Need for speed: How Penny Black optimises print speed performance

Print speed makes the difference between success and failure for third-party logistics (3PL) providers and operational teams. At Penny Black, we know that businesses must balance the need to hit targets with the goal of delighting their customers with personalised customer experiences.


That’s why Penny Black prints as fast as possible while remaining robust and minimising downtime. Our guideline target is to have a completed print ready to be put into a package in under 10 seconds from the moment it is triggered. Recently we’ve been pushing this time down even further.


Below we explore our approach to print performance and how we are implementing innovative processes to make sure ecommerce brands can get personalised quality inserts added to customer orders during crucial peak periods.


In this article, we explore how we measure, select and optimise printers to ensure that we can keep your print speeds ahead of the game.

How we measure print speed ⏱

There is a variety of terminology used by printing manufacturers, such as:

How we select printers to recommend 🖨

At the heart of Penny Black is being able to provide a service that prints fast and effectively is the printer itself. We work to reduce as much software latency as possible, but we cannot speed up the baseline mechanical printing process. The printers we recommend are therefore critical.

We have researched hundreds of printers from well-known desktop brands to more industrial, high-volume machines. Here are a few of the variables and requirements we considered to select the best printer for Penny Black.

How we test printers 🧪

We put all of our candidate printers through a rigorous set of tests to learn whether they cut the mustard.

How we continue to optimise print performance 🏎

We are continually evolving our approach to software and workflows to make sure we’re providing unique print performance improvements for our clients. Here are a few elements that the Penny Black team is focussing on right now.

Minimising processing at pack time

The critical, time-sensitive moment of our operation is when a print request is triggered. One of the earliest decisions we made was to generate the personalised PDF ahead of print time so that it’s ready to be retrieved as soon as a print request is made. We also make sure that the PDF files we generate are optimised for the perfect balance between image quality and print speed.

Reducing network impact

Our cloud services are optimised for rapid response times and availability. We offload all possible processing until after the print request is passed to the satellite. On top of that, our cloud data centre is ideally located for warehouses across the UK and Western Europe to minimise latency.

Direct communication with the printer

A common issue we come across when testing printers is having to wait for a printer to fire to life. A lot of this comes down to the printer queueing systems employed by the operating systems.

However, when our use cases are narrower and consistent we can bypass these queuing systems and communicate directly with the printer. We have achieved this through our platform that will handle, and trigger, the protocol that allows us to communicate with a vast range of printers.
When you print directly to the printer you also need to take responsibility for the pipeline of converting the source document into something the printer can understand.

We’ve found the ideal format to pre-convert our personalised inserts to that will allow the printer to process them very quickly. This format is also much smaller than the source file, so we’ve saved on storage and latency.

Summary 📖

Print performance optimisation is a central focus for our team because we know that consistently fast print speeds are crucial to delivering a great customer experience.


That’s why at Penny Black, we continue to optimise our software and hardware to ensure that your warehouse operations can excel. We are here to help businesses smash their peak fulfilment periods with excellent print speeds, stellar support and a personalised touch.

This post was written by

Pete Ward

CTO at Penny Black

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