From the Editor: Not Too Late to Change

WHILE ATTENDING the Digital Printing in Government & Higher Education Forum in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, I listened to Leslie Rutledge, manager of ReproGraphic Services at San Diego State University, describe how she saved her in-plant. When she arrived a few years ago, she was confronted with outdated offset equipment and declining business. So she polled customers to find out what they wanted, invested in digital printing equipment, improved customer service and brought almost all university printing back in-house.

Just days later I learned that a large western university was closing its in-plant due, in part, to a decline in offset volume, which resulted in two consecutive years of big-time revenue losses. A university memo expressed the belief that only by investing $1 million in a four-color press could the in-plant compete.

I just shook my head as I compared the two situations. This in-plant should have made drastic changes a year ago when it first noticed it was deep in the red. Like San Diego State, it should have sought new applications to replace declining ones like offset, invested in digital equipment and cut staff. It should have reexamined its rates and then raised them. Even a small increase would have added up.

But my object here is not to criticize this in-plant, rather to point out what others in this boat may soon face. The same arguments will be used against you.

For example, the university’s memo implied that departments are now using e-mail and the Web for marketing purposes and moving away from printing. Yet e-messages don’t generate nearly as much response as they do when they are combined with printed messages. If this university’s departments are e-mailing instead of sending work to the in-plant, it’s because they need a different kind of printing—digital color printing—so they can do shorter runs and add personalization.

Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.

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