Teamwork, Technology Revive In-plant

The Fox Valley Technical College Printing Services team (from left): John Hang, Roxanne Fasel, Shana Farrell, Jeré Ganzer, Juan Valdez, Brian Van Erem and Jessi Van Dyn Hoven.

Shana Farrell

Juan Valdez prints a poster on the 54˝ Roland VP-540 printer. Wide-format printing is a growing business for the in-plant.

Having the latest technology in your in-plant isn’t the only thing that matters. Getting employees to buy into your vision is critical. At Fox Valley Technical College, these elements have produced an impressive in-plant turnaround.

Shana Farrell knows that recognizing your staff for their efforts is one of the best ways to boost morale and performance. So she tries to let them know how valuable their contributions are as often as she can.

“You do make a difference,” she tells them, “and you need to know you make a difference.”

A year and a half ago, Farrell, Printing Services and Distance Learning Manager at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis., organized a recognition event for her staff of six. She invited not only her boss but the college president. There, each employee received individual recognition for his or her hard work and dedication. Afterward, Farrell says, she noticed everyone was working harder and enjoying their jobs more.

This is just one of the steps Farrell has taken to improve employee morale and communication since she joined the department in 2006. Getting employees to buy into her vision for the in-plant has been just as important to the shop’s success as the technology upgrades she has implemented—possibly more so.

That’s a bold statement, considering the in-plant works for the state’s largest technical college, serving nearly 53,000 people. The in-plant is no slacker in the technology department, though:

It uses Rochester Software Associates’ WebCRD Web-to-print job submission and automated production management software;

It boasts a Kodak NexPress SE2500 with Kodak Dimensional Printing and a NexGlosser near-line glossing unit;

It uses a 54˝ Roland wide-format inkjet printer to address a growing demand for signage;

And it relies on two Kodak Digimasters, a Ricoh Pro C900 color printer and two Ricoh 907s in its Digital Print Center.

Focusing on the Staff

Still, despite all this firepower, Farrell has found that improving morale has been a crucial ingredient in Printing Services’ turnaround. Before she arrived, there were certainly no self-esteem-building endeavors at the in-plant. It was a union shop, everyone had their territories and there was almost no sense of teamwork. Employee morale was low, training was nonexistent and the in-plant’s reputation was poor. The shop hadn’t updated its products or services in years.

Farrell had her work cut out for her. Undaunted, she set out to make improvements. With good communication to union representatives, she created a training plan that eliminated “territories” and created opportunities.

“We actually put together a matrix of who knew what, and who aspired to learn to do different things, so that everybody could back each other up,” she says. This improved cooperation and gave staff more opportunities, which boosted morale. It also increased efficiency and eventually reduced what had been a two-week lead time to 48 hours for most jobs.

Soon the in-plant started adding new services, like wide-format printing and, most recently, digital envelop printing. Staff buy-in was achieved by getting them involved and developing a shared vision. She addressed poor behavior and morale with a written list of guidelines/expectations.

To repair the in-plant’s reputation, Farrell focused on customer service, conducted tours and kept college staff informed about changes. The college took note of these improvements. Gradually, business began to increase.

Award-winning Printing

To retain that business, the in-plant has made a strong effort to keep its technology up to date. The results speak for themselves. The shop recently won a Silver award in the In-Print 2012 contest for a high-profile job produced on its Kodak NexPress SE2500. It was the college president’s holiday card.

“She wanted something very different, very classy,” says Farrell of the college president’s wishes.

So the in-plant used Kodak Dimensional Printing on the card, which creates a clear “raised” layer on top of a page. The In-Print award presents a great publicity opportunity for the shop’s Dimensional capabilities, and Farrell intends to use it to bring in more of this type of work.

The in-plant is also having great success with its wide-format printing. The perforated window signs it printed for marketing on its Roland VP-540 were a big hit and generated a lot of interest from other departments. Requests for wall graphics and outside banners are also on the rise, Farrell says, and vehicle graphics are stirring interest, as well.

Addressing Weaknesses

The in-plant’s path to improvement really kicked into gear in 2009, when a customer survey revealed some of the shop’s weaknesses.

“They were frustrated by the turnaround times. They didn’t like manually filling out work orders. And they really didn’t know what our department was capable of doing beyond monochrome copying,” recalls Farrell.

At the time, each job needed numerous manual touches. In fact, most jobs had to be touched at least four times. Printing Services would receive an e-mail with a file attached from an instructor or staff member who wanted materials printed. The administrator would have to read it, make sure the attached file matched the work requested, and then enter the job into the software. The administrator also had to make educated “guesses” about what the customer expected to see in the finished piece.

The in-plant purchased WebCRD in July of 2010 and implemented it two months later. Using WebCRD, makeready is virtually unnecessary and all jobs are ticketed automatically. More than 90 percent of monochrome print jobs are now completed with just two touches.

“We still have to set up some jobs manually, such as manuals with tabs, and non-digital orders,” explains Jessica Van Dyn Hoven, Printing Services Online administrator. “But now that only represents less than 15 percent of our work. This has removed a huge bottleneck on the front end.”

Customers love the real-time estimate and SurePreview, she says, because they can be sure how their job will look before submission and know their cost ahead of time. This eliminates rework and improves satisfaction.

Real-time Job Tracking

WebCRD has also allowed Printing Services to track all jobs in real time. The in-plant previously used spreadsheets that were out of date as soon as a job was handed from one person to the next.

“Real-time tracking helps us all be on the same page,” says Van Dyn Hoven. “For example, if the bindery area is getting busy we can see that ahead of time and work more as a team to keep everything running smoothly for our customers.”

“There were many critical success factors in bringing WebCRD to the College,” says Van Dyn Hoven. “We knew that one of them would be marketing our new Web-to-print system to the entire college so we could truly achieve our goals.”

To get the word out, Printing Services developed a branded name, logo and look for its communications materials. Then it advertised the new system in multiple channels.

“We tried a little bit of everything to get our customers excited about this new system,” explains Van Dyn Hoven. “We started out by sending e-mails. Then during the holidays we handed out bookmarks. In February we sent out Valentine’s cards with our messaging. We created video tutorials. We even placed advertisements in the college-wide in-service packets.”

All the materials called out WebCRD’s ease of ordering and available training dates. “Our piece-de-resistance was a video spoof on the hit TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” adds Van Dyn Hoven. “The video helped us show our customers the impact WebCRD could have not only in our department, but for Fox Valley Technical College as a whole.”

As more people catch on to how easy it is, Printing Services expects to attract jobs that might be sent to outside vendors, or are being done manually on MFDs and other office printers. Farrell hopes to attract more work from adjunct instructors who can order online so Printing Services can have their materials available for them when they arrive on campus.

Using WebCRD’s Dynamics variable data capabilities, the shop plans to produce precisely targeted and personalized materials such as business cards and variable post cards and letters.

“Our goal for the future is to support FVTC by working with customers with a consultative approach, to determine the best way to produce a job at the best possible price,” concludes Farrell. “It’s also important to help the customer understand choices and alternatives to meet their core business needs. For instance, customers may also want their piece mailed with a custom printed return envelope and other customized inserts as well. We need to shift our thinking from fulfilling orders to better understand and help customers meet their business needs.” IPG

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