Printing returns to its Roots

Two years ago Toronto-based clothing maker Roots Canada Ltd. was faced with a choice: continue outsourcing some of its advertising printing or get a new printer to replace the dinosaur device it had in-house.

According to Ilene Elkaim, Roots’ vice-president, logistics and information technology, the firm had been farming out the task of printing its point-of-purchase advertising (smaller ads its retail stores put on their cash desks and around the store) and visual directives (which explain to the store manager and sales team how to display items in the store).

“The motive (for outsourcing) at that time was that we had an older Canon device that couldn’t handle the volume,” Elkaim explained, adding that no one in her department can even remember the model number. At any rate, “it was really a case of responsiveness, speed to stores and quality of the colour that made us outsource the work.”

Meanwhile, the staff was still trying to use the old device for other jobs and it kept breaking down. This prompted Roots to finally look into what the printer’s problem was and reconsider the whole idea of outsourcing the work.

Elkaim said that after determining outsourcing cost projections for the year, Roots compared them to the price of buying and maintaining a device, and decided to bring printing back in-house.

The firm went to three or four different colour printer vendors and presented them with its two separate needs. The art team required a device that would produce quality colour for things like logos where precision is crucial to branding. But the visual group didn’t need the quality colour as much as it needed speed, she said.

In this proof-of-concept stage, Elkaim said, “we had very specific requirements that we were asking potential suppliers to provide us to determine who to narrow it down to.” For example, representatives from Roots’ art group gave vendors an ad and asked them to duplicate it. The vendors would test out the job on their respective devices, and based on the results, Roots could determine the best device for the job. “We didn’t want to take the suppliers’ word for it,” she said.

Roots chose Canon Canada’s devices because that vendor met the requirements and delivered a suitable solution, Elkaim said. Although Roots originally set out to get one device, it ended up buying two: the imageRunner C3200 multifunction device for its speed, and the CLC 1180, a digital copier that produces near-offset quality hues. “There is not one device out there to satisfy both speed and precision quality,” she said.

As with most devices, Elkaim said, there were a few obstacles when installing the products, most having to do with drivers on the print server and the operating system versions the company was using. Canon worked closely with Roots to help pinpoint these problems and fix them. “We went through a trial period with the fix and we ran it for a period of time make sure that we would not run into hiccups,” Elkaim said.

She added that when it came to support and maintenance, there was also a learning curve for the IT team because they themselves prefer to understand all of the details of how the equipment runs rather than relying too much on vendors to keep things running.

Elkaim said that since Roots brought this portion of its printing back in-house, the move has saved somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 per cent to 25 per cent, compared to what was being spent to outsource printing. She noted, however, that Roots still outsources the printing of larger posters and banners. “That’s not cost effective to do in-house.”

Martin Sutherland, director of product marketing for the Imaging Systems Group at Canon Canada, said he sees other companies like Roots bringing their printing jobs back in-house for a number of reasons.

“It allows them to make any changes without having to call anyone, so that communication with the third party goes away,” he explained. “They have more control because their people can make changes on the fly.”

Machines such as those from Canon also offer various finishing options, such as the saddle stitch finish to create booklets, or two-sided copying. “It saves time, it saves on printing and transportation costs, and more importantly, a lot of customers just like to have that control.”

For IT managers who want to bring printing back in-house, Elkaim advised talking to end users and finding out what might be future needs. “Even if they don’t do something today, you need to explore some different scenarios, like volume or quality, what’s key for those devices, so that if something changes dramatically or unexpectedly you can take that into consideration.”

Otherwise, make sure the IT team and the vendor take the time to go through the product details together to ensure everyone understands everything. “That was a hiccup we had. Typically you don’t get into that level of detail in the sales process — you assume you can just figure it out. But you really need to understand things because everyone’s setup for these devices could be different.”

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