On behalf of GDW, I caught up with Matt Dahan, founder of ParrotPrint.com, the online digital canvas print company that has taken the industry by storm. As with many successful companies, we found a story that started with humble beginnings, a great idea, a philosophy of hard and smart working and a belief that anything is possible. Each of these factors have helped Parrot Print to its lofty perch.
The story begins at the last financial crash in 2008, where Matt, who had started work in the City as a 16 year-old found himself out of work and with an uncertain future. He did what many young people do in this situation, he grabbed a rucksack and headed to Australia!
“I was massively into photography and I had a great time in Australia learning my art and enjoying this amazing country. I was particularly keen on product photography and started specialising in food. Throughout my time there though, I was always had half an eye out for a great idea for a business,” he says.
That idea came to him when he bought a canvas print of a photo he was particularly proud of for the family he was staying with, “It was a great photo of the sunset across Sydney Harbour but when I saw the printed version I didn’t want to gift it. The company clearly didn’t understand colour accuracy and were smashing out prints using a generic profile.”
At that point the seed of an idea that was to grow into ParrotPrint.com was sewn.
Automation is key
On returning to the UK and getting a day job, Matt continued to develop his idea of producing great quality canvas prints. “I spent a couple of years developing a business plan, doing the market research and identifying great people, products and companies to work with. From my mum’s kitchen table, I would spend every evening creating and selling customised prints on eBay.”
It didn’t take long before Matt could see what was holding him back. “A lot of what I was doing to make these prints was repetitive and also required making sure I was consistent and didn’t make mistakes. I have always admired how McDonalds go about their business. They make exactly the same products time and again in thousands of locations for a great price because they have automated and optimised the entire process. This means the customer knows what they are going to get – which is exactly what is needed for my business.”
He continues, “I was working from the moment I got home from the day job until about 2am every day. My main motivation for automation was so that I could sleep! I looked at what I was doing and worked out all the pain points. I wanted to take every opportunity to automate the workflow, starting with bar codes to ensure customer, product and order details were always accurate. We then moved onto accounts, logistics and then production using latest software, hardware and robotics.”
Sounds simple, but from these beginnings Matt designed and developed a company-wide automation process that has ended up building ParrotPrint.com into what it is today. The installation of Europe’s first EFI Vutek Q5r 5m flatbed printer is all about one thing – speed! “As soon as I could handle more orders, the business took off rapidly. The EFI simply lets us fulfil more order faster. We can output more prints faster and move this on automatically using our robotics solutions to the Esko cutter and through to framing and delivery.”
“We pride ourselves on our next day delivery promise. Place an order by 12pm you will have it the next day – a perfect print with great colours in the style and design you want. But we want you to be able to place that order any time of the day and still get it next day and that is where the EFI comes in. We can simply produce more prints!”
“The key reason for using the latest technology is to ensure quality guarantee and ease of use for the customer. We use smart tech, for a seamless customer experience, such as a Automatic Photo Quality Detection algorithm. This screens the quality of an image using an algebraic formula to determine a photo’s pixel density on the fly. So, if a user is cropping their image, using the crop tool, it automatically calculates and rates the image quality to ensure optimal print results.”
Matt himself wrote the maths and developed it into code. “Our development teams’ state-of-the-art imaging software uses AI that checks and auto-corrects the creation, production workflow process to simplify the user experience and guarantee accurate and efficient prints.”
Teamwork is crucial
Another key element of ParrotPrint.com’s success is the team. “We are like a happy family here. Our production centre is highly automated so the staff can focus on the elements of the business that most interests them and we always listen to their ideas and suggestions for improvements. Optimisation is not just about the equipment, it is also about how long it takes to move between processes. If you have to wait 30 seconds for someone to cross the warehouse to get something, that slows things down. This is like the McDonalds philosophy again – having the products in the right places in the warehouse will significantly speed the process and make working there a more pleasant and less stressful environment.”
ParrotPrint.com’s self-built workflow system kicks in at the point of order and takes this all the way through to the next day delivery of a perfect print, in the ideal frame into the hands of a grateful customer. The system must work because the company has grown triple-fold year on year and is now one of the most established companies in this market. “Our server hunts for new orders every 20 minutes and is now capable of processing more than 1,200 orders per hour – all reproduced perfectly and delivered to happy customers. Certainly more than I could cope with on my kitchen table!”
Matt concludes, “We certainly aren’t finished yet. We believe in strategic marketing and excellent customer service. We are always looking forward and making sure we have the capabilities to meet current and future demands so we are always on top and in control – never playing catch-up.”
See more at ParrotPrint.com