Preparing for 2013

Howie Fenton
Though the economy is slowly recovering, parent organizations continue to focus on reducing overhead. In-plants must remain vigilant for ways to decrease the cost of manufacturing, measure improvements and respond to customers' changing needs.

In-plant Recognition

Not only did Graph Expo give in-plants more opportunities to meet and talk, but in-plants had a much more visible presence at the show. There was a dedicated networking hub for them on the show floor, and The Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC) organized educational seminars focused on in-plant issues. There were at least six seminars designed for in-plants. I had the chance to participate in the IPMA lunch-and-learn event, which had about 125 people in attendance, and offered a presentation for GASC that drew about 80 people.

In-plant managers were much more visible at these presentations, and equipment manufacturers seemed to be focusing more attention on the in-plant market. Talking to these in-plant managers yielded more of an optimistic feeling, as well. The last three years seemed to be tougher as more in-plants have been closed, outsourced or evaluated, but in conversations at the show it seems as though things are getting better.

Many said that business for their parent organizations had been improving, resulting in more printing for them and making it easier to achieve their financial goals. Believe it or not, people were starting to talk about reinvesting in their business and hiring again. Many said they were visiting the show looking for ways to build their business, instead of just working in the business.

Operational Excellence

Does that mean you can sit back and relax while you wait for things to improve? No, we are still struggling through cyclical and structural changes that are reducing the demand for printed products. The cyclical changes are tied to the slowly healing economy, while structural changes come from technologies that are disruptive to the printing industry, such as the Internet/e-mail, smart phones and e-books, all growing in popularity and reach.

Howard “Howie” Fenton is an associate director of operations consulting with InfoTrends. He works with governments, universities and corporate enterprises to assess and benchmark their customer and graphic communications processes and provide recommendations on staffing, technology and sourcing. Prior to joining InfoTrends, he worked for 12 years at the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) and served for six years at the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF).

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  • DKarl

    Our district had an evaluation done by Mr. Fenton this past year, and it was extremely useful for us to have someone from the printing industry evaluate us -vs- a company that has no knowledge of the field.