Working 'For the Kids'
Though she never became a teacher like she planned, Jan Hale found another way to help students.
By Mike Llewellyn
Well before Jan Hale got into the printing business—years before she became Printing Services manager at Douglas County School District—she was on her way to becoming a teacher. She had even worked as a teacher's aide at a special education high school.
While attending Arizona State University, though, she decided to major in graphic communications. The sudden change in interest can be traced back to one man, Dr. Zeke Prust, a printing industry veteran on staff at ASU who introduced her to the craft. From then on, she says, "I wanted to know it all."
Hale dove head first into the in-plant business when her husband, who works for Nortel, was transferred to Denver.
"We were given a choice: Denver or North Carolina," says Hale, whose family had lived in Arizona since before it was a state. "But where's the choice there?"
So Colorado it was. Hale picked up her first management gig in July of 1989, running an in-plant for the Denver Regional Council of Government. While she was there, she got a tip from her boss that Douglas County School District, in Castle Rock, Colo., was looking for someone to fill the shoes of the shop's long-time in-plant manager, a 72-year-old woman who had decided it was time to retire.
"It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. It gave me the chance to work for the kids," says Hale. And a commute on the opposite side of the highway from rush-hour traffic didn't hurt either.
In her new position, Hale was at the helm of a three-employee shop with more than its fair share of work. Running 45,000 to 52,000 impressions a day on the facility's suite of equipment (which includes two Xerox DocuTechs, a Xerox DocuColor 12, an A.B.Dick 2850 for carbonless work, plus a GBC comb binder, among other gear), Hale says her biggest challenge as a manager is keeping the workflow smooth. This is no easy task for a school district shop. For instance, work piles up fast at the beginning and end of the school year, but thins out at points while classes are in session.
"To even out the workflow, we decided we had to figure out exactly what order the jobs were coming in and to prioritize them," she says. "If there's a situation where there are a bunch of jobs coming in on the same day, we'll move to a first-come, first-served system."
Awards for Quality Work
The careful attention Printing Services pays to quality output earned it In-Print awards in 1997 and 1999. A performance like that isn't bad for a small shop with an annual operating budget of $310,000. Hale passes on a lot of the credit for the success of her plant to the International Publishing Management Association (IPMA), of which she's been a member since 1996. She recently served as vice president of the Rocky Mountain chapter and is on its officers' board. She has also received her certified graphic communications manager (CGCM) certification from IPMA.
"IPMA is extremely important for us. When we go to ask for something, we can show that we know what we're talking about. We've got something to back us up," she says, noting that one of the biggest challenges to the health of the outfit came last July. The in-plant was brought under the umbrella of Information Technology Services (ITS).
"I was involved with a committee whose job it was to evaluate our volume, our use of equipment, use of the site and a few other factors," Hale explains. "And we had three choices: go up in size, maintain our size or shut down."
The committee engaged in a six-month study, monitoring the performance of the facility. When it was all over, it was decided that not only should the shop stay where it is, but that it also needed an infusion of new equipment. Hale is now in the process of bringing in a laminator, a three-hole drill and a shrink wrapper to package the copious amount of output more efficiently.
"Moving under the ITS umbrella has been a very positive thing. Even though the new director doesn't have a background in printing, he's very supportive of the in-plant, and now we're looking at redesigning the shop: improving flow-through and the use of our equipment," she says.
The in-plant is even planning to get a new high-volume digital press, and is getting RFPs for next year from NexPress and Océ. Over the next few years, Hale says she'll be pushing to get her in-plant into a larger space.
Outside of work, Jan Hale and her husband have two daughters and four grandchildren and enjoy four-wheeling with their dog in a Pinzgauer all-terrain vehicle.