Whenever a customer sends a project to a commercial printing company, there are several things they can do to ensure its success. As a customer, it's wise for you to build a checklist and use it for each commercial printing project. Put these four items on the list.
Dimensions and Material Type
There's a big difference in how the printer has to prepare their systems for label printing versus producing small, outdoor advertising signs. Know the dimensions of your project, including if you'll need to go full-bleed with ink to the end of the printed area.
Likewise, make sure you understand the implications of different materials choices. If you're printing on low-grade paper, for example, you can keep costs down. However, you can't expect decades of durable reuse. You would probably want to go with a stiffer grade paper if you're printing a manual for an important set of machines in a factory versus a lighter-weight paper for throwaway fliers for a one-time event.
The number of colors for a project largely dictates the process you will use. Using more colors generally produces something closer to photographic quality, but it's also typically more expensive. If you're producing a high-quality, glossy brochure for a luxury resort, for example, you'd like want to use at least a 6-color process. Conversely, black and white with a spot color could work very well for some types of text-driven posters.
Bear in mind that the color process is an even bigger deal if you're sending production files to a commercial printing services provider. Make sure you can match the color process when you're creating digital files. Talking with the commercial printing company to make sure you're using the same color profiles as they will be using. Otherwise, there may be a shift from how the color appeared on your computer screen during editing and what they look like after printing.
Even the most rushed project needs proofs. The printer will send you physical copies of the items so you can see what they look like. If there's a problem, this is the time to correct it. Make sure your schedule allows sufficient time for proofing. Ask the company when they expect to have proofs so you can plan accordingly.
Similarly, you will need to factor in time for shipping the finished products. If you need to subsequently distribute them, build some time in your schedule so you're not under pressure.
Keep these tips in mind when looking for commercial printing services.