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Looking Back at OnFulfillment’s Printing Services History

April 2024 marks OnFulfillment’s Silver Anniversary—25 years of meeting the marketing and event fulfillment needs of customers around the world.

To celebrate the occasion, we’re taking the opportunity to look back and see how the company has evolved, focusing on the various services offered.  We started with an overview of the past 25 years (provide link); today, we drill down on the first of OnFulfillment’s specialties—printing—and provide a history of where we started, how far we’ve come, and where we go from here.stacks of paper at a fulfillment warehouse

In the Beginning

When OnFulfillment opened its doors in Campbell, CA in 1999, it focused on its core competency as a distributor of printed materials and promotional items, primarily for local companies in Silicon Valley.

To supplement this distribution service and provide its customers with a one-stop-shopping option, OnFulfillment partnered with a third-party printer to offer brokered printing services.  Despite its origin as a value-added service, printing grew into one of OnFulfillment’s most popular offerings and quickly became the backbone of the company.

Initially, the actual printing services offered by OnFulfillment (through the third-party vendor) were relatively pedestrian, featuring traditional sheet-fed offset presses.  What set the company apart was the way in which the printed materials were stored and distributed.  OnFulfillment was the first collateral distribution company to harness the power of the internet, offering a leading-edge web-based interface that allowed its customers to order reprints, review inventory, and schedule deliveries right from their desktop.  The convenience and efficiency of the operation was truly revolutionary.

Joining the Fray

As printing grew to represent a larger portion of their business, OnFulfillment made the strategic decision to enter the printing business themselves.  This move had multiple advantages: it eliminated reliance on a third-party vendor; it saved on shipping costs; and by taking on the printing itself, it allowed OnFulfillment to offer its combined services more cost effectively as a package deal.

In 2007, OnFulfillment Printing, Inc. debuted, offering web-based print-on-demand services for customers.  The company installed high-end digital printing equipment at its Newark, CA facility and, by integrating the equipment with its website and enhancing the existing technology, enabled customers to order their own print jobs and deliver them anywhere in the world.  All business was conducted through the OnFulfillment software portal, without ever having to speak with a live person.

Unlike sheet-fed offset printers, which required running print jobs in bulk, the digital print-on-demand technology allowed customers to only print the quantities they needed to satisfy a specific event or campaign.  This provided faster turnaround times, minimized storage costs, and virtually eliminated waste.  Not only that, on-demand printing also liberated the marketing team from having to deal with outdated collateral; if products were updated or messaging changed, print files stored in the OnFulfillment system were simply updated for the next print run.

With the new printing equipment installed, OnFulfillment found a lucrative new market for their services: training manuals for growing Silicon Valley companies.  At its peak, OnFulfillment was printing approximately 70% of their training materials domestically at the Newark facilities; the remaining 30% was spread out among multiple vendors internationally to satisfy demands from overseas.  By printing as close to the final destination as possible, OnFulfillment helped customers reduce their shipping costs and avoid other expenses and delays imposed by customs and value-added tax (VAT) issues.

global locations for fulfillmentTo accommodate these international print jobs, OnFulfillment developed a “global dashboard” that allowed customers in the Bay Area or elsewhere in the U.S. to coordinate, send, and manage print jobs to multiple locations around the world, including the U.K., India, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil, and others.

Expanding Technology

Over time, for certain applications and uses, businesses began to move away from traditional printed material and opt for more advanced solutions such as eBooks and ePubs.  These electronic alternatives were not only faster and easier to distribute to large, distributed audiences, they could also be updated virtually on the fly to incorporate updates and other types of changes.

OnFulfillment embraced the challenge and built up a technical team  with the expertise required to produce eBooks and ePublications, which quickly became the preferred medium for distributing training content.  OnFulfillment’s OnSecure program offers the industry’s fastest and easiest way to deliver online course materials while protecting, controlling, and tracking training documents, while the OnCourse program allows the creation of custom courseware software within the custom training portal.  

Unique ePub creation tools are used to deliver robust educational solutions that support online and instructor-led classes, last-minute students, hard-to-reach locations, and “bring your own device” users.lets chat about your printing needs

From the Present to the Future

Today, OnFulfillment continues to offer the most robust printing services in the industry, with facilities in 15 locations across every continent except Antarctica.

To help support complex and highly sophisticated direct marketing campaigns, OnFulfillment added variable data printing (VDP) capabilities to its printing arsenal in the 2010s. VDP, a digital solution that uses data-driven content to customize printed materials, enables each individual piece within a print run to be personalized with unique text, graphics, and images based on data such as the recipient's name, location, or purchase history.

OnFulfillment also does its part to protect the environment by engaging in sustainable and eco-friendly printing practices, which prioritize the use of environmentally friendly materials and processes to reduce its ecological impact and pursue more “green” solutions.

This effort includes finding ways to reduce consumption and eliminate waste, preserving valuable natural resources, and finding sustainable ways to meet customer expectations. In fact, the company’s print-on-demand service is itself a sustainable printing strategy; not only does it reduce paper consumption and save space in landfills by virtually eliminating the need to dump unused inventory, it also saves energy by reducing the amount of printed material consumed. Studies have found that it takes 10 times as much energy to produce a sheet of paper than to print on it, so for every page not printed, the savings are printer icon

Celebrating Service

As OnFulfillment celebrates 25 years of serving the marketing, training, human resources, and channel marketing industries, we find looking back at our origins provides an interesting perspective not only on our history, but the history of marketing fulfillment as a whole.

Please check back next week for another chapter in the OnFulfillment story.  In the meantime, if you have any marketing or event fulfillment needs we can help with, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Just visit our Contact Us page and complete the form to request a meeting.

Topics: Print On Demand Print Marketing Commercial Print