A Great Move in Missouri
After 30 years in its plant, the Missouri State Printing Center moved into a new facility along with the state’s mailing operation. Today, things are better than ever.February 2012 By Bob Neubauer
FOR THREE decades, Missouri's state printing operation was run out of a bustling 18,000-square-foot facility on the west side of Jefferson City, the state capital. Named the Gary L. Judd State Printing Center, after the man who consolidated the state's scattered print shops in 1980 to create the centralized operation, the facility was perfect for handling all the state's sheetfed, web and digital printing needs.
But in 2008, something happened that would change all that. The state merged print and mail, placing both operations under the control of State Printer Rodney Vessell. Though the fit was good, the logistics were not. Mail was consolidated into a facility on the east end of town; printing was on the west. Over the next two years, Vessel found himself pining for a single plant that could house both.
A little over a year ago, he got his wish. Both operations were relocated into a leased 250,000-square-foot building about seven miles from the State Capitol.
"We've got about 50,000 square feet of that building," remarks Vessell. "Because so much of what we print gets mailed anyway, it's really nice to have us all here together."
Now, instead of driving printed pieces across town to be mailed, they are simply moved across the plant floor. And with about 23 million mail pieces being processed each year, that's a lot of saved driving time.
One of the Largest
With annual sales of $14.8 million and a staff of 64, Missouri State Printing is one of the country's largest in-plants. It ranked ninth in sales in IPG's December listing of the largest in-plants. The operation prints between 185 and 210 million impressions a year, which translates to about 16,000 jobs annually.
State Printing boasts two Didde-Glaser web presses, a pair of two-color Ryobi 3302 presses, and a four-color Ryobi DI press, which the in-plant has used to satisfy the large demand for short-run, four-color work in the state. The in-plant also uses an array of Xerox DocuTechs, both in its main plant and in three quick print centers located in state buildings. Digital color is produced with an Ikon CPP 550, which Vessell says will be upgraded very soon.
Though the in-plant provides variable data printing for such jobs as benefit statements, pre-filled forms, admission tickets and certificates, Vessel says its "bread and butter" is the two-color web work, such as voter registration cards, surveys, forms and brochures. The in-plant has the right of first refusal, but for long-run offset work, it has a reciprocal contract with the University of Missouri's in-plant in Columbia, which has a six-color Heidelberg press.
For a busy in-plant like this to pick up and move is an extraordinary thing, but even more amazing is that in-plant employees did all the moving themselves.
"That was probably the biggest undertaking that I've had to do since I've been working for the state of Missouri," Vessell says. "It took us a couple months."
He is quick to praise his employees for their hard work during this time period.
"I was lucky enough to have some awful good employees...who were willing to work all the weekends and the nights to get us moved," he lauds.
The seed for this relocation was planted three years ago when the state, looking for ways to downsize in a bad economy, decided to consolidate print and mail. Vessell was chosen to oversee the combined operation. At the time, agencies handled their own mail in scattered mail centers—much the way printing was handled prior to 1980. The mail shops were consolidated into a facility on the east end of the city.
After two years of driving back and forth between the two plants, Vessell was excited when the state finally found a facility large enough to house both operations. But then came the tricky part: moving the equipment.
Vessell says when he looked into hiring a contractor to handle the move, he was overwhelmed by all the liability issues involved and the idea of having the contractor control the schedule while he was trying to keep the operation running.
He talked with his staff about handling the move themselves, and they liked the idea. This way, he says, they could coordinate work schedules around the move.
Challenges During the Move
"The main thing was just getting enough trucks," he notes. Vehicles were borrowed from various agencies, and the disassembling began. Some machines, like the four-color Ryobi DI and the shop's five Bell + Howell Mailstar inserters, were broken down and reassembled by the vendors. The Ryobi took about four days to relocate, he says.
Some of the more difficult machines to move were the paper cutters, which were so heavy the shop's forklift couldn't pick them up. They had to rent a forklift to do the job.
The 96-bin Bell + Howell sorter was also a challenge.
"That was quite an undertaking to move because we had to break it all down into pieces," Vessell recalls.
Overall, he observes, the move "worked out really well for us. The only issue we had was on our Omni Adast press. We had a little electrical problem."
Bought in 1992, the two-color perfector kept shutting down in the new plant. Electricians eventually realized it was getting too much power, which they quickly rectified. Otherwise, Vessell reports, there have been no problems, and everything has been running smoothly for the past year.
"We saved the state a ton of money by moving ourselves," he notes. That fact has made a big impression on state officials, contributing to the great respect the in-plant has earned over the years. A lot of that respect has resulted from the in-plant's strong customer service philosophy, which Vessell credits former State Printer Gary Judd, for initiating.
"Whatever they need, we're going to get it done," he insists.
This, he contends, is one reason that, unlike in some other states, calls for privitization have not been very loud in Missouri. Officials like the governor and secretary of state appreciate the immediate service they get from the in-plant when they need something quickly. (When IPG spoke with Vessell, the in-plant was gearing up to print the governor's executive budget and State of the State speech.)
"We are able to stop whatever we are doing...and get it done," Vessell remarks. "If we weren't here, you would never be able to get that kind of service."
Nor would you get the in-plant's low prices, he adds. He does frequent cost comparisons with local printers.
"We're always 10-25 percent cheaper," he says.
Booming Four-color Business
After more than a year in the new facility, Vessell reports that the in-plant is doing well and staying busy.
"There's still a lot of print," he remarks. Though some traditional jobs like newsletters have moved online, this lost work has been replaced by four-color printing.
"The Ryobi four-color machine has been a great asset for us," he notes, adding that it is busy about 14 hours a day. "There's just a tremendous amount of short-run four-color work that the state of Missouri agencies run, and that was an area we weren't in four or five years ago, and we are now."
To handle color jobs of fewer than 500 pieces, the in-plant relies on its 55-page-per-minute (ppm) Ikon CPP 550. But the in-plant plans to replace that with a 70-ppm device very soon. Also in the plans is a new collator to replace its older C.P. Bourg 46-bin collator.
"I need to put another collator in here that will feed coated paper," he says.
Also, the in-plant's five Bell + Howell Mailstar inserters are 20 years old.
"I would say within the next year, year and a half, we are going to be probably replacing these with some new technology," he says.
The in-plant charges back and has an equipment replacement fund, but still needs to cost justify all new equipment—a process that's gotten more complicated in recent years, with all the state budget cuts. But Vessell is confident the in-plant will get what it needs to continue its high level of service to the state.
"We are doing fine and still providing great service to the state of Missouri," he says.