Add Value, Secure Your Future
Adding new services gives you more opportunities to make customers happy, improving your reputation while strengthening your in-plant's position in the organization.March 2013 By Bob Neubauer
It wasn't exactly his forte, but just the same, Alvin Griffin hated to see so much of his school district's money being spent to print T-shirts.
"Last summer we outsourced probably about 1,500 shirts," says the director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' Graphic Production Center. At about $12 each, this was a big expense for the Charlotte, N.C., school district. Griffin didn't know much about shirts, but he did know how to save the district money on its print costs. He'd been doing it for years. Why not take on garment printing too?
So last year his in-plant purchased an AnaJet mPower mP10 direct-to-garment printer and went into business.
"Our clients, they just love it," he reports. If there's a special event at one of the district's 159 schools, people order personalized shirts. This has brought in a lot of new business for the in-plant.
Griffin says it takes about a minute to print a high-quality image on a shirt, an apron, even a baby's "onesie." And the machine is easy to operate. He can buy shirts for $3 apiece, and it costs about $1.25 to print on them, he says. Even after a slight markup, the district saves a ton of money. Griffin says he invested $36,000 in the garment printer.
"But I look to get that back within a year, free and clear," he says.
Even better than the business, though, is the boost this new service brought to the in-plant's reputation and the value it provides to the organization.
"It can't continue to be all about just the marks on paper," Griffin says. "You've got to get diverse in what it is that you're doing."
This is a mantra all in-plants should take to heart. Fortunately, many of them have.
Scores of New Services
In a recent IPG e-mail poll, dozens of in-plants revealed scores of new services they have introduced in just the past two years. They range from new types of printed products, like vehicle wraps, foil security printing, magnets and envelopes, to data management services, such as mail list cleansing, transactional scanning and records management.
Some have ventured into new types of imaging, like engraving, dye-sublimation and photo processing. Others have their eyes on the mobile world with services like QR code creation, Clickable Paper and printing from mobile devices. Then there are a profusion of new non-print services being offered, like toner recycling, scanning, shredding, framing, selling promotional products, warehousing and fulfillment.
"We're constantly looking for new services to add," remarks Randall Bramlett, director of Printing and Mailing Services at Columbus State University. His in-plant recently opened a campus mail center on its Columbus, Ga., campus and began selling stamps and shipping supplies, and offering USPS/UPS shipping services. Residential student mail boxes were moved there for mail pickup 24 hours a day. This has given students easy access to services they used to have to go off campus to get.
This followed the opening two years ago of a student copy center, conveniently located in the student activities center.
"Students are the reason we're here," he points out, "so the more important you are to the students, the more important you are to the university."
Widening Your Scope
Increasing your in-plant's value by adding services is a message that seems to be well accepted. In our poll, the most common new service by far was wide-format printing. After getting wide-format inkjet printers, in-plants discover a pent-up demand for posters, banners and many other larger-than-life products. The applications are seemingly limitless.
"We recently printed 150 linear feet of 32˝ tall wall graphics for the men's and women's swimming and diving team locker rooms," notes John Barron, director of Printing & Mailing Services at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn.
In-plants are offering many creative wide-format products these days. Central Michigan University Printing Services has printed van wraps, wall wraps, even a stadium wrap with its 64˝ Mutoh ValueJet, 54˝ Mimaki and 54˝ Hewlett Packard inkjet printers. When former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently spoke on campus, the in-plant printed posters from photos depicting events in his career.
"It's probably raised our revenue a solid 20 percent," remarks Director Rhonda Kohler. "That's the kind of money…that you can put into equipment replacement and upgrades."
The University of Mississippi recently got into multicolor foiling and holograms after adding a foil fusing machine. The Therm-O-Type device puts foil wherever there is toner on a page, allowing the in-plant to produce fancy foiled invitations and athletic tickets with holographic security foil.
"It's awesome," exclaims Tony Seaman, the recently retired director of Printing and Graphic Services.
