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Administrative Jobs in Printing

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Before investigating the individual jobs in printing, it is a good idea to become acquainted with some of the presses and other equipment used in printing. There are three basic configurations of printing presses: platen, cylinder, and rotary, irrespective of the printing process being employed. However, platen and cylinder presses are no longer used on a widespread basis. More than one kind of press may be used in a printing process. For example, gravure may be done on rotary presses; letterpress may be done with all three types.

Platen presses are those with a flat bed on which the type form rests. The type is inked with a roller (mechanically or by hand), and the paper is pressed against the wet type form. The paper may be fed by hand or mechanically.

Cylinder presses, which may be horizontal or vertical, also support the type form on a flat bed, and the type is inked in the same manner as on a platen press. A cylinder is then rolled over the inked type, carrying the paper with it, and the impression is made. Grippers close and open as the cylinder travels over the type form, alternately grasping and releasing the paper at the delivery end of the press.

Rotary presses include web presses. They are used to print news-papers, magazines, catalogs, and books in large volume. Instead of a flat bed and a type form, two cylinders act in opposition, one being the form cylinder and the other the impression cylinder. Instead of a flat type form, a metal plate is curved to fit the radius of the cylinder and locked in place.
Presses may also be classified as Sheet-fed and Web-fed. As its name implies, a sheet-fed press sends the paper through one sheet at a time. In a web-fed press, paper in a continuous roll, called a web, is passed between the cylinders to make the impression. Web presses are capable of printing on both sides of the web of paper, drying, folding, cutting, and assembling pages at the delivery end of the press.


Although printing presses still conform to traditional design and function, the same cannot be said of the other equipment in the printing plant. The areas that are undergoing the most drastic changes are typesetting and imaging, both of them in the pre-press phase of the printing operation.

In a nutshell, the changes those are occurring result in less emphasis on craft among employees and greater emphasis on technological skills. With the aid of computers, typesetting has become more of an automated process. Now, the typesetter needs to learn how to tend a computerized photo-compositor, learning to look for potential trouble spots by observing its functioning, and performing the tasks necessary to keep it operating reliably. In other words, while the typesetters of today still need to know type-faces, they now need to add to their body of knowledge the intricacies of printed circuits, relays, and microchips. In the area of imaging, there are now machines that can take over the major share of the work of preparing materials ready for printing.

This is called pre-press technology. Machines now proof color separations on a video screen, eliminating the laborious task of printing each color separately on a proof press. Electronic pre-press systems integrate text and graphics to produce plate-ready films. Automatic scanners eliminate the camera work previously necessary to screen halftone negatives and plates, some with laser beams that are far more sensitive to variations of light and dark than the camera lens.

Another avenue we should mention here is document imaging and optical character resolution, OCR in computer lingo. These technologies are enabling businesses and individuals to mass "print" virtually anything for which they have hard copy. By converting text documents, photos, press work, or just about anything on paper, to an electronic medium ("digitized"), the images can be stored, manipulated, adjoined to other images, and so forth. But the results are only as good as the laser or bubble-jet printer used, and although electronic document technology is a complex and highly technical profession, it cannot afford the high quality work of the modern printing press.


The jobs selected for description in this and the next two chapters cover every aspect of the printing industry. They are divided into Administrative, Pre-Press, and Press room and Bindery. Some highly specialized jobs, such as operators of densitometers, auto-mated stripping machines, and automatic make ready machines; have not been included because they are adjuncts to the jobs of press operator and stripper, differing only in their methods of accomplishing the same result. Note that in some job descriptions, you may find words that are unfamiliar. These may be defined in the glossary at the back of the book.

The salaries and hourly rates given at the end of each job description are based on national averages and means, taking into account such variables as geographic location, the experience and length of service of the employee, and the size of the firm. The printing industry is one of the tougher industries to benchmark salaries owing to absence of systematic national data. Thus, the figures given are furnished as a general guide. There can be exceptional circumstances that would change the rates to a higher or lower figure than those given.


The administrative staff of a printing firm differs little from the administrative staff of any business. The main concern of printing executives, in an equipment-intensive industry such as printing, is the acquisition and operation of the latest and most efficient printing presses and auxiliary equipment. Clerical, accounting, and personnel departments would be structured and staffed as they would in any business. The following positions, however, are unique to the printing industry.

