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Changing With The Times

March 2000
A name change gave Tom Neckvatal the perfect opportunity to move his shop to an electronic workflow. He jumped at the chance and hasn't looked back.

PRINTING WAS not in Tom Neckvatal's plans when he was attending the University of Wisconsin back in 1966. But when he heard of an opening at the university print shop for a part-time press operator, the business administration and economics undergrad grabbed the position.

"I needed a job, and that was the only thing available," he explains.

Neckvatal was groomed on a Multilith 1250 press, and he hasn't left the in-plant environment since. Today, after working at four different in-plants, Neckvatal is graphic services director at Minnesota Life, in Saint Paul, Minn. Reaching that position required a lot of hard work, though.

Soon after college Neckvatal was drafted, and sent to Fort Bragg, N.C. There he served his military stint running a press in a Government Printing Office operation. By this time, printing had become a passion for Neckvatal. After being discharged, he headed back north looking to get into the management end of the business.

He first took a management position at the in-plant for Minnesota-based Lamar, Inc. He was later offered a job with the in-plant at what was then Minnesota Mutual. That's where he has spent the past 21 years.

Move To Color

Color work was not one of the in-plant's strong points when he arrived. Neckvatal remembers that up until 10 years ago, many of the shop's color jobs were being outsourced—to the tune of $700,000 annually. A five-color Heidelberg press was brought in, and it helped bring the color work in-house. It also changed the philosophy of the in-plant.

"Rather than just running the department as a print shop, we decided to make it a printing company," Neckvatal explains. "It's a business, not just a service." The shop now has a six-color Heidelberg to compliment the five-color press. It also has a sales force that brings in over $1 million worth of insourcing jobs each year.

Today, the in-plant focuses more on high-quality color marketing materials, direct mail pieces and digital services. Forms printing has gone down, as many forms are available electronically.

Technology Helps Shop Leap Hurdle

But it was last year, when Minnesota Mutual changed its name to Minnesota Life, that Neckvatal faced his biggest challenge. All of the company's printed material had to be changed to reflect the new name. He saw the name change as an opportunity to move completely to a digital workflow.
 

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