Efficiency, cost savings, transparency – sourc-e is promising print buyers all this at the same time. What’s behind this cloud-based purchasing tool?
Purchasing print via an online channel doesn’t always have to involve a platform or a conventional store solution. That’s what both founders and CEOs of sourc-e, Lucas Scherer and Felix Severing, thought and made it their mission to help companies of all sizes streamline their print service purchasing costs. Although the Cologne-based start-up does not have any machinery resources of its own, it does however have a quality ranking that is based on the most valuable source of feedback available in the print industry, namely customer opinions. I asked Lucas Scherer in more depth about what distinguishes sourc-e from other online print systems and offerings.
Bernd Zipper: sourc-e is designed to digitize the print product purchasing process. How does it do that and which companies is it suited to?
Lucas Scherer: sourc-e helps companies with purchasing print services and has developed an algorithm for this purpose that digitizes the purchasing process. We package our algorithm in the form of a software solution for companies with high print volumes (upwards of 0.5 million Euros) and that handle a large number of inquiries. We also want to enable companies, for which the software is not an option, to benefit from our skills network and very attractive terms, which is why we take production and handling of print products off these companies’ hands.
Bernd Zipper: Is it all browser-based?
Lucas Scherer: sourc-e connect is a SaaS solution that companies can lease. The software is provided as an online service and includes maintenance, administration, configuration, updates, enhancement and support. Clients therefore only make use of our solution’s functionality. We deliberately opted for a cloud-based software solution that can be accessed at any time by web browser. Our solution can therefore be accessed from desktop or mobile devices (with an Internet connection) without the need to install or permanently update the software.
Bernd Zipper: And what’s the actual difference between purchasing via sourc-e instead of via the web-to-print platforms that small and mid-sized clients of print providers have set up? What are the benefits?
Lucas Scherer: Companies that have web-to-print platforms set up pursue the following objectives:
- They want a closed purchasing process
- They simply want to handle CI-conform templates that involve little effort
- They want to simplify their handling of ordering processes
Where larger print runs and more complex products are involved, these platforms however soon exhibit their limitations, since there is no free choice of print provider and, as a rule, standard pricelists are used for certain formats or products.
sourc-e is ideal for custom products involved medium to large print runs, i.e. products that must be put out to tender. sourc-e makes this tendering process redundant and generates an offerings overview in a matter of seconds, based on a defined supplier pool.
Bernd Zipper: Buyers of print products are likely to be interested in how these tailored offerings are displayed. How have client sections in sourc-e been designed to handle that?
Lucas Scherer: Each client has their own customized section. Specific master data (delivery addresses, payment terms, paper types etc.) is logged and the client’s own pool of print providers is defined here. Print providers audited by sourc-e can be selected and a client’s own preferred suppliers can also be logged here, once they have been validated.
“If prices and quality can be relied on, that makes concluding contracts easier for both sides – the print service provider and the client. If the whole thing is cloud-based and therefore quickly and easily accessible, so much the better.” – Bernd Zipper
Bernd Zipper: You have a series of affiliated print service providers. On the basis of which criteria are print providers accepted into the service provider pool and how many print providers are already in your network?
Lucas Scherer: sourc-e regards the performance capability or efficiency of a print provider and a relationship built on partnership as prerequisites for collaborating and acceptance into the network. We offer print providers a free sales and distribution option that does not involve extra effort and expense, but in return we expect quality and reliability.
We evaluate the following criteria in advance before we accept print companies into our pool: the print provider’s liquidity, references, machinery resources/production facilities as well as capabilities in certain product segments. Ideally print companies use sourc-e connect in order to focus product-specific attention on their performance capability (e.g. 10-color inking unit where 5-color production is involved). At the moment nearly 50 print providers meet these criteria and are therefore members of our pool.
Bernd Zipper: Are print companies evaluated to enable other inquirers to gage options and quality?
Lucas Scherer: We always focus on the interests of clients that attach great importance to quality. That’s why we are obliged to audit quality on a continuous basis and deliver sustainable quality assurance. A proven method of doing this is that we try, using the Amazon approach, to involve the “community” gainfully and get our clients to provide continuous feedback about the print providers in our pool. Print providers are therefore rated based on the following parameters: print quality, service quality, adherence to deadlines and communication.
Bernd Zipper: What enhancements are planned in the near and medium term?
Lucas Scherer: We want to make the handling process easier. We are developing a solution that will enable us to simplify and enhance the print process (= soft proof). The user therefore has a system covering all print providers.
My take: A pool of around 50 print providers may at first glance not appear that big, but the standards in place and the number of affiliated print service providers also show that not every print provider can be and become a member of the network. Yet this free sales and distribution channel can definitely be worth print providers’ while. A select group of producers can have advantages and disadvantages for print clients, since the choice of service providers can (but does not necessarily have to!) turn out to be narrower, compared with other online print offerings that are not listed by sourc-e. But let’s be honest, if you have a handful of good, reliable partners, you don’t need vast quantities of them to choose from – you can tell that from the start-up’s references. Clear benefits for clients are time savings and the unambiguous scoring mechanism as described by Lucas Scherer. Print providers have to secure their places within the network by delivering quality, which gives print clients a certain peace of mind. That’s because irrespective of whether print products are purchased via webstores, web-to-print platforms or cloud-based solutions, print can and must always play to its strengths, which range from online channel-generated speed and price benefits to quality.