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In-plants Popular at Graph Expo

Graph Expo catered to in-plants this year, with sessions and networking opportunities galore.

November 2012 By Bob Neubauer
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It was hard for in-plant managers not to feel special at Graph Expo this year. After years of being included seemingly as an afterthought, in-plants were given the spotlight this time around, with numerous sessions focusing specifically on in-plant issues and a new networking hub called "The InPlant Place" where they could gather and mingle. Some vendors set aside special areas devoted to solutions for in-plants, and one (Rochester Software Associates) offered daily in-plant networking receptions.

IPG attended most of the in-plant sessions and events and spoke with dozens of managers during the four-day event. One of the most informative sessions was a panel discussion, coordinated by RSA, entitled "Empowered In-plants: Tell-All Success Stories from the Field." Four in-plant managers described their operations, the challenges they have faced, the secrets to their success and ways they are demonstrating strategic value so that closing the in-plant is not an option. They also revealed ideas they tried that didn't go as planned.

Jimmy Friend, director of Printing and Distribution Solutions at the University of North Texas, talked about how he managed to change the attitudes of his staff years ago and focus them more on quality and customer service. This turned the in-plant around, enabling it to become the award-winning success story it is today. Friend noted that adding an HP Indigo digital press allowed the in-plant to offer variable data and print on demand, enabling it to provide recruitment materials for UNT. This has ingrained the in-plant into the fabric of the university.

Debbie Gallagher, senior operations analyst, with the Department of Administrative Services Publishing & Distribution Department for the State of Oregon, credited her operation's success to its partnerships with agencies and vendors. She noted that combining digital printing with mailing using automation has enabled her operation to provide "print to post" service for the state, a valuable service.

Gene Voelker, manager of Supply Chain Business Services at Parkview Health, said he expects his in-plant to grow 25 to 30 percent this year. Bringing staff into the decision-making process and listening to their ideas, he contended, has kept his in-plant strong. He stressed the importance of reporting, noting that he creates more than 30 reports a month, tracking new customers, service calls, types of jobs and more. His in-plant, he said, was once voted number one in customer service in the company.

Phil Larson, former director of AFPress and grafaccent at American Fidelity, and now president of Shepherd Consulting OK, stressed the importance of marketing to the "C Suite" and to the influencers in the organization. He agreed that customer service is crucial for an in-plant, adding that he once turned down an opportunity to mandate that company printing business go to the in-plant, because he felt that if the shop couldn't win the work through customer service, it didn't deserve it.

One interesting question fielded by the panel was "What have you tried that did not work?" Three of the four cited their initial foray into an MIS system. In each case it turned into a nightmare of extra staffing, wasted money and long waits for the system to work, which it never did. They each eventually admitted defeat, learned from their mistakes and moved ahead with a different system.

Web-to-print and QR codes

Directly following this, the In-Plant Printing & Mailing Association (IPMA) held a very popular lunch- and-learn session, moderated by InfoTrends' Barb Pellow, covering Web-to-print, QR codes and more. About 125 people, most of them in-plant managers, packed the room. Most of the session's sponsors let their in-plant customers take the stage to explain how technology has improved their operations:

  • Rochester Software Associates let customer Andrea Eshoo, assistant director at Diversified, tell how her operations used RSA's WebCRD Web-to-print solution to create a catalog of customizable marketing campaigns and educational materials.
  • Xerox invited John Meyer, manager of Rochester Institute of Technology's print and mail center, and NAPL Senior Consultant Howie Fenton, to chime in on the value of QR codes in marketing materials.
  • Kodak allowed Shana Farrell, of Fox Valley Technical College, to explain how her in-plant used Kodak's Dimensional Print to create an unforgettable holiday card for the college's president on the shop's NexPress. ("What in-plant doesn't want to be 'in' with their own president?" she remarked.) Then Debbie Pavletich, manager of Briggs & Stratton's in-plant, elaborated on how impressed customers are with the promotional pieces printed with her shop's NexPress.

Though these were the most well attended in-plant sessions, several others offered equally useful information.

In a session focused on in-plant rebranding, Steven Schnoll, managing director of Schnoll Media Consulting, stressed that as media technologies advance, in-plants need to become the source for all the organization's media needs. This means changing their name and reengineering their services to provide a varied portfolio of multi-media services.

Growth strategies for in-plants was the theme of another session given by NAPL's Howie Fenton. He encouraged in-plants to monitor their break even points at least quarterly, and monthly in bad times. Create procedures to track costs and revenue, he said. Find the 20 percent of your customers who provide 80 percent of your work and focus on them. Also, he said, look for new opportunities; don't be complacent with the type of work you've always done. And look constantly for ways to cut costs, like replacing retiring staff with temps and negotiating leases with options to downsize.


 
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