Are you able to frame 500 pictures?


Large orders are very tempting. Framers should however be careful before taking on this type of orders.


Some framers are specialised in mass production framing which is also more commonly and technically known as "Contract Framing".
They charge lower prices than normal framing and their organisation is geared for mass production. Is it worthwhile entering into this framing sector and if so, how should you organise yourself? Let us look at the case of a framer contemplating accepting his first ever large order.


The order

We will consider a large order as one of no less than 50 frames from one sole customer.
The order, due to its size and associated risks, should first of all be documented by a quote that includes prices, completion times, payment terms, etc. just like a proper contract.


These type of orders can be of various types. The most frequent are:

In these large orders there is one common characteristic.
The frames are generally fairly straight forward and hence the completion costs of the frame are not excessive.


The type of client

The client is generally either a government organisation or a private company. In public organisations the employee that has been made responsible for making this type of order is not usually very experienced or knowledgeable in this area. It is not often that one particular government office is in need of a large quantity of frames. The public servant usually goes to the closest framer that he or she is aware of and is most likely not able to determine whether the framer has any experience in this type of framing. This factor can be a help to us if we are approaching this type of work for the first time.
Which private organisations might make a large order? It could be a bank or a large company that wants to decorate its offices, hotels and restaurants. It could also be a company that is in either the award's presentation sector, the marketing and/or advertising sector, etc. It is the purchase's office of these type of companies that is more inclined to shop around for the lowest prices and impose the most stringent of terms.

The quote

Normally the customer asks for a quote. Sometimes the quote is used by the customer to compare it with other quotes received from other framers. Other times the quote is required in order to either have some indication of the costs involved or to avoid unwanted surprises at the completion of the work. Naturally it would be handy if our quote didn't end up being compared to other quotes due to the customers search for a better deal. A discreet market survey on our behalf might avoid this occurring.
The quote should not be overpriced as this increases the risk of losing the customer; it is even worse if the quote is too low as once we have signed a contract it is ethically difficult to get out of and we will also probably end up making little or no profit at all.
How should you calculate the price? There are two alternatives: either a discount is applied to the price that is worked out from your normal calculation method or the total exact costs of the work are calculated and a profit margin then added. The second option is the preferable and more likely one to achieve accuracy particularly if there is a large quantity of frames to be calculated. One must be sure to include all the various costs; materials, labour and a hourly rate of general expenses.
The inexperienced framer tends to underestimate the costs as he is overexcited at the idea of having the work. This is particularly the case during quiet work periods. A framer must resist this temptation and calculate the costs accurately. An hurried and subsequent incorrect forecast gives rise to loses of money.


The organisation of the workshop

Are you prepared for such an exceptional order? Have you got enough room? Have you got the right tools?
You should consider this before accepting the work. If the size of your workshop is less than 30 sq. meters (350 sq. ft) you probably haven't got enough room to accommodate more than about 100 frames unless of course that you have other temporary storage space available.
Is your equipment suitable for mass production work? You will first of all certainly need a double bladed saw, a pneumatic underpinner and a cutter for the cardboard. If you haven't got this basic equipment then you are going to find it difficult to be competitive in this sector.
The availability of the equipment mentioned so far isn't enough; you've got to also organise yourself specifically for this type of work; for example you should have enough space for the storage of the materials; you should have enough work benches and above all you should be very orderly.



In order to approach this type of work you need sufficient staff.
It would be difficult to imagine doing this type of work on your own. You will either have to hire more staff or sub-contract some of the work out to others.
In both cases there are pros and cons. When hiring additional staff you run the risk of subsequently not having enough work for them after the large order is completed.
The alternative could be to hire them for a predetermined period; the disadvantage here is that the training costs for this brief period are wasted once the contracted period is over.



n order to be able to give your best quote you will first need to purchase at the best prices. Buying in large quantities means that you will be able to receive greater discounts.
You should shop around for different suppliers looking for those that are more suitable at supplying your size and type of order. In particular you should be looking for manufacturers instead of distributors, companies for example that do less advertising and that haven't got selling organisations.
These companies are able to charge less. Remember the better the prices the more competitive the quote will end up being.
This is not an easy search if you are not familiar with the sector. Be careful to note down the delivery time promised by the supplier. Often manufacturers, as opposed to distributors, have long delivery times mainly because they do not hold much stock; if the goods were to take a lengthy period to arrive you could be faced with enormous problems from your client.
You should also consider the payment terms. You shouldn't pay for the goods before receiving payment from your client unless you have substantial financial resources available.
Just remember that since you are new clients to the supplier, he will probably ask for payment at the time of delivery.


