From E to M

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-By John Boley

You can sense straight away that Paul Freeman is not trying to mislead. It’s just that the nature of his business is metamorphosing so fast, he can’t keep changing the name all the time to reflect the changes. So you will forgive him for the fact that E-Bisprint does not actually print, and that ‘e’ is fast becoming ‘m’.

First of all, New South Wales-based E-Bisprint managing director Paul notes, “we outsource all the print that we purchase on behalf of our clients. The old-fashioned term of ‘print broker’ has progressed over the 20-odd years we’ve been in business to the term ‘independent print manager’, which basically describes our business. Where we are different to the majority of our competitors is that we have moved more into technology products than others and we employ our own systems engineers, developing customised e-portals on behalf of our clients.”

E-portals? Some of you will be on this page, others not, so by way of example, E-Bisprint has a number of government departments among its clients. Typically, it will act as a warehousing operation on behalf of the client, storing all print-related products, organising the printing of new and re-order items, dispatching and track-and-tracing to offices, and – most important – building in reporting functions.

The company is using this portal model for an increasing number of its clients. “It’s a relatively new term, ‘m-commerce’ – mobile commerce, rather than e-commerce.” Mobile commerce, says Paul, covers all the latest technology including smart phones and tablets. This is an area where a lot of print is on the way to being totally eliminated because of the e-publishing, e-book technology that is now available. “Because we are not a manufacturer we are able to move with this technology very quickly, and without the costs involved in having a factory full of printing presses that need to be kept hard at work. I think it’s a distinct edge.”

One of the many clients for which E-Bisprint runs a warehousing and distribution operation is National Diabetes. Every time someone in Australia is diagnosed with diabetes they receive a kit full of information as well as their membership information.

Another well-known name is the world’s biggest hotel chain, Best Western. E-Bisprint looks after a wide range of ‘print-related’ items such as toilet seals or the bags over glasses in the bathrooms, brochure and the directories they distribute showing all their properties. “They also have the ability to build their own flyers, in which they upload their photos, point and drag to create what they need, put the wording in about their property and they can order 250, 500 or 1,000 flyers, all printed and delivered within four or five days.

“We invest a lot in overseas conferences; we like to travel and keep abreast of what’s happening. There is so much happening in the digital space it’s hard to filter through everything but we like to think we’re attuned. And we have a dynamic management team that works very well as a group, always looking at improvements.” The company is highly entrepreneurial, says Paul. “If there’s something new out there we tend to move with it as quickly as we can, be as early to adopt it as possible. For many years people said ‘you’re ahead of your time’ when we started building marketing materials online. Now we’re getting the benefit, we’re not so ahead of the time. Everyone is looking at the same things.”

The environment of something as apparently staid as printing (and Paul says they deal with anything you can print on, from a beanie to a squeeze ball) is changing at the speed of light. Days before we talked, the education authority in South Korea had declared that by 2015 all school textbooks would be digital. “I think everyone thought it would be of a bit slower uptake, but that sort of trend is going to really be gaining momentum and education is a major area for it. The product that we’re selling in that space is unique, as far as I’ve been told. It’s ‘unscrapeable’, which means you can’t interfere with the data or content. Particularly in education, that’s crucial.”

Even with conventional print items, E-Bisprint has demonstrated startling savings for clients. “One, for example, was running marketing campaigns and sending all materials on a same-day courier. It was costing them an extra ten dollars per delivery for each courier charge, so that equates over a five-year period of the contract to roughly 500,000 dollars… To us, it was just common sense that you don’t run all your campaigns on the same days, and we just put a scheduling tool into their portal and the savings came.” Another client saved on postage simply by adopting the suggestion from Paul’s team that they reduce from a binder down to a compact booklet. “They had the same information and it was more professionally printed but with the changed format they made absolutely huge savings. So we saved 100 000 dollars on the print cost, mainly because there was no polypropylene binder.” E-Bisprint’s neutrality helps – printers themselves “aren’t that interested in delivering such substantial savings because they also have their equipment to keep running. We don’t have the equipment to worry about so we can focus on representing our client a lot more than the printer.”

Emerging technology is encouraging the convergence of many different specialities and E-Bisprint is looking to get involved more with clients’ marketing in tandem with print and associated items. Take QR codes, for example. The QR code (QR being an acronym for ‘quick response’) is an image that is encoded with information. The information can be quickly and freely decoded by most mobile phones, just by photographing it, or in the case of smart phones, there are already iPhone and Android apps. “We see QR codes as an enormous opportunity for savings. We have suggested to people like Railcorp that they should be having posters on the station with the QR code. That would reduce their print and distribution costs substantially. They could save much of that, and make an environmental contribution, with a poster on each station bearing a QR code. Then people could download from the web the timetable just for a particular line or station, where people travel the same line all the time.” Paul suggests other uses for the codes. Clubs, for example: they could distribute a fridge magnet with a QR code on. Each month you take an image of the QR and you get the latest about what’s on at the club.” School events, school holidays, presentation nights; the school calendar could be just a QR code on the fridge. “It hasn’t taken off in Australia yet to the same degree that it has overseas.”

Recognising that conventional mailing is not yet dead, E-Bisprint has even diversified into its own brand of envelopes, called Elation. These are environmentally friendly, made from farmed eucalyptus.

Paul explains that trust is a vital component in streamlining a client’s print-related operations. “A lot of trust has been built up in us managing business-critical processes for our clients. Then they see they retain control.” The third and final stage consists of showing the client new and better ways of working, which is where e-publishing and technology products come in. “But you really need to have full control of your print and spending before you start bringing in these technology products. You can’t just charge in and say ‘I’m going to convert this to a digital publication’ – you really need to know and plan and be in control of everything at the start. That’s the approach we take.”

Diversification is the name of Paul’s game. “You just need to learn. I feel the QR codes are a very simple way of getting started with the technology. When most people talk about e-books, they just think about the very basic flippy-type e-book you turn over without any value added. With the e-books we’re selling, you can link what page people are looking at – if they’re going through a catalogue, you can track where the interest is, and you can report on all of those things, so you know where the hot buttons are within your marketing or subscriber base. It puts more science into marketing.”

Paul’s company changed its name in 2000 to E-Bisprint because “I just felt it was time to have the name change and align ourselves in the e-commerce phase. It was a bit slow at first but it’s been a good decision. The name very accurately reflects what we are now doing.” But he acknowledges how fast things are changing. “Maybe in the near future we might look at ‘M Bisdigital’ – it might be the way to go.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

June 21, 2018, 6:32 AM AEST