consultancy fee in kind. These beauties, if the statues are anything to go by, were more scantily clad than Rachel in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.

That’s pre-empted my other competitive example. As my wife is fanatical about the BBC’s “Strictly”, I have been sucked (if that’s the right word) into avidly following the lunges, lifts and fleckles of the gyrating contestants. The rules of the competition have been explained succinctly by the ‘retiring’ John Sergeant, as simply the gaining of judges’ points (for dancing skill) and public votes (for popular appeal) being equally important.

Now here’s where my printing brain kicked in (before you ask where this was all leading). Particularly in hard times, many printers scramble to get in work (popular appeal) – but at any cost. I know it looks good to have a fat order book. But aren’t they forgetting the judicial discipline (commercial skill)? If dancing was your profession you’d have to earn enough to live and put a bit aside for new frocks (or whatever your chosen costume may be).

Sure, you can do the odd bit of ‘charitable’ work (Charitable: Full of love and good will; benevolent; kind). But there is a limit, even at Christmas. Unfortunately, the bullet has to be bitten. Printers, to survive, must work out what their real costs are and price their jobs accordingly. Of course there are the idiots who will price jobs ridiculously to try and ruin the market for everyone else. But if you can display your skills and show confidence in your products, your customers will not desert you on a price whim. And that confidence is stronger when you know what services you can genuinely afford to offer to the market. (By the way, the Printpak free download might give you a clue to some of this.)

So the moral is ‘By all means come printing, but be a bit stricter on your commercials.’ I feel a spiritual moment coming on, so I’ll sign off and pour myself a large whisky. To misquote the perpetual Bruce Forsyth, “Keep prrrrinting!”