Ian Lamb is effusive about Gelato, the Norwegian online print service that Gask & Hawley group works for as an accredited supplier. “Gelato is a fantastic company to work for,” he starts. “It is the most organised supplier I have ever dealt with. If we could replicate 30% of what Gelato does, we’d be incredibly successful.”
What Gelato does is manage a global network of digital printers, feeding them jobs from a wide range of blue chip companies looking to manage print costs and quality through an online portal.
Gelato promises high quality standards, high ethical standards and by managing print volumes and eliminating much transportation, can claim the sort of environmental benefits that these major companies are looking for.
The files it delivers to the likes of G&H are guaranteed to run problem free, and do, says Lamb, director of G&H Sheetfed. In return the printer signs up to guarantee quality, proving this with calibration tests and samples sent to Norway, and to get jobs out the same day.
When G&H Sheetfed signed up via the Gelato website, a team came to assess the business to see if it would be capable of working the Gelato way. “They told us we would be handling 1,000 jobs a day,” says Lamb. “I told them we were not capable of that. ‘We will ensure that you can handle 1,000 jobs a day,’ they told us. The fact is that we are indeed doing lots and lots of jobs a day.”
The jobs arrive in print ready form with very clear instructions at 1.30am each day. The printer has already been alerted to how many it can expect to run. These are out the door via Royal Mail or a courier the same day, banded in white paper and packed identically to the same job being printed in Germany, the US or Australia. Consistency and quality are crucial.
If something slips, either in quality or distribution, there is a thorough investigation and the supplier is put on stop until the problem is identified and dealt with. It has happened twice to the Manchester company, both times because of distribution issues. “In two years we have not had to issue a credit note,” he says.
Gelato began in 2007 as a more conventional online print business serving consumers with photo products in the Scandinavia markets. When brothers Frederick and Henrik Müller-Hansen spotted the opportunity to deliver marketing collateral to major brands on a global scale they found that this would meet a need for car businesses, major franchises, hotels and so on where management of brand and print quality has been a problem.
Central management would achieve economies of scale and consistency, but at the cost of efficiency as deliveries would frequently be late, the logistics of shipping onerous and over ordering a feature of this way of working.
The Gelato proposition was to distribute digitally and produce close to the point of need, in specified quantities and at the right time. The challenge that others have, including print management companies that promise the same thing, is achieving consistent quality.
Many large brands create and manage their own supplier networks, but few have outsourced successfully. This is Gelato’s success, achieved by rigorous quality control.
The promise to a print supplier is a steady stream of jobs that will run on the supplied media and which are paid for within a fort- night. Gelato tracks every action. It produces reports for customers to show who ordered what and when. It also tracks every supplier so that problems can be traced to a machine and operator.
At the print end this means, says Lamb, that every operator is always on his mettle, which has improved quality for other customers. It has also changed the way the company works. Each day the Gelato jobs get priority and are printed and into nish- ing before any other job.
“It has changed our whole production set up – a real eye opener,” he says. “Other customers will frequently send files to us later than they promised forcing us to shuffle the production board, but not Gelato.
“And they are always available. I can pick up the phone to talk to Frederick or Henrik at any time. The culture is about ‘What can we do to make your life simpler?’ There are TedX style videos to explain the culture, how the company operates. We are proud of working for them, with them because they are more of a colleague than a customer. You do not want to let them down.
“I was very dubious to start with, but when they say this will happen, it does. We are handling hundreds of jobs each day.”