One of the most persistent questions posed by customers ordering specialty envelopes is, “why am I being billed for more (or fewer) envelopes than I ordered?” Ah yes, the dreaded “over/under” question!
On custom envelope jobs, most envelope converters and printers will mention the possibility of more or fewer pieces being produced on the customer’s order. Many customers tend not to pay attention to this; especially ones who are new or not familiar with the process. Then, when the job or invoice is received, the howling begins. It’s understandable for sure.
Despite what might seem to be a brazen attempt to increase the order under a dubious pretext, there is a very sensible reason why envelope converters maintain this policy. That reason is centered on the waste involved in the process.
Let’s say a customer is ordering 5,000 special double window envelopes on a special stock. There are two main processes in the manufacturing of envelopes. One is die-cutting of the paper (and maybe one of the windows) and the second is the actual folding and gluing of the paper to create the envelope.
Setting up the paper to be cut involves placing a die in just the right position. Whether it’s done manually or automatically, it takes some trial and error before the cuts come out just right. Until that point there are numerous sheets that are cut and discarded. Then, once the paper is cut, setting up the folding machine and getting the specs exact also requires a lot of “make ready” paper. Lastly, once the machine is running, constant fine adjustments must be made to keep the job running properly. This can involve numerous stops and restarts which waste more paper.
In order to have enough paper to allow for possible contingencies, a company must order a significantly higher amount which adds cost to the job. Being able to bill for a reasonable amount of “overs” allows a company to cover these added costs while providing extra envelopes that a customer will more than likely be able to use. The alternative is for a customer to specify at the quoting stage that they do not want an overage on their order. What most companies will do in this case is simply include their extra costs into the price. Under this scenario, the customer will pay the same overall cost for his job but without the benefit of more envelopes.
“Unders” or receiving a quantity less than the amount ordered is also a possibility. It is less common however as getting less is generally a bigger problem to customers than getting more so companies will try to buy more than enough paper to ensure that the count is met.
What is a “reasonable” amount of overs or unders? In the envelope world, generally the figure is up to 30% on minimum quantities and then the percentage declines as the quantity of the order goes up. The higher percentage of overs would apply to more expensive specialty envelopes like custom Tyvek envelopes, bubble mailers and poly mailers.