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A New In-plant Challenge Emerges

Scrutiny of in-plants is on the rise. Smart managers are preparing before they are challenged. Here's how to collect the data you'll need to win this battle.

December 2013 By Howie Fenton
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Last year after Graph Expo I wrote an article for this magazine in which I noted that "the state of the in-plant printing market is healthier than it has been in the last few years—not because of any projected growth in in-plants, but because in-plant managers are reporting that they are under slightly less scrutiny."

In the last year, however, I've seen a disturbing trend in which in-plants that were performing well and did not appear to be under scrutiny were suddenly surprised to hear that they were closing. They were achieving their goals; some reported huge savings, and others talked about how happy their customers were.

There was a university in-plant in the Northeast that was saving its organization over $200,000 a year, a transactional printer in the Midwest that had recently consolidated printing facilities, saving the parent organization several million dollars a year, and a school district printing office in the South that had flourished by excelling at insourcing. All were now being significantly downsized.

But perhaps the worst part of this story is that many of these in-plants never saw it coming. They were shocked and surprised when they were called into their bosses' offices and told to prepare RFPs for outsourcing. In other words, they were blindsided.

Sinister Misdirection

I don't know about you, but in my opinion that is sinister. Their bosses never told them they were dissatisfied and were considering closing the in-plants. In some cases, they were even praised for their accomplishments. It's almost like the misdirection part of a magic trick when you look the wrong way only to be surprised at the end. In this case, the managers were lured into a false sense of security and distracted from preparing a case proving their value. They looked the wrong way until the day when they were told to prepare for outsourcing.

The irony is that no one thinks this can happen to them. They assume that these other in-plants were clearly doing something wrong and if they had any problems they would have heard about them. It's surprising to find that talking about these case histories in presentations is not motivating because most of the in-plant managers don't believe it is a problem that will affect them. Several times this year, managers have walked up to me and said, "That was interesting, but I don't think that's going to happen in our organization. We've been around for long time and have a really good reputation." I've tried to explain that this is exactly the same situation that occurred with these other in-plants, which resulted in them being blindsided.

About the Author
NAPL Senior Consultant Howard Fenton works with in-plants to measure and benchmark operational and financial metrics to industry leaders, and coach them on how to become industry leaders. To learn more about benchmarking your performance against industry leaders, listening to the voice of your customers or increasing productivity, contact him at (201) 523-6328 or via email at hfenton@napl.org.
 

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