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In-plants Gather for Rochester Workshop

May 2010
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Forty-four in-plant managers from 24 universities got together in Rochester, N.Y., last month for a Xerox-sponsored Higher Education Thought Leadership Workshop. Xerox has been hosting these in-plant meetings for several years to give managers a glimpse of upcoming technologies and offer them educational sessions to strengthen their in-plants.

The recent two-day workshop, attended by IPG Editor Bob Neubauer, took place largely at the Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation. There, managers learned about Xerox's mobile print strategy, which allows mobile devices to send documents to convenient printers, where they remain in a queue until the user arrives and authenticates them. Another demo showed innovative scanning applications using technology from Nuance Communications. Documents were scanned and transformed into audio files, and forms were scanned to produce fillable PDFs. Attendees also got a look at Xerox's cartridge-free solid ink technology, demonstrated by the ColorQube 9203.

After a dinner in downtown Rochester, Peter Muir, president of Bizucate, moderated a discussion to find out what problems managers are dealing with. Managers noted that some customers are turning to social media and e-mail to replace certain types of printing. Others mentioned the difficulty of competing with outside printers that are expanding into the in-plant's niche services. Justifying the in-plant was another concern on managers' minds.

Attendees shared advice, like changing the conversation from cost to the value the in-plant provides, and coming up with a business plan showing where business is coming from and what new services the in-plant can offer to meet unserved needs.

The second day started with Howie Fenton, NAPL senior consultant, describing critical trends impacting in-plants. He suggested they monitor their break-even point more often than once a year—every month or two would be better—to keep their costs competitive with those of outside printers. In-plants also need a strategy for increasing their sales and cutting costs, he said.

Fenton suggested that in-plants adjust their customer satisfaction surveys and ask customers to rate them in comparison with the competition. After all, customers tend to leave because the competition provides a better service, he said.

IPG's Neubauer gave a presentation in which he unveiled the results from IPG's latest in-plant industry survey. He noted an increase in in-plants that charge back for services and compare their costs with outside providers. Digital services like wide-format ink-jet printing and variable data have increased over the past two years, he said, though this could stabilize, since fewer in-plants plan to add equipment and services in 2010. Almost 56 percent of in-plants now insource printing, he said, and 73 percent of university in-plants do. This is helping them to justify their operations, he said.

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