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Washington State University: Doing It All, Only Better

Its Web strategy, talented staff and dedicated customer care have made Washington State University's in-plant one of the country's most successful.

November 2003 By Mike Llewellyn
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SET ON a land grant on the Idaho border, Washington State University welcomes 20,000 students to its Pullman campus each year, despite being a little...well, off the beaten path.

"It's rural wheat country and really big football players," laughs Steven Rigby, director of printing at the school's Office of University Publications and Printing. Several hundred miles east of rainy Seattle, Pullman is usually pretty dry, he says. But it has been pouring on and off for days when Rigby and Director of University Publishing Mary Read take a moment to discuss the strategies that have made their award-winning in-plant such a resounding success.

University Publications and Printing left the International Publishing Management Association (IPMA) conference this year with a total of six In-Print awards, making it one of the top winners.

"Quality is always our goal, but staffing is the key," says Read, explaining why she thinks the in-plant never leaves the In-Print Awards empty-handed. "We're well-staffed with people who have been in the business a very long time."

The staff, and the community it is drawn from, is the backbone of this university in-plant. Most of the press operators on the WSU payroll have been with the in-plant for more than 15 years, and the majority of employees plan to retire from the shop. But with 52 full-timers aided by 35 student employees, it might seem difficult to drum up expert help in a remote college town.

Not so, says Rigby.

"Because there's not a lot of industry here in Pullman, the talent in this area tends to gravitate to the college, so we attract the most talented people," he says.

Read points to what she calls a "community of talent" that surrounds the WSU campus.

"Often we'll have a faculty position whose family member or spouse has experience," she says.

Once inside the shop, the staff has the opportunity to work with some of the best equipment in the printing industry.

"We are a Heidelberg shop," says Rigby, noting the in-plant's three Heidelberg presses, accompanied by a Hamada envelope press. The in-plant also has at its disposal a bank of Macs in its design area, a Delta front end, a Heidelberg imagesetter, and a Fuji film processor. Plus, its bindery includes a pair of Stahl folders, a Muller Martini saddle stitcher and a Horizon perfect binder.

The in-plant's purchasing budget has dipped with the economy, and for the moment, Rigby says, the shop is focusing on equipment maintenance over new acquisitions.


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