By Carro Ford August 11, 2003 -- Does your company try to maximize capacity and resource utilization by using small jobs to fill in between the big ones? "Fill in with small jobs? Are you serious? In this competitive market I can't imagine anyone who could be so independent as to take only certain size jobs. Anyone who tells you they only do big jobs is lying," declares Chuck Beuke, president and CEO of Beuke Printing and Mailing The upside to this practice includes benefits like maximizing capacity and resource utilization, and building relationships by handling all a customer's printing needs. "We're not one of the big guys in the market, like a Harte Hanks, but we're up there," says Beuke. He started Cincinnati-based Beuke Printing and Mailing Co. (www.beuke.com, 513-221-0008) in 1986, and today has ten employees and 20,000 sq ft. "This is a seasonal business, and it's never steady, so we can stand around, or we can take small jobs and break even." A "Two Comma" Job "A job isn't large until it has at least two commas," says he, "but if you brought a small job to me, say a few hundred, I would see that you get the best advice on how to do it, and a reasonable price quote for a professional job. We end up doing many small jobs, and we make money on them." But Beuke has other reasons for taking on small jobs besides the money. One is employee retention. Companies not blessed with a constant stream of big jobs can keep the presses busy with small jobs to pay the bills and keep staff and equipment from getting rusty. "We run smaller jobs just to keep everything going between big projects and seasonal swings, and the money basically just changes hands. "It's a sensible thing to do, because employees are our most valuable assets. We don't want them standing around too much just because business falls off, especially in summer. People start getting worried and start looking around. Keeping them busy helps keep them sharp." On-the-Jobs Training Beuke also relies on small jobs as training tools. "You can't train someone without doing actual jobs. When we have jobs of few thousand, new people get practice in setting up and running an actual job three to four hours a day. "Another aspect to keep in mind is what we call transition," he adds. "We get calls from development directors of small organizations who need help and advice on mailing jobs. Many times, if they are good, they will move on to larger organizations. The result is often that you keep the old customer and gain a larger account. It works more often than you might think!" Job Farming On the downside, too many little jobs can create problems. The costs of pursuing, accepting, prepping, running and billing this work can erase any value derived from doing them. Too many little jobs can chew through already slim margins. The concept behind Pica9 is to eliminate transaction costs by aggregating jobs and insulating printers from administration expense and headaches. Pica9 assumes these responsibilities and farms out jobs to a network of print shops. "We give them all the benefits of capacity, without putting a load on administration," explains Kevin Groome, Pica9 CEO. "A printer might do 500 jobs in single month, and with our one point billing, he'll just send one invoice at month end. Printers bill Pica9, and Pica9 bills the customers. The printer just has to run and ship the job, and track the invoice number." Pica9 is a provider of Web-based marketing automation applications that help large-scale, distributed enterprises like hotel chains or real estate franchises produce customized materials for local offices and sales forces. Benefits include enhanced brand identity, accelerated workflow and reduced costs. Web-based Workflow Pica9 starts with a template, which cuts down on set up expense. Customers, typically small franchisees, visit the Pica9 web site and choose the type of document to create, such as brochures or collectable cards. Use of templates eliminates issues such as the availability of fonts or images not having the appropriate resolution. Via the web, Pica9 collects and assigns template-based jobs to a network of approved printers. Reliance on the web keeps costs down while contributing to faster workflow. A mid-size run might be 250 copies, and printers can batch jobs. "Printers in the Pica9 network have a reliable flow of low-cost, high-quality low-maintenance jobs," explains Groome. "Customers benefit because it's easier for them to get high quality printing for small quantities." It's a small world, after all, and it's smart to make the most of small jobs.