Process Rehabilitation at HealthSouth
Upgrading its digital printing equipment, adding Web-to-print and strengthening its wide-format offerings have put HealthSouth Print Solutions on the road to recovery.January 2014 By Erik Cagle
Not long ago, the CEO, COO and CFO of HealthSouth—one of the nation's leading providers of physical rehabilitation—visited the organization's Print Solutions facility, located 15 miles from its Birmingham, Ala., headquarters. The occasion was to celebrate the shop's acquisition of an HP Indigo 7600 digital press and an EFI Rastek wide-format printer.
There was ample reason for jubilation. The in-plant had reaped 20 percent-plus growth in each of the previous two years and was tracking to post 18.5 percent growth for 2013. Danny Kirkland, director of the in-plant, appreciated the significance of the visit by HealthSouth's executive hierarchy.
"The CEO said we had come a long way, and that Print Solutions was one of the most talked-about departments in the organization," Kirkland proudly notes.
Three years earlier, that wasn't the case. Turnaround times were viewed as unacceptable. The organization lacked a centralized ordering system. Processes needed improvement. Plus, the shop only produced about 60 percent of the organization's printing.
HealthSouth had undergone some process changes of its own, followed by a corporate evaluation of certain departments. The in-plant was on the verge of being closed down.
"We were unaware," Kirkland admits. "When you're immersed in day-to-day activities, you don't realize you have a problem, and if you do, you rationalize it to justify. It got to the point where [the option of closing the in-plant] was on someone's desk. That was a real wake-up call."
HealthSouth wanted its in-plant to succeed, and made some suggestions of steps it could take to improve viability. Some changes were made in management, including elevating Kirkland to director.
In the past three years, Print Solutions has added the aforementioned digital devices, implemented a streamlined and effective management information system (see sidebar) and acquired the PTI (formerly Printable) MarcomCentral Web-to-print online ordering interface. The in-plant bolstered its product and service offering with a stronger wide-format printing offering and turned promotional products into a $1.5 million cash cow for the department.
Recently, Print Solutions also established an LLC (Print Promotions Group) targeting outside commercial work. Kirkland hopes that, within five years, it will account for half of the in-plant's revenues—and that's without losing any focus on, or volume from, its number one customer, HealthSouth.
Speaking of volume, Print Solutions now handles between 96 and 97 percent of the parent organization's printing needs. If that's not an answered wake-up call, it's certainly a powerful start.
A cost center in nature, Print Solutions produces $7.2 million in revenue backed by 30 employees in its 26,000-square-foot facility. The shop averages 5,000 print and promotional projects per month, nearly doubling its output of 2,500 to 3,000 from three years ago.
Its customers are the 100 hospitals throughout the HealthSouth chain and, by extension, their patients. Forms represent a lion's share of the printed materials. Each patient requires interdisciplinary daily documentation (IDD) forms to be filled out three times a day, and Print Solutions sells roughly 7,000 of these daily.
Another major product is the wellness information technology and health (WITH) binder that is produced for every patient. These binders act as a guide for patients, to walk them through the post-admission phase of their rehabilitation at home.
Kirkland notes that many of the 11,000 different documents that are produced are in the process of being standardized to minimize the paper deluge. The goal is to phase out offset printing, which at this juncture is used on runs in excess of 2,500. The in-plant currently runs a four-color Heidelberg DI Pro, a two-color Shinohara and three smaller Heidelbergs, along with a Halm Super Jet.
One of the in-plant's biggest annual jobs is producing the HealthSouth employee benefits package, of which 16,000 are churned out every October. Each package contains variable pieces—several pages, a booklet and a number of collateral pieces—which are inserted and mailed.
Print Solutions also works closely with its creative department to produce marketing materials for HealthSouth. A strong creative department enables the organization to maintain brand and message consistency and keeps the work in-house. The creativity is used on the online store as a template that can be versioned to include a hospital's logo and specific information about that location.
