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Printing Timelines: What to Expect with Large Printing Projects

You've submitted your order for new signage, and you can't wait to see what your commercial printer has created for you. But how long will it take for all of your promotional materials to be completed? What's a reasonable expectation for the wait? 

It's important for customers to understand the printer's timeline; large projects are naturally more time consuming, and if you have a good grasp of the many steps through which your POP and promotional materials travel, and the role you play in the production, you'll be better prepared for the length of time your project will take. 


The Average Timeline

According to one of our project managers, there are about thirteen steps in the average project's timeline. That might sound intense, but remember that not every project will include every step and there's a lot of variation for each project. 

We've broken each step down for you, with an estimate of how much time each step might take, as well as what you can do to move the process along. 

1. Receive Information from the Client  

At the start of the process, the client typically is in contact with the sales rep. They have a conversation about what the client needs, and the client will usually submit their ideas and what they expect to the rep. 

2. Review

We receive the client's ideas, and create a game plan with specifications. We take the client's ideas and put them into sharp focus. Essentially, we use our expertise to help bring every client's vision into reality. This process generally takes between 1to 3 days, depending on the complexity of the project.

3. Pricing

Once we've got a plan in place, and we know what is required of us, we can create an estimate to bring to the client. Typically, this step will last anywhere from 1 to 3 days. 

4. Approval

The length of this step depends on the client. If the client receives our plan and estimate and it's what they've pictured and within their budget, the client then sends us their approval in writing. The longer this process takes, the longer it takes to get the project started!

Ideally, when we get the customer's written approval, we'll also get a distribution list. This lets us know the full scope of the project—how many pieces need to be at different locations. Sometimes, if the project is really big, we can send products out in stages, ensuring that everyone gets the products when they need them.

5. Artwork

At this point, the artwork comes into play. Some clients send us the art they want us to use, while others ask us to create artwork for the project. Of course, the former takes less time than the latter; if we are working with pre-existing art, we simply proof it and then it's ready for client approval. If we're creating the art from scratch, that adds a few days to the process.

Download the free Printing Problems Guide to make sure your next print project  runs like clockwork. 

Once we've produced the art that we believe suits the project, we pass it along to the client to obtain approval. The timeframe for this step is from 1 to 3 days.

6. Approval

The clients are presented with the artwork; it's ready for any of their changes or, hopefully, their approval. Again, the amount of time this step takes depends on how long the approval takes. 

7. Revisions

We make the revisions requested by the client, and then resubmit the work for approval again. Usually, this step takes about a day. This process will repeat until the client is completely satisfied.

8. Prototypes/Samples

Sometimes, it's easiest to simply produce a prototype or a sample of the work for the client; this process generally takes 3 to 5 days. With the prototype/sample in hand, the client gets a more accurate idea of what the finished product will look like. Once again, we'll need the client's approval of the prototype or sample prior to starting production.

9. Revisions to Prototypes/Samples

Should the client wish to revise any part of the prototype or sample, we make the requested changes and resubmit it for approval. The back-and-forth between the printer and the client can take from 3 to 5 days. 

10. Production

 At last! We're at the main event! From the printer's point of view, this is the most relaxing step of all. We've worked with the client to ensure that the product we're producing is precisely what's required, and now it's time to turn the ideas into tangible objects. Depending on the intricacy of the project, or the sheer volume of the project, this step takes anywhere from 3 days to 29 days. As we said before, if it's a project that requires a number of pieces that need to be shipped to different locations, it's possible that we can rollout the products in shifts, sending them out as they're completed. 

11. Shipping

At last, the product is finished, and we're sending them to the prearranged location. The length of time this step takes is based on the bulk of the project, and it typically takes from 1 to 3 days. 

12. Installation

This step doesn't pertain to every project; some of our larger projects require help with installation. We coordinate nationally (and internationally) with installers who go to stores—or fleets, for our vehicular signage—and assist with the process of getting all the signage put in the proper place.  In general, this step can last from 1 to 3 days.  We take great pride in photographing the print project (signage, marketing materials) in their natural habitats. This is particularly important when the client who placed the order is located in an entirely different state than the installation site. This is where our quality materials and craftsmanship really shine through, and it is our hope that the client will be completely satisfied with the product.

13. Invoicing

The last step of the process is sending the project to invoicing. 

Timeline Tips

  • Like most aspects of life, printing is subject to the unexpected. When something out of the ordinary comes up, it can really blow a hole in the printing timeline. The best thing you can do is to remain calm, and hold up your end of the process. When the printer is waiting for your approval to go on to the next step, then everyone loses. 

  • Be sure that you allow time in your mental timeline for revisions; you and your printer both want your project to turn out the way you've imagined it, and if it takes some back-and-forth to make that happen, so be it. 

What questions do you have about print project timelines? Let us know in the comments below!

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May 31, 2016 |

Topics: collateral & commercial, timeline, tips

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