Conquering In-plant Challenges One Win at a Time
Every year that I moderate the in-plant panel session at Graph Expo, I learn something from the panel of in-plant leaders — and I’m inspired by seeing them learn from each other, even as they speak.
This year the session focused on conquering the top in-plant challenges, including outsourcing, staying relevant, reducing costs, increasing efficiency and communicating to management. Speaking on the panel were:
- Mike George of Villanova University
- John Cruser of Bloomberg
- Gayle Robinson of Tanner Health System
- Amy Bellows of Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co.
Each leader shared experiences and lessons learned. They talked about opportunities to drive growth, convincing management to provide additional space and equipment, managing the perception of their relevancy to the organization’s mission, and volume and resource planning.
When discussing how Tanner Health’s in-plant addresses the outsourcing risk, Gayle Robinson noted, “We move mountains to make short deadlines happen. That’s not something outside shops concentrate on. They don’t care; they’ve got other customers ahead of us. Plus, it helps us control our brand standards and PMS colors.”
Robinson shared that her in-plant’s right of first refusal has helped keep work inside. Some people do not realize what the shop can do, she said, and how inexpensively it can do it. A written policy helps enforce use of the print center and encourages people to find the shop.
Mike George shared a story and a great tip to proactively avoid being outsourced. When faced with meeting an outsourcer in his own office on two days’ notice, George put together a list of 100 questions for the outsourcing firm. Accurately predicting that the salesperson would be unable to answer more than the first five questions, George said that they haven’t heard from the firm again.
Since then, he has kept a running journal that he populates daily, recording key things that the shop has done that he knows an outsourcer would not do.
“Do it every day, because you will forget,” he counseled attendees. “It’s five minutes at the end of every day. Couple that with your financials and your annual report. I’m prepared anytime someone wants to come and talk about outsourcing.
“Outsourcers are not talking to you,” he continued. “They are talking to the guy who does not understand what it means for a press operator to stay late on a Friday night or Saturday morning for a customer that walked in Friday afternoon. It’s all the other things besides putting marks on paper that we all need to keep track of.” George uses the list for monthly and annual reporting and has it at the ready if questions about outsourcing arise again.
How to Be Relevant
When talking about relevancy, John Cruser encouraged session-goers to “Make sure you do the right thing that’s best for your customer and your company. In the end, you are representing your company. Make sure your company looks fantastic. Look at what the impact is to your team and your company if something does not go right. Some people focus on the cost [to re-print]. The most important thing is that I have a customer for life.”
At Villanova, printing for students has helped keep the in-plant relevant. The print shop is now part of the Admissions tour and stays applicable by being out in front helping students solve problems.
Amy Bellows talked about the challenge of relevancy in a company that’s been in business for over a century. Convincing internal customers to use new technology and understand what the print group can do for them is difficult, Bellows said, but it’s paying off.
“People are starting to come to us to ask how we are doing it [streamlining work processes]. Other departments that are starting to do it are talking about it. It’s probably one of the biggest ways that we are staying relevant with our departments. Keeping the departments inquisitive and curious about what we’re doing and getting them to ask the questions and letting us help them.”
Reporting to Management
All of the panelists said they meet with or report to management monthly. Mutual of Omaha also reports quarterly to the executive VP level and uses the opportunity to communicate an unknown fact about the operation to increase awareness and stress the shop’s value.
Tanner Health provides management with a monthly report that details impressions and machine utilization, but also tracks staff absences and the use of volunteers. Knowing this helps them balance the workload; they can plan the best times to restock the warehouse or print jobs that are not time sensitive without incurring overtime.
In addition to regular reporting, Villanova prepares an annual report for management in which it details successes and failures. George feels that reporting failures shows that the department is human and demonstrates its ability to overcome challenges. The report is also a vehicle to highlight concerns such as how closing for the holidays impacts the cost recovery of the operation.
Cruser related a tip his department’s CFO counseled him to use. She told him to stop using the word “savings” and to use the phrase “cost avoidance” instead. “I’ve used it, and others have too, and never gotten budget so fast,” he noted.
Elisha Kasinskas is Rochester Software Associates’ (RSA) award-winning marketing director. She is responsible for all marketing, public relations, social media and communications, and community building for the firm. Ms. Kasinskas joined RSA in 2010. She is a marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience in sales, product management and marketing in leading product and service business-to-business and business-to-consumer firms, including Pinnacle (Birds Eye) Foods, Level 3, HSBC, and a number of regional high-tech firms. She holds an RIT MBA and a BS, Marketing from Radford University. Kasinskas is a frequent moderator for industry speaking sessions, an in-plant blogger, and has received industry awards including the IPMA Outstanding Contributor award. She was an OutputLinks Women of Distinction class of ’15 inductee. Her marketing work with IPMA has secured multiple awards from the American Marketing Association (AMA).