Printing Sales Manager

Sales managers are most commonly employed by large commercial printers to coordinate and supervise the efforts of the sales staff. They recruit, train, and supervise the work of the sales representatives in selling the services of the plant. They establish goals, quotas, and territories and analyze sales statistics to formulate policy and to determine customer needs and requirements. They coordinate with the production department, altering sales strategies as necessary to keep the plant operating at maximum capacity, and bring to the attention of potential customers any new technological capabilities the firm may offer.

Sales managers are responsible for administering the compensation of the sales representatives who report to them. They arrange technical training sessions for the sales staff to acquaint them with new printing developments and prepare periodic sales reports showing volume and potential. The sales manager's salary and earnings may vary widely from firm to firm, from $35,000 to $200,000 annually, depending on the volume of business.

To enter the job market as an upwardly-mobile printing sales manager, an undergraduate degree in business with marketing skills is recommended. A solid knowledge of the industry standards, terminology, and technology is essential, and entrant managers should begin to study for an MBA early on in their careers.

•    Printing Sales Representative

A member of the sales staff of a commercial printer, business forms printer, or magazine and book printer as well as trade shops and binderies, the printing sales representative visits business establishments to solicit business for printing. He or she interviews purchasing personnel and quotes prices from a schedule or obtains a price from the printing firm's estimator. Printing sales representatives explain technical matters, such as typesetting requirements, paper weight and quality, binding materials, and the various methods of reproduction that the firm can offer. They contact prospects by following leads furnished by their management or generated through their own efforts by telephone or mail. They visit established customers regularly. They may prepare sales pro-motional letters and submit formal bids in writing on large orders. They work under a commission arrangement, or salary, or a combination of both.

Many of the larger firms have organized training programs. Some prefer to promote personnel into sales from within their inside service staff. These are people who know better than any new addition to the staff their plant's ability to produce specialized work. Compensation after training is usually salary plus commissions plus selling expenses. Total earnings often can vary from $25,000 to $75,000. In some cases, they may exceed $100,000 annually.

•    Printing Estimator

Most commercial and business forms printers must compete against each other for business, furnishing quotes on jobs before being awarded the order. Printing estimators draw upon their knowledge of printing and their experience to estimate costs of labor and materials in the printing and binding of advertising matter, magazines, books, and other printed products. The estimate is based on the specifications outlined on the request for a quotation.

Estimating requires knowledge of all aspects of the industry, from the price of paper and ink, to labor costs, to density factors, to overhead, overtime, and packaging costs. They examine the specs (specifications), including sketches or comprehensive layouts, and calculate unit and incremental costs, using labor and material pricing schedules prepared by them previously. They confer with department heads and production personnel to con-firm their figures. They also may be required to estimate mailing weight and cost of mailing of finished product. Estimators must be able to use computer spreadsheets or other automated tools in their calculations, and be able to offer a wide variety of processes and options to clients. Salaries range from $30,000 to over $60,000 annually.

•    Advertising and Sales Promotion Manager

Newspapers, magazine and book publishers, and many large commercial printing firms employ an advertising and sales promotion manager. In some of the larger firms, the two jobs are separate. In the case of newspapers and periodical publishers, it is the product that is advertised and promoted. In the case of commercial printers, it is the printing service. The advertising manager plans and administers an advertising campaign in various advertising media such as radio, TV, and print publications. The sales promotion manager may be involved with point-of-purchase displays, trade exhibits, and publicity. The advertising and sales promotion manager is responsible for developing sales leads furnished to the sales department. He or she confers with other managers to develop sales strategies and campaigns, administers the advertising and sales promotion budget, and submits reports as required. Starting salaries range from $22,000 to $35,000, depending upon the size of the firm, with average salaries exceeding $40,000 for five years or more experience.

•    Purchasing Manager

All sizable printing firms employ a purchasing manager (or agent), who is the buyer for all raw materials and supplies and services required by the firm. Purchasing managers place orders for all raw materials, such as paper, all new and replacement machinery and equipment, and all supplies, such as ink and chemicals, used in the printing process. They review requisitions, and they interview vendors to obtain information concerning the product or service, such as the price, delivery and capability of the vendor. They estimate the value of the product or service from their own knowledge of the market. They may be called on to seek replacements or refunds for damaged or defective products. A purchasing manager may also approve bills for payment. Salaries can range from $30,000 to $60,000 annually.

