Lately, I have been running into more print industry consultants. There probably is a natural correlation between depressed economic growth and an increase in consultative services. As print shop owners and managers try to seek the best avenues for growth, scrutinize capital expenditures, and streamline internal processes, it is a natural inclination to seek an outside, independent point of view. But do you need to pay for a consultant?
Anthony Bourdain remarked in his book Kitchen Confidential that the arrival of restaurant consultants was the first tell tale sign to pack it up and go search for another job. A harbinger of the restaurant’s impending closure. Of course, Tony is also known for his wry humor. For print companies, however, consultants can provide a valuable service depending upon the situation. If the need or project is too large, too complex, or too much of a mystery, consultants can offer critical guidance in answering the why, if, how, and when questions. Generally speaking, they should be able to provide experience, expertise, guidance, project management, and industry contacts as needed.
A consultant can provide niche knowledge that leads to a solution. If a shop were having color consistency problems on press, a print consultant could rely upon years of production experience to systematically find the cause. Maybe it is an ink/water, maintenance, or operator related issue. Either way, a contracted consultant should be able to draw from years of experience to identify the problem and suggest a course of action.
Experience and expertise are not the same. A pressman can have years of experience operating a press but lack the expertise to fix a mechanical problem with the press. A consultant should be a subject expert or leader within the particular area of need.
By having perspective, a consultant should be able to evaluate all options and make a determination. Maybe a new, highly automated press is financially justified to replace two aging presses. Perhaps a simple upgrade in software or automation for the CTP in the prepress department is better than a full workflow replacement. A consultant should have the tool set to evaluate the options, present the case, and guide you through the process.
- Project Management
The solution has been identified but no one within the print shop has the time or skill set to see the project to completion. A consultant should be able to oversee the project from start to completion and work as a liaison between all outside vendors and internal staff. (Tip: Remember to set agreed upon deadlines.)
- Industry Contacts
In some cases, the size of the Rolodex matters. If the consultant has a high number of years of experience and level of expertise, then there is a high likelihood there is a corresponding large contact list. The faces behind the numbers can be invaluable when trying to implement a complex project, trying to iron out issues between vendors, or simply trying to make it work.