As a marketing professional, I've worked with lots of vendors, most of whom I can happily say have been outstanding. But occasionally there have been some bad ones; I've heard some pretty outrageous excuses for poor quality deliverables over the years. Which, if you read this post, you'll learn I have little patience for.
Several hours into my first day on press in Seoul with “day shift man” I was asking myself how this project was going to get done. (Read how it all works out in the end.) This guy couldn’t or wouldn’t get the plates to register, which meant that all of the four colors of dots that mix together on the paper to produce the final color weren’t aligning, making for fuzzy edges and weird colors. I think he could have done it - but he just didn’t seem to want to bother to try. I kept telling him the plates were off and he and the translator would wait me out to see if I would change my mind or acquiesce. But I would just wait them out. It was an interesting game to say the least, since time was money.
Registration is so fundamental and crucial to printing that he shouldn’t have asked me to take a look until it was aligned. He had lots of excuses as to why he couldn’t do what I was asking. All of which was communicated to me by my congenial translator and host, Mr. Young:
“If you push the magenta any further it will smudge the ink and it wont dry properly.”
“This is not possible to do in CMYK, it could work in five colors though.”
“The registration is off because we replaced the film for some pages, we may have to remake the plates.”
“We didn’t understand the level of quality you wanted.”
Needless to say, that first day went excruciatingly slowly. We were averaging 1 signature every 2 hours. There were a total of 46 for the book, plus the cover so at the rate we were going, it would have taken over 90 hours to get the book printed. Time neither I or the print shop had. We had to get moving or we’d get kicked off the press or I’d lose my patience. Maybe both. It was quite distressing. I made judgement calls and let go of some things in order to keep the job moving so we could stay on schedule. What else to do when someone tells you, in hand signals, that they can’t do what you are asking them? (If you're asking yourself whether I would outsource a print job again, click here for the answer.)
At one point, vexed by day shift man, I wandered into the next printing room to look at the other projects being printed. Most of the stuff I looked at coming off the presses didn’t need to be very high quality like my hardbound book. It was mostly catalogs and mass mailers. If this was the type of projects that this shop was typically producing it made sense that I was getting pushback. The printers were doing the quality of work that was expected and I couldn’t fault them for that. And Mr. Young wanted to give me the quality of work that I paid for and I couldn't fault him for that either. Perhaps it wasn't really fair of me to expect the same quality of work that we would get from an American printer at outsourced prices.Despite the rocky start, the book was actually looking really good. I was processing all of this and the fact that I had flew all the way there and made the decision to continue to push them to go farther than they would have done if I hadn’t been there.
At 8pm Captain Yim and "night shift man" arrived on the scene to relieve day shift man. Young was long gone so I was without a translator. It was 8pm, I’d been on-press for eleven hours and we hadn’t gotten too much done. After a few minutes with him and his terrible broken English, things finally started to look up. He had a fantastic work ethic and clearly cared about putting out a quality product. And night shift man was really talented at his job and made no excuses about why things couldn’t be done. He had experience working with “export” projects. Read, demanding Americans like me. Great. I was all over it. Let’s get to work.
Night shift man and Captain got the project back on track, and restored my faith in their capabilities which, after many, many hours on press with little food and rest was exactly the pick me up I needed. At one point during the day shift when I’d reached my limit on mediocrity, I issued an ultimatum to the man through Young: “Don’t even bother showing me something that’s not registered and acting like it’s ready for me to review the color, because I wont look at it.” No such ultimatum needed last night. Night shift man nailed it every time and anticipated what I was looking for with his keen eye for color. More times than not, after I dragged myself out of the chair to look at a signature, all I had to say was “looks great.”
It was a big relief after a trying day.
This story continues in a series of posts. Read the next installment.