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Management Counts

Management Counts

By Ray Chambers

About Ray

Ray Chambers, CGCM, MBA, has invested over 30 years managing and directing printing plants, copy centers, mail centers and award-winning document management facilities in higher education and government.

Most recently, Chambers served as vice president and chief information officer at Juniata College. Chambers is currently a doctoral candidate studying Higher Education Administration at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU). His research interests include outsourcing in higher education and its impact on support services in higher education and managing support services. He also consults (Chambers Management Group) with leaders in both the public and private sectors to help them understand and improve in-plant printing and document services operations.

Just Say “No”...Really?


A recent post on one of the print sites got my attention. The author, apparently an executive at a commercial shop—you know, the ones that say that we in-plants don’t get it—asked the question (and I’m paraphrasing here): how much business does a customer have to do with your firm to in order for you to take her/him on as a client.

That’s right! The author was looking for a base line, below which he would refuse the customer’s business.

Apparently in the commercial world it’s OK to tell a customer “No” if the job is too small! It’s kind of like the right of first refusal in reverse. “Bring me all of your work, and if it generates enough revenue I’ll do it. If you don’t have enough volume, and your job won’t generate enough income, you’re on your own. I’m too busy.”

Can you imagine how long an in-plant would last if we took that approach? Try telling a customer that you have more important things to do and his/her job is too small for you to waste your time on, and see how long you’ll be around.

These are the same commercial printers that tell our bosses that we are inefficient, costly and wasteful, ad nauseum. The same folks that want our parent organizations to outsource their printing because they—the commercial shops—can do a better job. The same folks that rail against public sector in-plants because “. . . the government shouldn’t be in the printing business.” The same ones that refuse to admit that maybe an in-plant can be a “real printer.”

Maybe they don’t want all of our work after all. Maybe they just want the good stuff! 

The reason organizations start in-plants is to take care of ALL of the organizations’ document requirements. That’s our role! And if you want to really upset a customer or colleague, tell her that his/her job is not important and does not rise to a level that warrants your attention. 

Here’s a suggestion for Mr. Commercial Printer: If you want to learn a thing or two about customer service, work with an in-plant manager for a while. Watch her help all of her customers succeed by doing high-quality work on time and under budget. Watch him do whatever it takes to help even the smallest customer be successful. 

We don’t measure success by the size of our bottom line. We measure success by how we contribute to our parent organizations’ success. We don’t judge the importance of a customer by the size of the job. To us, all customers are important. And if that means spending time helping a customer with a small job, maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Commercial printers have to be bottom-line focused. I get that. In-plant managers, on the other hand, are there to provide the support people need to do their jobs. Too bad our commercial colleagues don’t get that.


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