"As a service, we try to ease their day-to-day activity by giving hospitals a one-stop shop where they can...order collateral, business forms and as much promotional products that we can put on there," Kirkland notes. "It keeps them from having so many touch points."
The online store, first instituted three years ago, quickly became large, bloated and somewhat unwieldy. In late 2012, the decision was made to use PTI's MarcomCentral, and in the span of a few months, ordering became faster and easier.
The HP Indigo 7600 and EFI Rastek wide-format printer were both put through the cost-justification process around the same time, with the Indigo coming online in March of 2013, followed by the Rastek a month later. The 7600—one of two HP Indigo digital presses at the in-plant—handles admissions and clinical documentation, along with marketing material for patients and doctors, business cards and stationery.
Variable data jobs include the benefits package. Hospitals also rely on Print Solutions to provide lists for employee candidates, such as targeting nurses in a certain geographic region with images depicting physical and occupational therapy in a recruitment package. Marketing materials are also important for use by hospitals at HR recruiting fairs.
The Rastek is already paying dividends. Prior to installation, Print Solutions was unable to print on board substrates, and instead cranked out posters and banners on aqueous Epson printers for mounting onto foam board, a process so labor-intensive that it was difficult for the in-plant to compete. With the Rastek, Print Solutions has produced one-way graphics for windows, static clings, wallpaper, board and glass.
"Its flexibility of what you can put in it and on it, as opposed to a typical roll machine, has been advantageous for us," Kirkland observes. "Being able to go to 60˝ on the Rastek, as opposed to 42˝ on the Epsons, has been huge. One thing I'm most proud of is the parking lot signage and window graphics for new hospitals or hospitals undergoing a refresh.
"We just got back from a hospital in Ludlow, Mass., where we completely did all the parking lot signage, the windows in the therapy gyms, as well as pictures and some of the artwork inside of the hospital. Without that machine, we would not have had the ability to print on aluminum signs. It's been a new revenue source for us that will hopefully continue to grow."
The workload has been so lucrative, in fact, that Print Solutions will be adding an HP latex wide-format machine to help handle some of the banner jobs being done on the Rastek. Kirkland expects that machine to come online during the first quarter of 2014.
The HP machine isn't the only newcomer expected for 2014. Around mid year, Print Solutions will refresh its copier fleet, which is on lease and currently consists of five Konica Minoltas (three black-and-white) and a Canon color output device.
Print Promotions Group
One of the wild cards of the future for Print Solutions is its budding Print Promotions Group, which processes some 5,000 orders per month. Even the senior vice president whom Kirkland reports to sees adding a second and third shift as a tremendous growth opportunity for the in-plant, since the necessary equipment is already in place. An accounts receivable system has been acquired, and at some point in the not-too-distant future, Print Solutions will add a commercial salesperson.
"We still need to find out where our sweet spot is with the new business. But I do believe we're going in the right direction," Kirkland notes.
In the meantime, Print Solutions has no intention of taking its eyes off the HealthSouth ball. It has a rigorous promotional communications campaign scheduled for 2014, including a monthly email newsletter and a quarterly promotional product mailing that will pitch a given item to the marketing directors of the member hospitals. Kirkland's team will also generate a twice-a-year printed newsletter that not only talks about Print Solutions but also marketing and print-related products that can benefit the hospitals.
For a shop that was trekking down the path of extinction only a few short years ago, Print Solutions is now on the road to establishing a long-term value proposition. Along the way, Kirkland has benefitted from networking and educational opportunities such as the IPMA conference. Commiserating with other in-plant managers who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations is therapeutic as much as anything, and it's been a nice getaway for Kirkland, who brought his managers to the IPMA conference in 2013 for the first time.
"Because you tend to feel like you're isolated or unique...just being able to hear other people and understand you're not alone, and to get some other resources, that is invaluable to me," he remarks. "I saw a lot of positive growth from my managers experiencing the same thing. Luckily, we'll be able to budget for them to go next year."