In-plant Relocates, Upgrades Digital Presses
Moving into a larger facility, more centrally located to employees’ homes, is not an opportunity every in-plant gets. But for Encompass Health Print Services that dream came true in March, when the Birmingham, Ala., operation relocated into a facility that is 10,000 sq. ft. larger than its old plant and closer to the Encompass Health home office.
What’s more, Print Services used the opportunity to upgrade its digital printing capabilities with a new Xerox Iridesse and an HP Indigo 7900. With printing and bindery equipment now laid out so work flows efficiently through the plant, productivity is up, and National Director of Print Services Danny Kirkland couldn’t be happier.
“We’ve been able to meet or beat our production time [compared to] last year with less people,” he says — nine less people, in fact, after a layoff that brought staff size down to 17.
This increased efficiency is important as printing is a major component in Encompass Health’s marketing strategy. The national health provider offers both facility- and home-based post-acute services in 39 states and Puerto Rico. As part of Encompass Health’s marketing department, Print Services has helped the company appreciate the importance of print in its marketing efforts, helping design campaigns to build brand awareness of Encompass Health’s rehabilitation services.
The in-plant plays an important part in these efforts, not only by printing marketing collateral but by providing all the promotional products that support them, such as T-shirts, pens, mugs, and more. Encompass Health Print Services is a certified distributor of these products through ASI. By standardizing these promotional products, it has been able to buy them in bulk and store them in its warehouse for quick fulfillment. Kirkland says T-shirts alone provide about $1 million of the $9 million in annual revenue generated by the in-plant.
Beyond marketing collateral, the most popular products provided by the in-plant are patient binders, stuffed with all the information patients need for their rehabilitation. The shop also prints training collateral, forms, business cards, and lots of wide-format banners, floor graphics, and window clings.
One benefit of the new 36,000-sq.-ft. facility, located in Vestavia Hills, Ala., is that it allowed the in-plant to centralize all of its wide-format equipment: a Fujifilm Acuity Select flatbed UV printer, an HP Latex 560, a Futobo XLD-170 digital cutter with X/Y trimming, and a grommeting system. That’s not how it was in the old facility.
“We stuck wide-format in corners. I had laminating in a closet,” Kirkland says. “We were just all over the place.”
The printing and bindery equipment has been similarly consolidated. Work now flows in a logical, efficient manner, without the need for employees to transport materials great distances. The new warehouse space is large enough to store materials, finished goods, and promotional products.
“We have got two years’ worth of the company’s PPE sitting in that extra space,” Kirkland says.
He was more than happy to offer the Print Services facility for storing and managing PPE. It’s just one more way to demonstrate the in-plant’s eagerness to serve the company’s needs.
“You’ve got to not only listen, but you’ve got to have a mindset that you can help them,” he explains. “I think that’s how we’ve been able to survive.”
Getting a new facility is never a sure thing for an in-plant, and Kirkland is grateful for his company’s support in this endeavor. Sometimes, a request for funding to enable a move leads to increased scrutiny of an in-plant’s expenses and questions about why the in-plant exists. Kirkland says that was not the case for his operation. Encompass Health understands the value his in-plant provides, he says, and supported his suggestion of looking for a better facility.
“When I signed a 10-year lease, that said a lot for me,” he notes. “They know, based off factual data, what we bring to the table. I think they saw us as being a very instrumental part of what they do. I don’t think they think of something printed and not think of us.
“They value what we offer and what we do,” he adds, “and they wanted to make sure we were in a spot that was conducive to that.”
The company was even willing to spend $1.4 million to renovate the new facility and implement proper environmental controls. The air conditioning in the old facility was unreliable, he says, so this has been a great improvement. The new plant has a large meeting space, which Kirkland has opened up for use by other company departments.
The move began in March, without much fanfare. The shop moved in stages, with the warehouse relocating first, followed by printing, finishing, and then the administrative staff.
“That way nobody … was completely down throughout the whole move,” Kirkland says.
The in-plant lost less than a week of production time during the move. It kept its old HP Indigo 7000 running in the old facility while the new Xerox Iridesse and HP Indigo 7600 were being implemented in the new.
Aside from the production power of the Iridesse, the main reason Kirkland wanted the six-station 120-ppm specialty press was for its clear coating capabilities.
“So we’re able to give that coated look without having to UV coat now,” he explains. Previously, the shop had an analog UV coater hooked up to its HP Indigo 7000 for coating marketing materials, so when it jammed (which happened too often), print productivity suffered. Installing the Iridesse, he says, has boosted productivity by 20%.
“I also like that I can actually do a full 8.5x11˝ trifold brochure, full color,” he remarks. “We’ve used it a couple times on some jobs that we used to have to outsource.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he says, he was unable to send his operators to Xerox and HP training centers to get certified, but those vendors sent trainers to Birmingham to train his staff.
Upcoming Technology Advances
Kirkland says he hopes to soon replace six production copiers with a production inkjet press.
“It will really increase my throughput,” he says.
Besides new hardware, the in-plant is implementing a Print IQ management workflow system and will soon transition from its Marcom Web-to-print/digital asset management system to one from Propago.
He praises Encompass Health for trusting him to make the right technology decisions for the in-plant.
“Encompass Health has been extremely supportive,” he lauds.
This is because Print Services has built up a reputation for getting things done reliably and with top-quality results.
“From start to finish, we’re able to take that concept that they’re going to need and fill in a lot of gaps. We’re going to design that piece to match what they need. We’re going to be able to print it and fulfill it, and also any other resource that they need, from promotional to apparel, we’re going to handle that for them.
“We’re able to control that [project],” he concludes, “from start to finish."
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.