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In-plant vs. In-plant

April 2006
WHENEVER WE at IPG hear about a new in-plant opening its doors, we try to publicize this fact. It shows that yet another company, school or organization has realized the benefits of in-house printing.

But what if that organization already has an in-plant? Is opening another one really such a bright idea? After all, the new shop will be competing with the existing one for the organization’s work.

This is a tricky issue. IPG does not want to play favorites, supporting only one of an organization’s in-plants. We want to help all in-plants succeed.

Yet in some cases, when a new copy shop is formed simply because a department had enough in its budget to buy a couple of high-speed printers, it seems clear that the new in-plant was not necessary. The existing in-plant could have handled that department’s work on its own equipment.

Government agencies have seen this happen a lot. In Ohio, for example, more than 20 different copy centers were once scattered among the state’s agencies. Several consultant studies over the years concluded that the agency-run copy centers were not very efficient, and many have closed due to the high cost of operation. About five remain, though.

“If we had all that volume, it would drive the price down for everyone,” notes Joe Tucker, administrator of the Office of State Printing. For example, when the Department of Transportation wanted to buy two production color machines to produce a large print project, Tucker—who has authority over such purchases—refused to let them, arguing that his department could handle this work. This created a lot of tension, but in the end the DOT sent that color work to Tucker’s main plant. This new volume brought the overall cost per page for all customers down from 35 cents to 10 cents, Tucker says.

Some large companies with several in-plants would argue that they need more than one print shop. Corporate giants like Lockheed Martin and Merck retain multiple in-plants to serve their staffs in different locations, and this model seems to work well for them.

But when a department at a one-campus university or company opens its own copy shop, unaffiliated with the existing in-plant (perhaps because a vendor steered the department toward a production machine), this new in-plant is only competing with the existing one, and driving up costs.

While it’s true that any well-run in-plant can save its parent organization money, in most multiple in-plant situations, it’s likely that even more money could be saved if the different in-plants combined forces.


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