My wife Catherine and I recently returned from an incredible experience. We were invited to present at the annual University Print Managers’ Group (UPMG) conference in the U.K. at Redworth Hall, County Durham. (That’s United Kingdom, not University of Kentucky.) I was asked to deliver the keynote, “Critical Success Factors,” while Catherine presented “Sustaining Operations in Turbulent Times,” a session that described her use of metrics to track performance as she turned around the in-plant that she manages.
The UPMG’s partnership with the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP) dates back to 1998 when Graeme Bolsover, print manager at the University of Sheffield; Andrew Scott, head of Print Design Services at Glasgow Caledonian University; and Steve Wilson, University of Hull; attended the 35th annual ACUP conference hosted by the University of Louisville.
Since that time, Maury Kane, Rick Wise, Jennifer Bowers, Mike Loyd, Steve Dimond, Tony Seamen, Lisa Hoover, Richard Griffin and Bob Lane, to name a few, have represented U.S. in-plants at the annual UPMG conference. Andrew Scott, Francis Reis, Duncan Hurst, Graeme Bolsover, Steve Wilson, and Thérèse Walker, among others, have represented UPMG at ACUP.
The UPMG program included several topics of interest to in-plant managers from both sides of the Atlantic. In “An Introduction to Certified Paper for the Printing Industry,” Alun Watkins, PEFC U.K. National Secretary, described Progamme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an international non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management.
PEFC claims to be the largest certification body in the world, even though FSC has a higher profile, and has an extensive presence in the United States. It promotes a chain-of-custody certification, which outlines requirements for tracking certified material from the forest to the final product to ensure that the wood contained in the product or product line originates from certified forests. Its Sustainable Forest Management certification provides forest owners and managers with independent recognition of their responsible management practices.
Of special interest to in-plant managers, especially small ones, is the Group Certification process that allows groups (such as ACUP) to spread the cost of certification across several organizations. Could this be a cost-effective alternative to FSC certification?
In another session, Graham Lowe, vice president of the Association of Print and Communication Managers (APCOM), described that 30-year-old organization’s mission and activities. APCOM is an organization of public sector print and communication managers—much like our National Government Publishing Association (NGPA)—with membership of over 100 managers representing 85 government units. Graham offered insight as to how APCOM members are fighting back and rising to the challenge to enable both in-plant survival and growth.
Fighting back. Now there’s a concept.
U.K. in-plant managers are regular contributors to ACUP educational sessions as well. At ACUP 2008, Duncan Hurst, director of Media Services at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, presented the results of a study of in-plant operations in the U.K. In 2005, the Standing Conference for Heads of Media Services (SCHOMS), of which Duncan was a part, responded to an apparent lack of published best practices in the delivery of printing and copying in the educational sector.
The SCHOMS study team, a group of managers of a diverse set of educational, media and institutional support services, including print, applied for and received a grant to study the issue. The project included case studies of good practices, technology assessments, assessments of procurement options, and a review of potential savings that have been distributed to SCHOMS members.
U.S. in-plants can take several things from the SCHOMS study, beginning with the recognition that we also lack published standards or best practices. Several individuals have attempted to establish benchmarks and best practices for various components of the U.S. in-plant market, but those focus primarily on the comparing the prices of typical print jobs. My group, CMG, is conducting a fairly comprehensive study of best practices of higher education in-plants in Canada, but I don’t know of a comprehensive study of best practices of in-plants in the U.S. (There’s another concept.)
Here’s another key learning from the SCHOMS study: They got someone to pay for it. What a great idea. Instead of using conference and membership revenues and vendor support to buy tote bags, baseball caps, ballpoint pens, or umbrellas, why not use some of those funds to commission a study on best practices in the United States?
We’ve all seen case studies of in-plants prepared by vendors—studies that show how the vendor’s product saved the day for a dying in-plant. But how often do you see impartial case studies of in-plants that survived because of the skill, determination and leadership of a dedicated manager?
But, as is often the case, I digress. The SCHOMS study report is just one example of the benefits of the ACUP/UPMG across-the-pond partnership. There are others, but none may be as important as the knowledge we gain from networking with folks doing similar jobs and facing similar challenges in different cultures.
I know that I’ve concentrated on U.K. print managers in this post, but the fact is, ACUP has also enjoyed more or less regular participation by in-plant managers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We owe a lot to these folks that spend hours and hours to participate in our conferences.
The reaction of visitors from both groups is universally positive. Andrew Scott, who has attended almost every ACUP since 1998, says, “I have learned a huge amount about customer service while networking with ACUPers over the years.”
Rick Wise, director of Printing Services at the University of Missouri-Columbia, calls his UPMG visit one of the highlights of his career in printing.
Jennifer Bowers, former in-plant manager at Florida State University, was impressed by the UPMG members’ collaboration in negotiating joint contracts for equipment purchases. “We should all be looking at buying consortia as a way to save money for our institutions,” she noted.
Maury Kane, director of Duplicating Services at Temple University summed it up nicely: “The world, even the world of internal document production in higher education, is larger and our challenges are greater than our own small view can conceive. There can be no better remedy for such short sightedness than comparing notes with our peers throughout the United States and around the world.”
Catherine and I would like to thank all of the members of UPMG for inviting us to participate in their annual conference. To say that we “enjoyed” our time in the U.K. would be an understatement. We learned a lot. We were thrilled by everything: the program, the hospitality, the venue and, most of all, the UPMG members. We have a lot in common, and all in-plant managers from both sides of the pond can benefit from the relationship.
Thanks, UPMG. It was a spot on good show. Cheers.