Three Critical In-plant Trends for 2010
To stay in business, in-plants need to measure their financial performance, improve their productivity and respond to customers’ changing needs.December 2009 By Howie Fenton
I JUST returned from the Texas Association of College and University Printers (TACUP) conference and was pleasantly surprised at the turnout. After another in-plant show cancelled this year (ACUP), it was a nice surprise to see a roomful of in-plant managers.
According to Richard Beto who organized the meeting at the University of Texas at Austin, the cancellation of other shows helped attract managers from neighboring states to TACUP.
My presentation entitled "What Makes a World Class In-plant Printer" was delayed because we could not find the handouts. It took about 20 minutes for them to arrive, but it allowed time for everyone to talk about the issues on their minds.
Based on what I heard there, as well as during on-site audits over the last few years, I would conclude that there are three critical trends for in-plants to pay attention to: Sales/Marketing, Finance and Operations.
Marketing and Sales
Today's marketing and sales focus includes listening to your customers' changing needs and responding before someone else can create a competitive advantage. There are two components to listening and being responsive to your customers. First you have to understand how well you are meeting your customers' existing needs, and second you need to learn how your customers' needs are changing. In other words, you have to understand how you are doing today and what you will need to change in the future.
No one wants to admit it but the sad fact is that the need for print is declining and therefore the competition for print is increasing. As a result, the bar for service is being raised by all service providers to your customers.
Years ago an in-plant had an advantage just because employees wanted to keep the money in the "same pot." That advantage is declining as outside companies offer faster, cheaper or more convenient service, which often trumps the "same pot" advantage. As a result, it's not enough to simply survey customers about their satisfaction; instead you have to now compare your products and services to those of outside printers. We use a tool called the NAPL eKG competitiveness survey to accomplish that. It does not simply ask "How are we doing?" but instead "How do we compare?"
In another survey we call Market Pulse, we look ahead (as opposed to eKG, which looks at the present situation). Our goal is to learn about customers' changing needs (e.g. from direct mail to e-mail; from hand delivery of jobs and proofs to electronic delivery; from buying print alone to buying print, fulfillment and mailing together; from print marketing alone to cross media marketing, etc.). We also ask about service awareness (do you know we offer?) and likelihood of purchasing new products and services.