ACUP+ Hits the Ivy League
The prospect of touring Yale University’s Print & Publishing Services operation seems to have brought a jump in attendance this year to the 54th annual Association of College and University Printers (ACUP+) conference. More than 100 higher-ed in-plant managers converged on New Haven, Conn., for four days last month to attend ACUP+. They discussed new applications (many of them wide-format related), checked out cutting-edge technologies on the vendor exhibit floor and learned leadership lessons at a variety of educational sessions.
During the conference, ACUP+ President Richard Tussey (Eastern Kentucky University) turned over the reins to new President Bob Donahue (Franklin University). Also stepping into new roles were Kim Stanford (University of Alaska Anchorage), as vice president; Theresa Roby (Penn State) as treasurer; Donna Horbelt (UT Health) as secretary; and new members at large, Tammy Elliott (University of the South), June Lewis (Kellogg Community College) and Tom Lydon (Bucknell University).
The conference got under way with Dr. Howard C. Fero, the self-proclaimed “leadership doc,” who shared lessons he learned from professional baseball managers and players about effective leadership. The main lesson he took from them: What makes you a leader is how you inspire others to reach their optimal performance.
Like on a baseball team, he said, everyone on your in-plant’s team must understand their role and work hard to excel at it. A common leadership mistake is trying to become the best at everything. Instead, become great at what you’re really good at, and add people to your team who are great at the other things.
Fero showed pictures and quotes from ball players and managers to emphasize his points. One of them was the importance of earning the respect of your team. If your people don’t trust that you have their best interests at heart, they will do the minimum amount of work, just to get paid.
“What can you do every single day to earn the trust and the respect of the people in your organization?” he asked.
Encourage them to bring new ideas to the table and try them out, he urged. If they fail, that’s OK.
“Mistakes happen. How we get past them is what determines how good of a leader you are,” he said.
Fero was followed by In-plant Impressions’ Editor Bob Neubauer, who spoke about emerging opportunities for in-plants, citing data from four different IPI research reports to show which services in-plants are moving into in their quest to add value. A good portion of his talk focused on new wide-format and specialty applications being produced by in-plants. He also included data from a brand new study on in-house mailing services.
The second day’s opening keynote speaker, Tracy Knofla, spoke about empowerment and initiative and conducted some interesting audience activities. In one, she asked an attendee to come up front and draw something. Then she kept telling to him to add more until he got frustrated. It illustrated how a manager can kill initiative by micromanaging an employee.
She detailed the “GRAPES” theory (growth, recognition, achievement, participation, enjoyment and satisfaction) and suggested different things a manager can do to support employees who are motivated by the various GRAPES attributes. Managers, she said, are the stems that provide the nutrients for the grapes to grow.
Wide-Format Discussions Aplenty
Wide-format continued to be a theme at ACUP+ 2019. In a panel session called Wide-Format 101, managers talked about their in-plants’ paths into wide-format. Kim Stanford from the University of Alaska Anchorage, noted that her in-plant’s revenue from wide-format increases every year. In addition to an HP DesignJet Z6200 for paper and photo printing, her shop uses an HP Latex 360 printer and a Graphtec 8600 cutter to produce wall, door, window and floor graphics, as well as stickers.
At first, the in-plant outsourced the installation of these items, she said, but then she got her staff trained and now the shop charges $75 an hour for it. A few customers wanted to save money by doing their own installations, but after trying and failing, they learned their lesson, she said.
Cathy Skoglund, from Arizona State University (ASU), uses an HP Latex 570 to print a variety of graphics around campus. She hires an installer to mount them, but made a deal so that her student workers can accompany the installer and learn how to do it.
Another session on wide-format tips and tricks featured three managers sharing their experiences. Chris Myers from ASU noted that his in-plant stopped using white ink on its flatbed printer when printing acrylic as there were too many issues. They now use white vinyl on the back of the acrylic. He said all printing devices in the in-plant have standardized color profiles. Student workers use online tutorials to learn how to do this. All banner poles on ASU’s campus are geotracked so the in-plant knows their locations and other details required for banner installation.
Bucknell University’s Tom Lydon gave some advice on installation of graphics: use knifeless tape on window perf for easier installation, he said. Seal tape is best for sealing the edges, and transfer tape works well for wall lettering. Lydon discussed the merits of using a backing paper cutter for adhesive graphics because it allows for an easier graphic installation process by removing only a portion of the backing material at a time. Also, he recommended creating a project binder that includes photos of the installation and notes the substrate used, the location, the surface, how long it took to install, the overall cost and the job ticket number.
Wes Grigg from Elon University recommended adding a few drops of baby oil to water when applying films and vinyls to solid flat surfaces, such as glass or stainless steel. When installing on walls with electrical outlets, remove the plate covers, he advised, but talk to facilities first about cutting power.
