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Not Dead Yet: In-plant Revived Months from Termination

December 1, 2011 By Bob Neubauer
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It was once one of the largest university in-plants. At its peak it boasted nearly 100 employees and a six-color press. But recent years had not been kind to the University of Illinois Printing Department, in Urbana-Champaign. The in-plant had run up a large operating deficit, something the university could not ignore.

So in the Spring of 2010, UI made the decision to shut the shop down. The in-plant’s largest equipment was auctioned off, its letterpresses were donated to UI’s School of Art and Design, positions were eliminated and operations began winding down in preparation for its closure next June.

But then a strange thing happened. Scott McCartney, business manager for the Illini Student Union, which is part of Auxiliaries, started asking Director Barbara Childers questions about the in-plant’s revenue, costs and production.

“We provided them with a lot of data about who we are and what we do,” she recounts.
McCartney then put together a proposal to take over what remained of the in-plant and incorporate it into his group’s business service centers.

Cautiously hopeful, Childers showed this proposal to the executive director of Facilities and Services (F&S), the in-plant’s administrative group. The knowledge that another group on campus saw value in the in-plant prompted the director to take a new look at the in-plant’s services. In the end, F&S decided to retain the in-plant after all.

“Based on an extensive fiscal and functional review, F&S has concluded that some areas of the F&S Printing Department should remain in operation and others should not,” stated an F&S fact sheet. “A key to the continuation of the operation is the financial progress that has been made towards reducing the deficit following reorganization.”

Rechristened Document Services, the in-plant will now be a streamlined 19-employee operation offering digital printing, copying, letterhead, posters/banners, stitching/binding and mail preparation. F&S will rent out part of the in-plant’s 15,000-square-foot space to help pay off some of its debt.

“We’re going to continue to occupy about 50 percent of that” facility, Childers says.

Childers takes no credit for her in-plant’s resurrection. “Really, it was having another department on campus find value in us,” she says. She does admit, though, that she may have aided a little by “having a really good grasp on our numbers and knowing what the campus still needed. Knowing the operation inside and out definitely helped.



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