Learn how to create an environment in which sales and production teams work together for the benefit of the company as a whole.
My many visits to print shops over the years have given me a chance to help address issues with production workflows and overcome optimization challenges. Invariably, the conversations I have at these visits shift to dealing with sales and the orders the salespeople bring in. The conversation is almost always the same. It centers on trying to figure out how to produce something the salesperson has sold or meeting an unrealistic deadline that was promised. The comments almost always have a tone of sarcasm or resentment in them.
Interestingly, if you were to ask a salesperson how business is, you’d often hear, “It’s good and would be even better if we didn’t have to deal with the customers.” This statement, and production’s attitude toward the salespeople, are essentially the same. The root issues are of communication, understanding, and expectation. More importantly, it reveals a self-centered attitude on the part of both sales and production. In other words, don’t make me do something that gets in the way of me doing my job.
The purpose of my column this month is to get everyone on the same page. Let’s begin with the understanding that nothing happens until something is sold. This is an old cliché, but it’s absolutely true. The finest production environment is worthless when there are no orders to produce. Likewise, if orders come in that aren’t suited for the equipment or workflow, the company won’t realize its full profit potential. This is especially important in today’s economy, where demand is lower and competition is extreme.
The most successful companies I’ve visited have a few things in common. The first is that they’ve meshed the orders to the production capabilities. They usually do this through a targeted, niche approach to their sales. If they do simple work, they have streamlined the process so the orders flow through extremely fast. They minimize setup times, gang orders, and reduce as many touch points as possible. A perfect example of this is the offset industry, where you can now buy 1000 four-color business cards produced in 48 hours or less for about $20.00.
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