Print On Demand 101
The fundamentals of today's modern, on-demand manufacturing and dropshipping services.Is Gooten Right For Me?
What's great about print on demand?
The benefits of on-demand manufacturing are pretty obvious. In short, making one product at a time (and only making it when a customer orders it) eliminates many of the biggest challenges in retail and opens up a world of possibilities. This is even more true when print on demand is combined — and it often is — with direct shipping (“dropshipping”) from wherever it’s produced.
This kind of small-scale fulfillment allows basically anyone to:
- … try new ideas with zero risk
- … respond quickly to trends
- … offer highly customized products
- … run a large business without facilities or labor
- … eliminate storage, packing, and shipping work
It goes without saying that these particular benefits are a huge deal to small businesses run by relatively few people, because more than anything, they reduce risk and overhead — two things smaller businesses often can’t afford to take on. But there are also major, less obvious benefits to large businesses that are used to the logistics that come with bulk manufacturing.
You'd be surprised what you can make on-demand.
Improvements to manufacturing technology, combined with Gooten's network approach to on-demand fulfillment means we can offer more products than you'd think -- including some you didn't even know could be made on-demand.Check out the catalog
What are the potential challenges of print on demand?
But whether you’re looking at print-on-demand because you’re too small to manufacture in bulk, or because you’re an established retailer exploring looking for new options or increased efficiency, it’s important to know that there are important differences between these production methods that affect both your physical products and the experience of buying them.
If you’re aware of them, they’re relatively easy to manage. If you’re not, and expect on-demand to work the same way a factory producing thousands of units does, you can be in for a stressful experience. So let’s cover some essentials.
Products that are made one at a time are, in a way, essentially hand-made. By definitions, there is no assembly line to systematically crank out the same product in the exact same way. Even when you make say, ten units on demand, because there’s no way to predict that ten unit order, there’s no process that can make ten units more consistently than one.
As a result, no two on-demand products are exactly the same. In print products, you’ll see this manifest in the form of slightly different locations for the print area across multiple units. This doesn’t mean a product was produced incorrectly; it just means it was made by a person, like every print on demand product.
If you questions about variance for a specific product, ask your account manager. But in general, don’t assume that because a design is a quarter inch to the right that something has gone wrong, or someone made an error.
Of course, errors do happen, especially when you are making every product by hand and shipping it directly to customers, and there are two main ones.
- Product errors. This is when the product is made incorrectly, either exceeding the small variance described above, or having some other sort of significant printing defect. All print-on-demand production processes (no matter who your fulfillment provider is, or who is doing the actual manufacturing) have error rates.
- Fulfillment errors. This is when the product is fine, but it’s sent to the wrong customer. This is understandably slightly more common in dropshipping scenarios where a manufacturer is also the company sending out the finished product, instead of a more traditional dedicated warehousing/pick & pack facility.
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Gooten’s combination of a managed network, high quality suppliers, and standardization technology significantly reduces errors in general — but it doesn’t eliminate them. That’s why it’s important to make your customers understand that errors do happen, and can be rectified. The Gooten Partner Support team is ready to help you specific instances (reprint requests, etc.).
If you have a Gooten Account Manager, and believe you may be seeing a systemic problem with a product, please let them know. We constantly audit our network, but always appreciate insight from partners and will fast-track production issues brought to our attention.
If you’re not aware of the challenges that come with on-demand production, and expect it to work the same way a factory producing thousands of units does, you can be in for a stressful experience.
One last challenge that’s somewhat unique to print-on-demand is production capacity. Since orders are processed and produced as they arrive, it’s impossible to prepare for spikes (holidays, sales, etc.) the same way you might with traditional manufacturing — namely, by investing a lot of money in upfront bulk production and storage. If there’s a sudden crush of orders sent to a single manufacturer, it’s entirely possible that there simply won’t be enough people and machines to produce them all at normal speeds.
However, Gooten’s network approach and order routing technology does help in this area. We have multiple suppliers for many products, and are constantly adding more. We’re also able to route any given order to different manufacturers for any number of reasons (location/cost of shipping, etc.), including available production capacity during a crunch. At Gooten, we’ve moved thousands of orders around due to storms, labor issues, even manufacturers going out of business, and avoided frustrating outcome for our partners and their customers.
Ready to make the most of on-demand?
Print on demand has already opened up amazing new possibilities for businesses of all shapes and sizes. At Gooten, we’re primarily focused on providing technologies and services that help those possibilities scale, as stores that succeed with an on-demand approach grow and face some of the challenges here. If that sounds like you, or where you expect the next phase of your business to be, Gooten may be just what you need to take your store to the next level.