Ambitious In-plant Aims for State-wide Business
Strengthening your in-plant by adding new services is an excellent strategy. But finding new customers for existing services may offer even greater possibilities.
That’s what Print Services at Hemet Unified School District, in Hemet, Calif., found, after adding yearbook printing to its repertoire three years ago. Manager Karl Melzer then made yearbooks available to other schools in southern California, along with customized student planners, and today the in-plant prints yearbooks for 16 schools and planners for 35. The shop also prints items like class work, banners, envelopes and apparel for other schools.
All this new work has enabled the in-plant to double its staff from three to six employees and add some vital new equipment, as well. The school district has been happy to support the in-plant with these additions, especially since the extra revenue is going into its general fund.
This spring, to step business up another notch, the in-plant exhibited its capabilities at two trade shows: The California Association of School Business Officials show in April, and the California State PTA conference last month. The in-plant’s booth highlighted three of its star products: yearbooks, student planners and apparel printing.
“We had some good success from that,” Melzer reveals. “We’re still working those leads.”
When attendees stopped at the in-plant’s booth, they usually had the same reaction: “ ‘Wait…you’re a school district?’ ” recounts Melzer, with a laugh. They were surprised to see such high-quality yearbooks coming from a school in-plant. But they quickly recovered when they heard his message: “We know your business because we’re in your business,” he says. “I think they all related to that.”
Melzer learned a few things from the people he met too.
“It’s amazing to hear all of the problems that the PTAs have had when dealing with commercial companies,” he says. Their biggest complaints, he reveals, were quality and customer service. His in-plant, he says, has both of these covered. Print Services’ new Xerox Color 800 provides stunning quality, and “customer service” is practically the shop’s middle name.
“In order to stay in business, we have to provide great customer service,” Melzer emphasizes, “because you can lose that business like that.”
The schools he talked to were also impressed that the in-plant did not require a minimum order of yearbooks and would print them on demand. This is unheard of among yearbook publishers, he says.
“That’s a big selling point,” he declares.
The cost of the yearbooks is another plus. One person told him her supplier charges nearly $18 for a black-and-white yearbook; Hemet Print Services charges $12, and it’s in color.
The in-plant designs yearbooks using FotoFusion software from LumaPix. For the past few years, it printed books on its Xerox 700 and bound them with a C.P. Bourg perfect binder. But starting this year, the new Xerox Color 800 will be used.
“We’re looking forward to that,” Melzer says.
He plans to experiment with the 800’s clear dry ink feature and get customer feedback on how it looks.
To help the in-plant produce the student planners, a new Xerox Nuvera 288 was installed with an inline Fusion Punch.
“We used to either have to buy the paper pre-punched, or punch it all by hand,” he relates. “We’ve increased our planner production so much, that doing it all by hand was ridiculous.”
The in-plant’s planners are an improvement over others being offered, Melzer contends, because they are customized for each school.
Currently, the in-plant delivers finished work to other Southern California schools using HUSD’s drivers, but Melzer has ambitious plans to extend his in-plant’s services state-wide. (At that point, finished work will have to be shipped.) To make this happen, he has his eye on other trade shows aimed at principals and school boards.
Lest other Golden State in-plants worry that Melzer’s ambitions may be a threat, he quickly emphasizes: “I’m not trying to shut down other districts’ print shops. What I’m trying to do is, if you don’t have a print shop, let us serve as your print shop; and if you do have a print shop, a lot of those print shops can’t do everything that we can do. So let us help in those areas.”
Related story: Yearbooks Prove a Worthwhile Niche for School In-plant