Ken Schanuel: From Reluctant to Proud
Ken Schanuel didn’t want to be a printer. After cleaning the floors and arranging the handset type drawers at his father’s hot type print shop in the early to mid-’70s, Schanuel decided he would not follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I was bound and determined that I wasn’t going to be a printer when I grew up,” he laughs.
And yet, nearly 40 years later, Schanuel is the director of Production Services for the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) in St. Louis, where he has been a full-time employee since 1988.
After high school in Belleville, Ill., where Schanuel was born and raised, he decided to go to tech school to become an auto mechanic. Unable to get a job right away, he ended up taking a full-time printing job with Marsh Co. in 1978. He worked there for about 10 years — save for eight months spent at another print shop before being asked to come back to Marsh Co.
In August of 1988, he took a job with CHA.
Up Through the Ranks
For someone who did not want to be a printer, Schanuel steadily moved up through the ranks at CHA, where he began as an offset press operator. Some years later, he became the backup for the director of operations for Production Services and eventually was promoted to supervisor when she retired. Ultimately, he took on the role of director of Production Services and the rest is history.
Not only have Schanuel’s responsibilities changed since he started at the in-plant in 1988, but the operation looks quite different today than it did back then. At the time, there were a dozen full-time employees doing mostly mailing, with a slew of offset presses and a bindery department where a lot of the work was done by hand.
Now, Production Services, manned by three full-time employees in addition to Schanuel, boasts a two-color Ryobi 522HX offset press, predominantly for four-color process work, a Xerox Color 1000 digital press and a full-service bindery.
The biggest challenge since becoming manager has been adapting to the changes taking place in the industry, Schanuel explains. Going from being an offset shop to bringing on digital has been a challenging transition, especially for the team, Schanuel says. But, the fact that his team has adapted so well is something that he is proud of.
“For a staff that are baby boomers, we get the rap that we don’t want to change, but they’ve been able to change over the years,” he says. “It’s been a big accomplishment.”
Part of that transition included making sure that the staff was cross-trained on all of the equipment. This proved important after an employee who was in charge of shipping, fulfillment, inventory and some bindery work left the organization. Because other employees were cross-trained, Schanuel says, the transition to one less employee was seamless.
As is the case with any print shop, marketing your capabilities is essential. But when an in-plant is part of an organization with a variety of departments, it’s beneficial to let the departments know how the in-plant can support their needs. That’s why, about four to five years ago, Production Services started hosting a series of open houses — about eight in total. Each open house was personalized specifically for a different department, such as Finance and Communications, to highlight the capabilities that may be of use to them at some point.
Now, Schanuel says that Production Services celebrates “In-plant Awareness Month” each February, a program created by the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. The shop holds an open house and invites everyone at CHA. He uses the opportunity to educate visitors on the in-plant’s services, particularly its digital services.
“We’ve been able to take things that we used to print and create interactive PDFs. For example, we can make the table of contents interactive,” Schanuel says. “You have to be able to adapt to a digital world.”
Moving Into Variable Data
Schanuel says that Production Services is also just starting to get into variable data printing and will begin marketing those capabilities. Once VDP is implemented, he says he will look into cross-media communications, partnering with the Communications and Web teams.
If Schanuel hadn’t gone into printing, he thinks he would have gone into construction, something that he loves.
“I have limited education in it, but I know just enough to be dangerous,” he says.
He has worked with Habitat for Humanity, has rehabbed houses in his spare time and is currently building a cabin in Sullivan, Mo., which he hopes will be a vacation spot to spend time with his children, none of whom will be following in the printing legacy, he says. When he retires, he plans on continuing this line of work and becoming a home inspector or handyman.
In his spare time, Schanuel likes to hunt, fish and ride his Harley-Davidson Street Bob with his wife, who has a Harley-Davidson Sportster. His perfect date night: Going to a Mexican restaurant and then closing out the night with a trip to Bass Pro Shop or Rural King, an Illinois-based farm supply store.
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