This feature story first appeared in print in the June 2022 issue of ProPrint. To read the magazine online, please click here.
Print managers haven’t always been the toast of the town in this industry. They have been criticised for squeezing prices from a safe harbour of zero capital investment.
Not so long ago there were at least 40 print managers in Australia – that number has now reduced substantially. Back in the day price wars were common and some print managers also owned their own print businesses further muddying the waters.
The landscape has certainly changed. There are fewer print managers around but there are also less printers. Another structural shift has been the rise of technology and web-to-print software which have centralised ordering, delivery, and inventory management.
Paul Freeman founded NSW Central Coast-based print services, procurement, and software firm, E-Bisglobal, in 1990 – a time when the internet had barely been heard of and online ordering seemed light years away. By 1997 he knew a print-specific procurement software system would be needed to link his business to government and corporate contracts.
To make this happen Freeman built a team of developers, which included a local high school whizz kid to develop a proprietary system from concept to implementation. The result was ZOOL – an online procurement system which has set the standard for the industry and become embedded in government agencies across the country for print management and fulfilment.
ZOOL is a real-time software system which connects customers with printers and other service providers. Each customer has their own interface and they enter the work required. Printers who have been onboarded can then respond and submit their price and delivery options. The customer, or in some cases E-Bisglobal, takes it from there to determine the result and see the process through to completion. ZOOL is robust enough to manage all of the transactions for all levels of government.
To become a supplier registered on ZOOL, offset and digital printers, label suppliers, form suppliers, envelope manufacturers, packaging and signage specialists undergo an onboarding process with E-Bisglobal. Strict controls are in place so there are not too many suppliers with the same capabilities in the system.
Suppliers set their own price and delivery timeframes, there are no lock-in contracts and no rebates. E-Bisglobal also holds a Level 3 Sustainable Green Print certification and as part of this ensures all suppliers meet strict environmental criteria.
In New South Wales, E-Bisglobal has the contract to manage the print and fulfilment needs for NSW Police which recently renewed its contract for another five years, plus others. E-Bisglobal also manages the E-Tag system for Transport for NSW and events for Destination NSW.
Freeman is aware the print management industry did suffer as unscrupulous operators pushed prices down and were often unreliable payers. But he says print managers are gaining a more positive reception in the print community.
“I’ve noticed the industry is really changing. Recently we had a couple of substantial tenders and we reached out to digital suppliers who hadn’t really engaged with us before. I get the feeling there is a ground swell of acceptance of us,” Freeman told ProPrint.
“It is a different acceptance to what it was 10 years ago as a print manager – we feel more a part of the industry now than we ever have. There are fewer print managers nowadays and there were certainly some cowboys around in the early days. I think the few that are left are professional and highly regarded.
“The market is also shrinking and printers may now be more inclined to work with us. We have been here for 32 years, we have assets and we pay our bills. It is not like 20 years ago when you had start-ups coming on the scene. The benefit of our model is that printers have an option to quote on work without incurring sales and marketing costs to source the work directly.”
E-Bisglobal sales and marketing director, Catherine Gibson, says suppliers who onboard with ZOOL are not locked into any prices but when price increases come through, the supplier advises E-Bisglobal and the setting is changed.
“There is an accreditation process for our suppliers before we set the supplier up in ZOOL. This is to gather information about their accreditations, their business and what their equipment capabilities are.
We also really like to meet with the suppliers as well and then we onboard them in ZOOL,” Gibson said.
“So, once the job specifications go in, the suppliers who meet those specifications will receive an email to say there is a new job available to quote and they will look at it. They don’t have to provide pricing and they can pick and choose what they want to put pricing in for. It is not like a reverse auction; it is purely put your best price in based on the specs and turnarounds and then we nominate the supplier to use. Working collaboratively with our suppliers is important to us and we have a number of suppliers who we’ve been working with for over 25 years”.
Aboriginal heritage recognised
Another new direction for E-Bisglobal has been its shift to become an Aboriginal enterprise. This came about in 2020 after Freeman uncovered that his ancestors were members of the Cabrogal clan of the Dharug nation who lived along the Georges River in Sydney.
Freeman, a proud Cabrogal man of the Dharug nation, is a direct descendant of the last native Australian woman in the Liverpool district, Lucy Burns-Leane, who lived during the 1800s.
E-Bisglobal is now a member of the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce (NSWICC) and Freeman is mentoring Indigenous entrepreneurs in his capacity as a NSWICC Business Connect Advisor. Work is also now being done to find other Aboriginal print enterprises to work with and onboard into ZOOL.
“We are now looking at the ability to drill down into the supply chain. Many of our clients are wanting to know which disability enterprises and Aboriginal suppliers we are working with. Environmental certifications are also crucial and the database can contain all of that as well,” Freeman said.
“With our key clients being government, these requirements are getting pushed down the line and we need to make sure the whole supply chain is answering those needs.”
Supporting young talent
The way ZOOL was created also speaks to a broader philosophy at E-Bisglobal which is about supporting local talent and providing local jobs on the NSW Central Coast.
E-Bisglobal has also launched an Aboriginal Youth Training Program in conjunction with the local Bara Barang Corporation, an organisation that offers specialised services to empower young Aboriginal people.
Over the years E-Bisglobal has put a number of employees though university – including the whizz kid who built ZOOL. The company is now also employing two local Aboriginal young people with a view to increasing this.
“We have a passion for working with young people. Virtually all the people who we have put through university have had substantial success. The first young man we put on went on to build a web-to-print platform for AXA in Melbourne. He is now heading up Pizza Hut’s IT Development Team. Other trainees went into finance in Hong Kong as well as one holding a senior position at an ASX listed company,” Freeman said.
“We feel really proud that we have given these people a leg up and that is what we want to continue doing with the Aboriginal training. We recently put on three Aboriginal youths with another two starting next week. We are finalising the appointment of another young man who is an accomplished artist and wants to get into graphic design.
“He is only 20 and his art is already featured in Government buildings and he also does cultural tours and is a member of an Aboriginal dance group. I’m very confident that he will come onboard as our next trainee.”
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