In-plant Confidence Levels on the Rise
Though in-plant confidence levels at higher-ed and school district in-plants may have declined slightly during the winter months, the spring brought with it a new optimism and a record high confidence score, according to new IPG data.
The third IPG In-plant Confidence Index found that overall confidence levels have soared since December's low point, rising from a confidence score of 122.9 in the winter to 137.15 — an 11.6% increase. These results came from the third in a series of reports launched by IPG and NAPCO Research to measure confidence levels in the in-plant industry. We are tracking how confident in-plant managers are that they will reach their sales goals, add new business and add new services in the months ahead. We have focused on higher-ed and school district in-plants.
We conducted the third of our monthly surveys in April, and plugged the responses into a proprietary scoring algorithm, which weights each factor based on market significance and outputs an overall confidence score that educational in-plants will meet their sales goals and add new services. Though we were unable to conduct this survey monthly as originally planned, the new score still offers an interesting look at trends in the confidence level of in-plants.
In our previous report, we revealed that higher-ed and school district in-plant managers expected their overall sales volume in January to be slightly higher than their sales during January 2016. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being significantly higher than last year, the average response was 5.73.
Among those who expected flat growth, some noted that they have seen little change in print demand at their institutions over the past year.
"We are in higher education and our printed materials stay fairly consistent from year to year,” said one.
Those expecting sales increases credited a variety of signs, including the fact that the in-plant is now offering more services than last year, an increase in jobs due to the efficiency of the shop's Web-to-print system, more university pressure on departments to use the in-plant, enrollment increases and a growing interest in wide-format printing.
"Monthly sales have been consistently over 6% higher than over the same period last year," said one manager. "We have new management in place and have started outreach to other university departments regarding the services we can offer them."
One in-plant cited an increase in demand for printing textbooks in-house. Another noted that competition for students has engendered a greater need for printed pieces:
"Declining enrollment increases the amount of printed marketing materials being produced," the manager said.
- "The addition of new equipment and revenue streams over this time last year have proven successful overall."
- "We are experiencing a 9.4% growth this year compared to last year. More student printing volume and double digit — sometimes three digit — growth in insourcing revenue."
- "We continue to venture into new services and bring in new equipment."
- "Our sales are approx. 15%-18% per month above last years sales. I expect this trend to continue."
Those expecting less business pointed to the trend of moving documents online, state budget deficits and more work being done on fleet devices.
"At the university, more offices are getting color printers because they're more affordable than in the past," said one manager. "Our standard format print volume is down yet, our wide-format is steady or growing a bit."
Confident About Adding New Customers
The survey also asked in-plants how confident they were in their ability to add customers and bring in new business this month. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being extremely confident, the average response was 6.4, a 16% jump in confidence from December's average of 5.51. An impressive 6.38% picked No. 10 on the scale to indicate they are brimming with confidence.
When asked how confident they were that their in-plant would add a new service or capability in the next three months, managers's confidence jumped 15% over December levels. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being extremely confident, the average was 5.53, compared with 4.8 in the winter. Interestingly, 19.2% of managers said they were “extremely confident” by ranking their confidence level at 9 or 10.
Another improvement over December's numbers came in actual sales volume over the past month compared with sales volume for the same month last year. With 5 meaning “about the same,” the average score was 6.19, compared with the 5.94 tracked in December's survey.
Some of the changes in-plants have made over the past year that they feel have positively impacted sales are pricing changes, added services, off-campus sales, more wide-format work, promotional product sales, new customers, and fundraising by the Advancement office. One in-plant pointed to a staff reorganization to focus on faster response times.
"March to February we experienced a 146% increase of revenue," noted one. "More student traffic and more community work are the main factors in revenue growth."
We will continue tracking in-plant confidence levels as 2017 progresses. If you are an in-plant manager at a college, university or school district and would like to participate on our in-plant confidence survey panel, please email us.
Related story: A Drop in In-plant Confidence Levels
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.