University of Scranton: Reset, Re-Energized and Ready for Action
It is a full 2,100 miles between Kindersley, Saskatchewan — where Valarie Clark grew up — and Scranton, Pa., the city where she earns a living as the director of Printing and Mailing Services at the University of Scranton. Still, there are numerous similarities between the rural, Canadian farming town of about 5,000 people and the northeastern Pennsylvania metropolis of about 78,000 inhabitants she now calls home.
Clark freely owns her home country’s reputation of being warm, friendly and polite. There’s a certain level of familiarity in that regard on the campus of the University of Scranton, and Clark feels right at home among the students, staff and faculty. After all, U.S. News and World Report listed Scranton among its Best Places to Live (#86), citing its “close-knit neighborhoods” that help provide a “small-town appeal.”
That the city and school enjoy close proximity to both New York and Philadelphia while maintaining their own local charm is a drawing card for the Jesuit university’s population of 3,900 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students.
“There’s something really wonderful about the closeness of the people; they know and care about each other,” Clark observes. “One of the things we’ve learned from focus groups and talking to students is that the sense of community attracts them. We have a lot of New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia area students.”
While Clark has worked at the university in various capacities since 2000 — including nine years as editor of the school’s alumni magazine and university newspaper — she didn’t join Printing and Mailing Services until after the tragic death of former Director Ray Burd, who was killed by a falling tree branch while working in his yard on New Year’s Day 2014. Clark assumed the role shortly after Burd’s interim replacement left the school.
Burd’s passing left a huge void not only at the university, but among the membership of the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP), whose conference he attended regularly, and in the in-plant community at large.
He led the university’s foray into digital and variable data printing, and at the time of his passing was working on FSC certification for the shop. Burd also provided guidance inside and outside the university on printing and publishing matters, making him an embodiment of the community spirit that permeates the University of Scranton.
‘An Important Legacy’ of Service
Clark worked with Burd while she was manager of creative services and credits him for much of her early printing knowledge.
“The service aspect was something Ray emphasized,” she says. “He made a point of always trying to serve the customer’s needs. That’s a great example for all of us, an important legacy.”
The shop has undergone a major transformation in the years following Burd’s death. The changes carried considerable implications:
- Several staff members ended up leaving, and Clark replaced the interim director. Three positions were eliminated through attrition.
- An internal review was launched to study the viability of maintaining an in-plant on campus. And while the study concluded that Printing and Mailing Services was indeed vital to the university’s mission, changes were needed.
- The operation was restructured, with reporting shifted from finance to enrollment management and external affairs. Graphic design was integrated into Printing and Mailing Services. Additionally, the fleet of campus copiers is now managed through purchasing.
- The leases were due to expire on the incumbent crop of equipment, and it was decided that offset printing was no longer vital to the operation. The shop’s 4,500-sq.-ft. facility needed attention as well.
The reboot, scary though it may seem to an outsider, has provided a wealth of positives for Clark and her team. The transformation to an all-digital operation allowed Printing and Mailing Services to more efficiently, effectively and economically provide its clientele with a variety of printed products, including academic and curricular materials, tests, booklets and other instructional literature on the black-and-white side, along with color printing that includes posters, flyers, invitations and special event programs.
The in-plant’s transformation caught the attention of ACUP, which awarded the operation with its Distinctive Service Award at last year’s conference for achieving innovative goals for growth while continuing operational production demands.
A Host of New Gear
Headlining the list of new printing gear is a pair of Konica Minolta bizhub 1250s and a C1070; a 44˝ HP DesignJet Z5400 wide-format printer; an Excel shrink-wrap machine; an MBM Triumph 5255 programmable cutter; an MBM iCrease scoring and perfing device; and a Fujipla Al-Meister laminator. Also new to the shop are Web-to-print (W2P) capabilities in the form of MyOrderDesk from PagePath Technologies.
The HP DesignJet has helped Printing and Mailing Services cut back on its level of outsourced work, which represents about 54% of overall revenue volume, and realize more savings by doing in-house projects such as retractable banners for admissions counselors to use at various recruitment events. Other jobs include posters for faculty presentations, admissions and fundraising signage, directional signage for campus events and sponsorship banners.
Printing and Mailing Services previously used a 24˝-wide printer, and the larger output has garnered immediate benefits.
“Year-to-date revenue is already up 20% over last year, and we see that continuing,” Clark notes.
Web-to-Print Streamlines Operations
MyOrderDesk has simplified order input tremendously and has been a remarkable tool for streamlining operations, according to Clark. The system is loaded with templates for ordering commonly (and frequently) requested business cards, letterhead, envelopes and note cards, a process that previously required customers to fill out forms, upload examples of sought designs and engage the desktop publisher to produce proofs.
Clark held training sessions and developed a user’s document to help train faculty and staff. With the W2P software humming smoothly, the desktop publisher position was replaced in favor of another graphic designer. That, in turn, reduced the number of graphic design jobs the university had previously outsourced. Bringing graphic design under the Printing and Mailing Services umbrella has provided a real synergy and improved workflow as well, Clark adds.
Another area that has buffered Printing and Mailing Services is bulk mail, a service it had completely outsourced prior to last fall. The shop has performed a half-dozen projects that are small enough to be done economically on a digital device using A-Qua Mailer bulk mail certification from Lorton Data and FusionPro variable data software from MarcomCentral.
“We have a sizeable amount of money that we’re spending on bulk mail processing,” Clark says. “We can’t capture all of that unless we decide to start getting inkjet presses and large offset presses. We’re staying true to our mission, which is digital technology and jobs that are small to midsized runs.”
In terms of traditional jobs, grade reports are among the quickest turnaround requests Clark’s shop receives. While only black-and-white, it requires running 40 different reports — some of which contain as many as 5,000 pages — and compiling reports to be sent back to academic advisors in one or two days.
On the color side, academic/program fact cards are high priority. Last fall, the shop printed 39,675 cards (82 different versions) that had to be cut, stacked and boxed. In the past, the card templates were printed offset, then went on a digital output device; offset powder always provided a high degree of difficulty for the digital machines. The cards are now done completely digital, sparing the university the expense of outsourcing.
Printing and Mailing Services produces smaller variable data jobs in-house, mostly postcard and envelope addressing aimed at reunions, registrations and name tags. The addition of FusionPro was a major plus for aiding with data merges, a process that was problematic when the shop previously relied on Microsoft Word.
Moving forward, Clark seeks to elevate Printing and Mailing Services’ visibility among the student population. The shop is taking steps to promote its capabilities, including a retractable banner that was placed in the satellite mail room of the student center. Promotional signage is being added in the student dining hall, and other smaller promotions have been developed, including resume printing for $1.
Clark also hopes to tap into the student base that relies on other printing/copying retailers to capture binding jobs of presentation materials. An advertisement for Printing and Mailing Services in the university portal landed a host of binding jobs in a matter of days.
“We always want to stay relevant. That can make or break an in-plant,” Clark says. “Our relevance has been integration of services from design through printing and mailing, and the kind of care and attention this operation has paid to the people that we serve. We have to stay attuned to changes in technology and what customers are looking for. If you don’t, it can get away from you in a hurry.”
Related story: In-plants Mourn Loss of Ray Burd