SUPDMC Conference a Rousing Success
More than 25 in-plants from 12 states gathered in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in October for the 42nd annual meeting of the Southeastern University Printing & Digital Managers Conference (SUPDMC). By all indications, the conference was, once again, a rousing success.
Hosted by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Printing Services, the conference consisted of 3½ days of sessions, in-plant tours, a vendor fair and social time in both Murfreesboro and Nashville, a mere 30 miles up the road.
SUPDMC is well known for its fellowship and its focus on networking. Attendees could be found talking at breakfast, in the hallways and long into the night, sharing their insights with one another.
“I really enjoy the time to relax and ‘talk shop’ with other in-plant leaders,” said Bill May, director of University of Alabama Printing Services. “There are a lot of creative ideas floating around at our conference, and we make it really easy for folks to chime in. I was glad to have the time to meet my counterpart at the University of North Alabama, Katie Bostick, a first-time attendee.”
“To be able to tour both the MTSU and Vanderbilt [University] printing operations in one conference was special,” praised Mark McCarty, manager of Missouri State University Printing & Postal Services. “MTSU has hit a home run with its additional storefront site, Blue Print Solutions, in its student union. Vanderbilt’s large operation is very impressive.”
In 2013, MTSU Printing Services moved away from offset printing and transitioned to a digital platform. At the same time, the administration placed a keen focus on taking care of students’ needs and opened a student-friendly printing storefront — Blue Print Solutions — in the heart of the 22,000-student campus.
Range of Topics
This year’s sessions covered a range of timely topics. MTSU’s VP of Marketing & Communications, Andrew Oppmann, a staunch supporter of Printing Services, opened the conference with a session on how MTSU made the move into the digital arena at the same that it launched its campus-friendly storefront in the student union. He also shared key marketing ideas with attendees, all of which are transferable back to their respective campuses.
The State of Tennessee’s assistant commissioner of Communications, Publishing and Distribution, Tammy Golden, shared the Volunteer State’s focus on getting all of the state’s in-plants to operate as a “team” to better serve their many customers.
“We created the Tennessee Government Printing Alliance a few years ago and are off to a great start as we look at the big picture of our capabilities and services," she said. "We can see wonderful opportunities ahead for the customer base.”
Blaine Gabriel, Ohio University’s director of Printing Services and Logistics, was impressed with the session on retirement planning presented by the University of Tennessee’s retired in-plant manager Gary Williford.
“Gary presents this information in a way that all of us can relate to,” said Gabriel. “And since he has been retired for quite a while, he is living through the experience, which means a lot to me.”
Western Carolina University’s director of Printing and Mailing Services, Tom Frazier, was quite popular with his session on diversifying your in-plant services. Frazier is noted for his own department’s vast array of offerings, which range from engraving and buttons, to variable data printing and floor graphics. The in-plant’s wide-format focus rivals its commercial counterparts.
“Tom’s wide range of WCU signage on campus is very impressive,” lauded JoAnn Noth, Eastern Florida College’s director of Printing & Graphic Services.
The session titled “potpourri,” which focused on attendees’ wants, needs and winning solutions, enjoyed a healthy exchange of ideas. The session was filled with “how do you get this done?” types of questions.
“We created this session so every attendee could bring their personal needs and ideas to the conference and be heard by one and all,” said conference host Ed Arning, director of MTSU Printing Services.
Arning went on to note that SUPDMC is the single-most influential event linked to his department’s dramatic growth over the past five years.
“SUPDMC and its attendees have been the springboard to so many positive developments in our growth,” he noted. “In just the area of large-format printing and the wide range of products that can be created and sold, we have hit a nerve with our customer base. There was a huge need for these products and services and SUPDMC attendees’ advice paved the way for us to bring them to the table quickly and efficiently.”
Strategic Planning is Critical
Sean Carroll, Vanderbilt University’s director of Business Operations, spoke to the conference about the need to have a strategic plan in place and to be ready to retool to meet customer demands.
“When we took an inward look at ourselves at Vanderbilt, we benefited greatly from the report we compiled,” he said. “Subsequently, we have a plan in place that the administration and our staff fully support.”
Vanderbilt opened its doors to conference attendees to tour its off-campus printing facility, which has a blend of offset and digital printing presses, as well as a growing wide-format department and a full in-house mailing operation.
Well-traveled speaker and consultant Vic Barkin addressed the key concept of leveraging your vendor partnerships and seeking partnerships in the in-plant world. Attendees agreed that vendors who are in and out of their doors on a regular basis serve a needed role in being a source of information, not only from their companies, but also from the broader marketplace.
Platinum-sponsor SCLogic headed a roster of committed industry suppliers who enjoyed two days of vendor fairs, as well as joining in on meetings and outings.
Ricoh’s Larry Hochman praised the conference: “I thought this was one of the best events I have been to in quite some time. Not just from a vendor perspective, but from the perspective of the schools that participated. I thought the presentations were really well done and really on point. I have shared this information with my team, and we will be talking up the benefits of SUPDMC to our customers.”
SUPDMC will gather again in 2018 at the Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort on Oct. 14-17. For more information, visit www.supdmc.org.
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