Yet another wide-format session focused on flatbed printers. Laura Sicklesteel of California State University, San Bernardino, is preparing to get a flatbed, and she discussed getting funding for the equipment and also expanding her building. She addressed the issue of receiving and storing 4x8-foot materials for the flatbed printer.
Elizabeth Bowden of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign has been using a Mutoh flatbed printer for years, so she offered advice on areas many don’t think about, such as maintenance (who will do it?), ventilation (will you need to modify your building?) and the unexpected cost of consumables (including push rollers, plugs, printheads, cleaner fluid, swabs and “spit pads,” which enable the head to clear ink after printing). See sidebar.
The conference featured vendor technical panels on production inkjet, substrates and Web-to print, in which vendors offered details on their solutions. In the Web-to print discussion, representatives from MyOrderDesk, EFI, RSA and edu Business Solutions touched on the specifics of their systems and answered a series of questions. Most attendees in the session were new to Web-to-print and were very interested in implementation time. Implementation is driven by the end customer to a great degree based on information they need to supply the vendor, speakers said. They emphasized the importance of getting your IT department on board before your final purchase.
In a session on production inkjet, Riso’s Andre D’Urbano asked “why print in monochrome?” as he detailed the
opportunity to add inexpensive color to printed pieces using an inkjet press. Color can cost just one cent per page on a Riso inkjet printer, he said. As for quality, he said most direct mail today is printed with inkjet and recipients are not complaining about the quality.
Other ACUP+ sessions focused on digital color equipment, variable data, how to manage a business and digital envelope printing.
The most interactive day of the conference was the third day, which included an entire morning of roundtable discussions — 12 in all. One of the most active was a discussion on specialized printing, moderated by Penny Bellard (University of Arkansas). ADA-compliant signage was a big part of that discussion, with those who offer it saying it saves their schools a lot of money. Iowa State University’s Nathan Thole talked about using layers of ink to get a braille relief effect and said his in-plant prints a whole board of signs and cuts them down.
Also discussed was using foil and embossing on diplomas, garment printing, UV LED printing and creating promotional products with dye-sublimation. Participants suggested sending work to one another to take advantage of their peers’ specialty printing capabilities.
Promoting Your Value
A roundtable on understanding your value to the institution provided an opportunity for attendees to share what they are doing to increase their value. Some suggestions were to write a business plan that outlines not only goals and objectives but the financial benefits to the institution of upgrades; participate in new student orientation sessions by advertising the in-plant’s services to students, particularly services that will support their course work; require customers to pick up some orders, like business cards, and then offer them a shop tour; and print personalized calendars that note all major campus events.
A roundtable on professional development goals encouraged managers to itemize these in their annual review so upper management can see what they have done to develop new skills over the past year. Specifically, list all conference sessions, webinars and meetings attended.
A similar roundtable on staff training and development revealed that many schools have invested in this; some have intensive hands-on programs and others utilize national seminar companies, such as Skillpath and Fred Pryor. Many offer online training, using sites like Lynda.com. Letting staff visit colleagues’ shops is another way to offer training.
Tour of Yale
On the last day of ACUP+ 2019, attendees boarded buses to tour Yale University’s in-plant. Yale Senior VP for Operations Jack Callahan Jr. welcomed the group during lunch, and talked about the challenges Yale faces and how it does things differently than other universities. He recognized Yale’s in-plant for its leadership and how it adjusts to Yale’s changing needs. Then attendees got a chance to visit that in-plant.
Last year Print & Publishing Services was required to give up some of its space, so the entire facility was redesigned and its considerable collection of digital presses was moved into a smaller area. Offset was eliminated at the time too. Despite this, the in-plant continues to be very productive.
ACUP+ wrapped up with a gala dinner and awards ceremony during which winners of the ACUP+ awards were honored. This year’s ACUP+ Hall of Fame honor went to Steve Dimond, in-plant manager at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Naomi Quiram, from Gustavus Adolphus College, earned the ACUP+ Achiever award. Best of Show went to the University of North Texas. The People’s Choice Award, voted on by conference attendees, was presented to Oregon State University.
During the ceremony, the ACUP+ cup, which once traveled from host to host, was resurrected and presented to Yale University. It is engraved with the names of ACUP+ hosts from years past. Yale will keep it for the next year before engraving the name of next year’s host on it (the University of Nebraska, Lincoln) and presenting it to that shop’s managers during the conference there, March 29 - April 2, 2020.
This article included contributions from Laura Lockett, Elisha Kasinskas, Elizabeth Bowden, Donna Cooper Horbelt, Laura Sicklesteel, Steve Dimond, Tammy Elliott and Penny Lee Bellard.
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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.