Getting Respect from Commercial Printers

Why is it that sometimes in-plant printers can’t catch a break—at least, not from commercial printers? It seems like every time I talk to a commercial printer and the subjects of in-plants comes up, all I hear is negativity.

For instance, on a recent flight, I spent two hours of sheer hell arguing with the owner of a print and mail house, who had a very low opinion of in-plant managers. More on that exchange in a minute.

I don’t want to generalize about all commercial printers based on the actions of a few. Over the years I’ve built up good relations with many of them, and I’ve had more than one commercial printer tell me that he wouldn’t trade jobs; running an in-plant is too demanding.

Once, when the shop I managed was flooded, our friends in the commercial sector came to our rescue. They didn’t take our misfortune as an opportunity to gouge the university; they let us use their presses when they didn’t have work for them, let us borrow makeready and bindery facilities, and gave us room to store paper. They pitched in and helped us, and as a result we managed to get most of our critical jobs done on time.

So, no, I won’t generalize about all commercial sector printers; I’ve known some that understand the pressures of running an in-plant. I just wish more of them would show us the same courtesy.

When I do in-plant assessments I try to talk to commercial printers in the area. Over the years I’ve learned that when describing my years of experience as a print manager, it’s best not to mention that my experience is in managing in-plants, because when I do my credibility with commercial printers flies out the window. It doesn’t matter that I managed a three tower 1,000 feet-per-minute roll-to-roll, or a string of 40˝ manroland presses, or a four-tower roll-fed 25˝ web, or that in one shop I managed, 100,000 was a short run. My experience was still managing an in-plant so I couldn’t possibly know anything about “real printing.”

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.

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  • http://AmyBecham Amy Becham

    Thank you for a fantastic read. I agree with everything and wish we had more champions like you!

  • http://RickWise Rick Wise

    Great blog. I couldn’t agree with you more. I had an interaction with a local commerial printer a few months ago that was also rather ugly. Essentially he hissed that we (in-plants) shouldn’t even exist, we are simply taking food out of his and his family’s mouths. Right… and my employees don’t need to eat of course.
    It is a pretty emotional issue for many commerical shop owners these days since business is tighter than ever, I do get it. But frankly if we weren’t needed, we wouldn’t exist. It’s about as simple as that.

  • http://Lisa Lisa

    I agree too, thank you for the great article!

  • http://GenevieveKellam Genevieve Kellam

    Thanks Ray,

    As hard as it is that “we get no respect” from many in the commercial world…it is even more painful when we are under-understood by those we serve in-house. All staff is a salesperson, advocate and finacially aware of the need to continually tout our services.

    Since times are so difficult out there in the world of printing, many local commercial printers slash prices just to get work in their doors. We are bound by our leases, service contracts, and other fixed costs that have to be met, whether the revenue is with us or not. Customers don’t always realize that when they under utilize their own in-house, it hurts them in the long-term.

    Thank you for such an insightful blog…

    Genevieve Kellam
    Reproduction Coordinator
    Dutchess BOCES, NY

  • http://CherylG Cheryl G

    This can be said for any industry.
    Much like the real estate agent not liking “for sale by owner”.
    It is what it is.
    We all need the work and we’re all trying to save a dime.
    Good read though.