Work procedures

For large orders it is necessary to adopt methods that are suitable and specific for mass production.
You cannot use a method of completing one frame at a time; it would be a long procedure to adopt; it is better to complete one full stage before going onto the next; for example you should first cut all the necessary mouldings; then join all of them, then cut all the necessary glass, then cut all the mountboards and so on.
It would be handy to note down the total time taken to complete each single operation so that at the end you are able to work out the total time taken and hence calculate the total costs. This way you will avoid making errors in future quotations.

The payment

This is possibly the most delicate aspect of the order. If the payment is coming from a government organisation then in most countries this payment can take a lengthy period of time to arrive and is not always too clear when the payment will arrive. Sometimes the payment is made only when the funds become available that were originally set aside for this expense. You should ascertain with the utmost accuracy what the payment terms will be.
Even after having received verbal guarantees do not blindly accept what has been said to you. It is probably better to have a prudential attitude and not expect the payment to be on time. A payment that has been promised within 60 days is probable to arrive within receive it within 120 days. This though will depend on the government organisation of each country.
If the order comes from private enterprise then the problems associated with payment are not any less numerous.
Large organisations generally like to defer payment. Sometimes they wait until the full completion of the work before accepting the invoice and starting all the payment procedures. If the contract consists of various consignment periods and completion stages it is worthwhile assuring when payment for each stage will occur. With private companies there is also the risk of encountering financial difficulties. It is good business practice to either get credit references, contact their bank, contact their accountants or use whatever system is most reliable in your country. Delays in payment can also arise from complaints in relation to the quality of the work, delays in completion, possible damage to the frames during delivery, etc.
What policy should we adopt? It is necessary to be very cautious because a wrong move in this regards could cost you a lot of money; if the order is very large it could even determine your bankruptcy. It is necessary to resist the temptation associated with accepting big orders if you haven't got the financial resources to support yourself up to payment time. In some cases you shouldn't hesitate or be embarrassed in asking for a healthy deposit at the time of taking the order. It is sometimes better to refuse the order than to lose money.


Completion time

The client often establishes very stringent completion terms. Sometimes the contract also includes penalty clauses for late delivery. The framer should be reasonable and conservative in his estimate of completing the work. He must remember that apart from this big order he has other daily work that can't and should never be disregarded.
The framer should be very prudent in determining the completion times and should above all ascertain what are his liabilities in the event of the pre-established completion time not being achieved. The order being cancelled during work in progress due to delays in completion would be financially disastrous for the framer. The framer should also consider that unexpected events can happen such as sickness to personnel, delays in suppliers, etc.


Accessory clauses

It is necessary to be careful at other terms in the contract such as the packaging, the transport, the completion, the hanging of the frames, the repairs and maintenance, etc.


Is it worthwhile entering this sector? It depends on various factors the most important of which is your premises and the size of your workshop. If you have a large workshop that is not in a popular shopping centre then it may be worthwhile specialising yourself in contract framing.
If on the contrary your shop is in a busy area and you have limited space then it is probably sensible to forget about contract framing. A difficult but interesting possibility is to contemporarily manage both small and big orders. It would be necessary to have a perfect organisation that is able to balance out the two. Above all the major advantage with this last possibility would consist in having low cost purchases thus allowing big profit margins for small orders.
The framer that is inexperienced with big orders should be careful to not commit errors. If the business is very small and in particular if he is a sole proprietor he should very carefully think about accepting a contract for a large order. In the majority of cases the most economic solution can be to just politely refuse the offer.