To Find the Right Print Service Provider Just Drop2Print

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Sep 6, 2011

Finding the best printer online for any particular job can be time consuming and frustrating, from figuring out which places can do what is needed for the job, filling out the form at every printer’s store front, to converting the file so it can be uploaded to the website. Rochester Institute of Technology is in the process of developing Drop2Print to make finding the best print service provider (PSP) for any particular job order simpler. After identifying the major problems that end users and PSPs have; the people at RIT are working on a solution. Drop2Print may appear similar to other digital storefronts, but it’s the published research behind this product that separates it from its competitors.

This new application is intended to reduce the kinds of problems that end users have when trying to find a PSP who offers the best price, quality, and right services for each print order. Based on the findings from the team at RIT, the main problems companies and end users face are as follows:

  • a lack of common vocabulary
  • a lack of common requirements for the job
  • poor communication of finishing options
  • time-consuming process to build and compare quotes
  • lack of standards for accepted document formats

To understand how to address these end user concerns, RIT approached four companies: Lulu, MagCloud, FedEx Office, and Staples. Lulu specializes in books, MagCloud specializes in magazines, and the others are more varied in their options. RIT also studied its own student-run Digital Publishing Center. Items covered in the research were common job specifications, the limitations of each service provider, and an exploration to determine whether JDF (the job definition format) was a good means for describing job information.

The number of places RIT chose to research is small and misses some major players in the market, including photo print sites, commercial offset printers, and others with strong Internet presence using virtual store fronts.

The researchers found 29 different categories that were required by all the PSPs for a general print job. It based the Drop2Print application on these 29 categories. Once a user fills out the categories, Drop2Print finds the most suitable PSP based on the job requirements and location (which can change every time a user logs in). RIT believes that this addresses the lack of common requirements for a job, as well as the amount of time it takes to complete the job requirements at each individual PSP.

To build a common vocabulary, Drop2Print created 11 pre-defined templates which were the most popular products:

  • B&W one-sided packet
  • B&W two-sided packet
  • B&W 3-hole punch binder one sided
  • Color one-sided packet
  • Color two-sided packet
  • Color 3-hold punch binder one sided
  • B&W 3-hole punch binder two sided
  • B&W book comb binding
  • Calendar
  • Color 3-hole punch binder two sided
  • B&W book spiral binding

At this point, Drop2Print only accepts PDF documents, eliminating the issue of balancing which documents different service providers accept. However, the researchers at RIT are considering broadening the types of documents allowed to DOC and DOCX files. In the end, RIT believes that all of the major problems the researcher initially identified were addressed by Drop2Print from the end users perspective.

This product is also meant to help PSPs. It’s very easy to become one of the companies Drop2Print users can order from. With only 18 different categories for the print companies (versus the 29 for end users) to fill out, it is a simple way to build a gateway to new customers. Print service providers will be able to register using the web-based interface once it is up and running.

This application was created using Adobe Air 1.5. The researchers cited a number of reasons for this, including its ability to produce a JDF file for the job, and the ability to drag and drop PDF print files into the application, Drop2Print.

Drop2Print is not the first application aimed at streamlining print purchasing online. A similar product that has been created by P3Software, called P3 Expeditor, has many of the same goals of streamlining print purchasing online by creating a network of PSPs. Additionally, there are major existing players in the print management market such as HH Print Management, Innerworkings, Standard Register, Williams Lea, WorkflowOne, Xerox, and Mimeo.com. These solutions target enterprise level companies where Drop2Print appears to be targeting smaller businesses, which separates it from the pack a little bit.

Although Drop2Print has yet to be released to the general public, it has been tested by a focus group. In order to get a sneak peak of what the application will do and what it looks like, you should check out RIT’s research monograph called “Drop2Print: A Model for PDF-Specifications to Drive the Discovery of Print Service Providers.”

It will be interesting to see what market impact Drop2Print will have when it is released, given it is free, and provided through the RIT Printing Industry Research Center initiative. In order for one company to gain a lead in this area we believe it must have ease of use and breadth of PSP network.

Elizabeth Corr is a student at Northeastern University and an intern at InfoTrends.

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