Changing the In-plant Perspective

Greg Cholmondeley
In-plants that view themselves as being in their parent organization’s business will develop strategies to help the organization thrive and meet its goals.

In-plant production facilities face a host of challenges to survive: there is the threat of facilities management or outright closure; senior management may perceive the in-plant as not being strategically relevant; and then there are the nearly impossible profitability targets that trap in-plants between the rock of being profitable and the hard place of not overcharging internal clients.

All too often, the result is a no-win management review situation. There are ways to avoid all of these challenges—but implementing them requires fresh thinking and some alternative in-plant management approaches.

Well-run in-plants save companies, schools and agencies money while producing critical materials. Yet even some of the best have given way to facilities management or outright closure. Interestingly enough, reviews of recent in-plant closings show that some were closed because they were bleeding money, others closed even though they had significant money in reserves, and others closed with little regard to future costs or inconvenience to their internal clients.

In all cases, it is apparent that the value and contributions to their parent organizations brought by these in-plant production operations were just not understood or appreciated by their management. Perceptions like these have to change for any in-plant to be successful and to grow.

Changing the landscape

There are two value perceptions that are critical for in-plants to address with their management in order to be successful:

• True financial value.
• True strategic value.

Affecting your management’s perception of both of these values starts with changing your own perception of your in-plant and your business strategy.

For years, industry pundits have encouraged in-plant managers to consider themselves printers. In-plants that view themselves as printers will develop print-centric strategies to justify their existence. They will strive to make their expenses and revenues balance to zero—which is a very difficult balancing act. They will view insourcing as a strategic value rather than as a funding aid. They will be setting their priorities on print production rather than on the priorities of their parent organization.

Related story: A Look at Printing in 2010

Greg Cholmondeley is Director of the PODi and Caslon workflow practice. He researches, analyzes and documents best practices and innovative solutions for efficiently getting work through digital printing and marketing services operations. The PODi workflow practice is one way this global, member-supported not-for-profit organization achieves its goals of driving demand for applications powered by digital print and for helping members build successful digital print businesses. Visit for more information about the association and to register for our annual conference in Las Vegas.

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