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Tomorrow's In-plant: A Practical Strategy

Creating a business plan can seem daunting but it's a necessary step in determining which business your in-plant will be in tomorrow.

December 2013 By Bob Keats
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Some years ago, a friend asked me the question, "Are you in the right business?" I thought he wanted to know how dedicated I was to the printing industry, but I came to realize what he really meant was, am I looking toward the future? He was asking if the business I was in today would be the business I should be in tomorrow.

I began asking myself, "Is our department in the right business? Even though we are giving our customers the products they need today, are we paying attention to what they will need tomorrow? If not, what do we need to do to help them?"

Colgate University Document and Mail Services has transformed greatly from what it was 20 years ago. Back then, we had three offset presses running five or six days a week. We set phototype, shot negatives and made metal plates.

Today, digital printing rules in our shop, with more than 50 percent of our work in full color, printed on our Xerox Color 1000 and our Xerox 700. We still have one small offset press, which we use occasionally. We produce a number of small, targeted mailings requiring the highest level of quality, very fast turnaround and the utmost attention to detail. Large-format posters and prints are staples in our shop today. These projects were not in our arsenal five years ago, but customers told us they were products they needed.

How did we determine yesterday what business to be in today, and how do we determine which business to be in tomorrow? Can we continue to demonstrate strategic relevance to the parent organization?

Constructing a Business Plan

Since each in-plant is different from all the rest, is there a way to think about this that can be used by large, medium and small shops alike? I believe the answer is "yes." When Colgate Document and Mail Services decided to move into digital printing we spent almost two years putting together the facets that would ultimately lead to our business plan. The process of doing this work became the model we continue to use to look to the future.

The idea of putting together a business plan can be a daunting one but, in reality, the work involved is not difficult although it does require effort. The good thing is that not all business plans need to be as intricate as the one we developed in anticipa­tion of becoming a full-color, digital shop. In fact, most plans do not require anything that in-plant managers and staff are not already doing.

 

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