In-plants Aren’t Commercial Printers

Have you noticed? We’ve been discovered!

Everyone has suddenly become aware of “in-plants.” There was a time when in-plants were looked down on by our colleagues in the commercial world. We weren’t “real printers.” We were somehow not quite as good as our commercial counterparts.

Now that’s changed. Printing consultants, industry marketing “experts,” and even vendors are presenting at in-plant conferences, blogging and writing articles and white papers telling us what we’re doing wrong and how to fix it. Some are telling us how to improve performance; others, what new services to add. The assumption seems to be that since we’re “printers,” the same rules they use to explain commercial printing should apply to us as well.

And they do…sort of.

Whenever I see an industry expert—especially one who has never managed an in-plant, let alone a printing company—pontificate on what in-plant managers are doing wrong and the three or four things we need to be doing to survive, I take notice. While there are similarities between commercial shops and in-plants, there are differences as well, and those differences are profound.

Yes, we are printers; and yes, we do use similar equipment and software; and yes, we do need to be sensitive to and driven by our customers’ expectations; and yes, we do need to measure what we manage—those are all no brainers. But there’s another side to the story, and it’s one our industry experts should consider before they attempt to solve all of our problems for us.

The In-plant Difference

There are fundamental differences between in-plants and commercial shops. That’s the part that has to do with…being an in-plant—being part of a larger organization that has nothing to do with printing.

All organizations are different. Some are private, others public. They all have different missions, goals, values and cultures. They come in different sizes, shapes and locations. Some are profit driven, while others have a service mission. And on and on.

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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