Could Innovation Be a Critical Success Factor for In-plants?
In case you have not heard, the successful Digital Printing in Government and Higher-Ed Conference is evolving into the In-plant Innovators Conference.
This is an interesting change considering the word “innovation” is not one of the typical subjects discussed in trade magazines or shows, but maybe it should be. Considering the relentless outsourcing threats and fierce competition from local companies, perhaps innovation should be a critical success factor (CSF) for in-plants.
A company’s CSFs are the essential activities that it must perform well if it is going to thrive. The idea is simple: in any company, certain factors will be critical to its success. If the objectives associated with the factors are not achieved, the company will struggle. CSFs are related to key performance indicators or KPIs. Although opinions vary, one way to think about this is that the CSFs are the strategy or motivating factors while the KPIs are the measurements or tactics of success.
There are many golden rules and business principals based on three things. The best example is the old saying, “You can have it faster, better or cheaper – choose two because you can’t get all three.” This is not unique to our industry; it occurs in most businesses. This idea is so universal that it has a name: the unattainable service triad. In a Forbes article, the examples listed are: Dell is cheaper and faster, but not better. Uber is faster and better, but not cheaper. Ikea is cheap and fast.
In the graphic arts industry, I see other parallels. For example, most of the managers in commercial printing companies usually come from three areas: some excelled in sales, others in operations and the last group mastered financial management. Not unlike the unattainable service triad, I have not met any who are experts in all three.
Does something like that exist for in-plant managers? While there are some in-plant managers who possess extraordinary sales capabilities, the vast majority excel in operations or financial management.
Could innovation be the third leg of this 3-legged stool? There are many in-plant managers that we call “early adopters” or “out of the box thinkers.”
Some were the first to offer mailing and fulfillment services, large-format and variable data printing, insourcing and managing the fleet. Others saw the declining volumes in their most popular applications and introduced new products and services that not only filled the gap but became a better revenue stream.
In my opinion, innovation is a CSF for in-plants. That is why I am looking forward to attending the In-plant Innovators Conference on May 9th in Washington, D.C., to learn more. See you there.
Howie Fenton is an independent consultant focused on analyzing and benchmarking operational performance. For 27 years he has served as a trusted advisor who helps companies implement best practices to reduce costs, streamline operations and increase value. To learn more, visit HowieFentonConsulting.com or email him at