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What are some creative ways to cut AA costs?
Answered by Suzanne Morgan

What are some creative ways to cut AA costs?
Judy Amann

For most companies that buy printing, AA (author’s alterations) or CO (change order) costs account for 3% to 15% of the total cost of the print project. These costs are charged for any changes to the job after the job is sent to the printer. The source of the AA costs can vary widely, but here are a few typical causes and tips on how to avoid these additional costs.

Begin by identifying the sources of these additional costs. These may vary widely depending on the types of print that you are buying and, perhaps more importantly, your company’s project development, design, and production workflow. There are two ways to track down the source of these costs:

  1. Check past invoices for a history of additional costs. This works well if your printers have adequately described the reasons for the charges, as opposed to simply listing a line item for "AAs" and then a total cost. (Of course, I strongly recommend that you require your printers to detail these costs in writing – either on a change order form or the final invoice.) If your printer has not provided a good description of the costs, at least you can begin to see how much these AA and CO costs add up when you review the past three month’s work, for example.

  2. Ask your core printers to provide a summary report of all AA and CO charges on any job over the past six months. Then ask for suggestions as to how your company can avoid these charges.

When you review the summary of these additional costs over a length of time, you’ll probably see a lot of repetition of the source of the problems. While you’ll be able to fix some of these problems, you may not be able to correct others.

Common causes for additional costs:

  • Improper file setup and/or problems with file conversion – Ask your printers to work with the files’ originator(s) to help make this more efficient.

  • Changing text at the last minute (i.e., changing text on the proofs or on press) -- Many marketing-driven companies not only consider making last minute text changes a necessary evil, but also a valuable way to get to market faster with the latest information. However, if you believe that last-minute changes are used as an excuse and not a marketing opportunity – and a lot of money is wasted because internal folks don’t look at the copy until the nth hour, then perhaps your company’s internal proofing workflow is ready for revision. Reorganize the workflow in such a way that these folks have to sign off sooner rather than later. In either case, the use of digital proofs and/or soft proofing can save quite a bit of money.

  • Shipping costs – particularly overnight shipping fees – can add up to a huge amount at year end. Again, perhaps a change to the proofing workflow or the use of soft proofs can reduce these costs.

  • Changes in the colors of a print job – There are a number of ways to predict more accurately what you will get on press, including setting better color standards; using fewer suppliers and having them fingerprint their presses to their proofing devices; providing better specifications and color guidelines upfront, etc.

Keep in mind that these are just a few ways to reduce costs. The goal is to discover:

  • how much money your company is spending on AA & CO costs per year, quarter or whatever time frame seems best

  • the source of those additional charges

  • which charges can be reasonably eliminated in the future

  • how to go about doing so

Members, I’d love to hear your advice on this matter. If you have more ideas on how to reduce AA and CO costs, please send your tips to share with the e-community. Please send me an e-mail at and title your e-mail "Avoiding AAs and COs."

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