•    Inventory Control Manager

All printing firms must keep control over supplies of raw material to prevent shortages during production runs. The larger printing establishments employ inventory control managers who keep records on ordering, receiving, storing, issuing, and shipping. They compile data from these records, arranged so that the availability of any item may be ascertained at a glance. They maintain a stock control record to show consumption rates, current market conditions, condition of items in storage, and other information required to make replenishment decisions. They compare catalog numbers and descriptions with actual items to verify the accuracy of requisitions and purchase orders. They periodically review their files to determine which items are not being used and recommend disposal when indicated. Since many firms employ computers to manage inventory stocks, an inventory control manager or clerk should be experienced in their operation. Salaries range from $18,000 to $40,000 annually.

•    Personnel Manager

All medium-sized and larger printing plants employ a personnel manager to supervise the employment activities of the firm. Personnel managers develop sources of qualified applicants for positions within the firm, conduct screening interviews, administer tests, and check references and background. They evaluate the applicant's experience and confer with department heads to establish the applicant's qualification for the position. They arrange for indoctrination interviews and trial period hiring according to company policy. They keep records on employees' performance and recommend promotion, termination, and transfers as indicated. They conduct exit interviews and respond to requests from other firms for references. They analyze statistical data concerning work force functioning in general, making recommendations to company management for personnel policy changes as required. They may be responsible for vacation scheduling. Salaries may range from $30,000 to $80,000 annually, depending on the size of the firm.

•    Cost Accountant

Many printing firms require detailed information on costs that are not supplied by ordinary accounting methods. The cost accountant plans, implements, and directs cost finding and reporting systems to isolate, record, and determine unit costs of raw materials, supplies, and labor. Cost accountants analyze changes in product design, raw materials, overhead, manufacturing methods, or wages for their effect on production costs. They prepare reports comparing actual costs with standards for the industry as a whole. They supply management with reports that might indicate that changes are needed in pricing or production, and they make a special comparison of public utility rates and consumption, maintaining current data for use in establishing unit costs. They may be called on for appraisal of real property and capital equipment for tax purposes.

A degree in accounting is strongly recommended for this type of work. At a minimum, junior cost accountants should be adept at financial analysis, using computer spreadsheets. Salaries range from $25,000 to $40,000 annually.

•    Controller

Printing firms doing a large volume of business employ a controller who directs the financial affairs of the firm. Controllers prepare the financial analysis of operations for the guidance of management.

Controllers also establish economic objectives and policies for the company, in conference with management. They prepare reports that outline the company's financial position in areas of income, expenses, and earnings based on past, present, and future operations. They direct the preparation of budgets and financial forecasts and determine depreciation rates applied to capital equipment. They prepare government reports as required and advise management on adjustments to operations that could be desirable from a tax point of view. They advise management on insurance coverage against property losses and liability protection.

A controller is usually not a recent graduate. A minimum of a bachelor's degree in accounting and at least three years experience in general accounting or financial analysis is required in most cases. Salaries range from $35,000 to $90,000 annually, depending on the volume of business, demographics, and experience of the controller.

•    Public Relations Manager

Only the very largest printing firms employ a public relations manager or director. Unlike the advertising and sales promotion manager, the public relations manager is not involved in selling the product or service, but rather in creating and maintaining a favorable public image for the firm. Public relations managers place stories in print and electronic media about the company's accomplishments, programs, or point of view. They contact and confer with legislators and government officials to persuade them to enact or enforce legislation favorable to the company's interests. They serve as spokespersons for the company in times of increased public notice or a newsworthy event. They act as compliance officers to ensure that the inks and other materials used are environmentally sound. They prepare and distribute fact sheets, news releases, photographs, and tapes to press representatives. They also promote goodwill for the company by speeches, exhibits, and films about the company as well as tours of the plant, and they represent the company at public gatherings and social functions. Some may write proposals in response to open-bid requests from government agencies and private corporations for large, multi-million dollar orders. Salaries range from $25,000 to $75,000 annually, depending on the size of the firm.

•    Plant Superintendent

This management-level executive is found in all printing plants with more than one press in operation. Plant superintendents direct and coordinate, through subordinate supervisory personnel, all the activities involved in the production of printed matter. They must be knowledgeable in all phases of the company's production operations and the capabilities of each piece of machinery and equipment. They confer with management to establish quality control standards, develop budget and cost controls, and receive information on quantities, delivery dates, and specs of customer orders. They conduct hearings with plant personnel to settle grievances and listen to complaints. They confer with department heads to receive reports on the performance of department personnel. They may be involved in the hiring of production personnel, particularly those in key positions in the press room. Salaries range from $30,000 to over $100,000 annually, depending on the size of the firm.
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