Nestlé Purina Print Services in St. Louis just purchased a Portable Desktop Magnetizer from Magnum Magnetics and started offering magnets to its customers.
"We just didn't feel like it was a huge investment to get into a whole new product offering," explains Manager Tammy Dunham.
The 12-employee shop also started creating name badges using a small-format manual AccuCut die cutter. The badges are about the size of a business card, with rounded corners. A magnet on the back is used for attaching the badge to users' clothing.
"They're a big hit," Dunham says.
Many in-plants have looked beyond the printed piece for new offerings.
Secure shredding has been a great new service for Printing Services at California State University, San Bernardino. Manager Laura Sicklesteel says her operation has earned $5,113 in just six months since firing up its MBM DestroyIt 5009 cross-cut shredder. The new service has proven very popular.
Scanning was the second most popular service in our informal poll. Colgate University Document and Mail Services went a step beyond ordinary document scanning when it added a 36˝ Kyocera 4800w wide-format scanner to its Hamilton, N.Y., in-plant and started scanning blueprints and maps. Academic departments, such as geology, were requesting this service, notes Director Bob Keats. Colgate's physical plant department had a scanner but couldn't quickly service the academic department.
"It made perfect sense to go out and do it," remarks Keats. "We've made a couple of the academic departments quite happy."
Though he acknowledges that the estimated 36-month payback period is not fast, he feels the bigger payback is in the value it brings: "It provides a great service," he says.
Yale University Printing & Publishing Services offers a different type of scanning by providing transactional scanning of vendor invoices. Mailed invoices are scanned on its OPEX scanners, then go through an OCR process to capture the required data, which is then verified by staff members. The New Haven, Conn., in-plant is also providing records management services for customers, which include the scanning of records.
"We work with them to identify the record types and determine the record retention time frame," says Director Jeff Gworek, who has a records and document management background. These records include student records, faculty records, medical records, minutes to committee meetings, case files, time sheets, contracts and more. If requested, the in-plant will scan records, convert them to searchable PDFs and return the images to the customer.
Mail List Cleansing
Working with data has provided opportunities for other in-plants as well. University of California-San Diego Imprints-Print and Document Services offers mail list cleansing services. It uses Melissa Data address verification software and charges by the number of records submitted.
The in-plant also provides document scanning services, digital photography and mobile printing, which allows people to print from their mobile devices. This is enabled through PrinterOn, a cloud-based printing service. It provides apps that let users find a nearby printer on campus and send their files to it.
"It doesn't bring a lot of business, but it does give us relevance to students and the people in the mobile world," remarks Larry Fox, director.
At Messiah College Press & Postal Services, in Grantham, Pa., warehousing and fulfillment has proven a popular new service. Campus departments needed somewhere to store supplies and records and the in-plant had the space.
"We have a secure, locked, climate-controlled environment," says Director Dwayne Magee.
But the in-plant does more than just store items for departments like admissions, development, the business office and others.
"We do deliveries to campus once each day so our clients have access to the things they need within 12 to 24 hours," says Magee. "They send an e-mail, and we schedule a delivery with our normal run to campus. We figured we were doing this anyway with printed materials, why not expand the service?"
What's more, the in-plant puts inventory records online and updates them each time a delivery is requested so clients can check their inventory from their offices.
"The whole process takes very little effort considering the reward we get as being an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the campus," explains Magee. "We hear things like 'Whatever would we do without you?' "
And that is exactly the question every in-plant wants to hear.
Here’s a quick list of services in-plants told us they have added in the past two years:
- Envelope printing
- Bill printing and insertion
- Wide-format printing
- Garment printing
- Dye sublimation
- Name badges
- Mobile printing
- Photo processing
- Toner recycling
- Student copy center
- Campus mail center
- Warehousing and fulfillment
- Graphic design
- Web development
- Digital photography
- Records management
- Mail list cleansing
- Confidential mailings
- Easel rental
- Promotional products