Add Services, Add Value
Put as plainly as possible, when you add services, you add value to your in-plant. And adding value has never been more crucial than right now.
All over the country, in-plants of every size are looking beyond traditional print services for additional lines of business that will endear them to their customers while generating needed revenue. Services like scanning, shredding, garment printing, framing and many others are well within the grasp of in-plants. By adding services like these, in-plants are embedding themselves deeper into their organizations, and helping to ensure their survival.
This is what Bill King had in mind when a customer ordered 45 posters and asked him if his in-plant could also frame them.
“I said, ‘sure, we can do that,’” recalls King, Supervisor of Printing and Publishing at Mesa (AZ) Public Schools—then he tried to figure out how. “It was one of those necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention kind of things,” he laughs.
After a few trips to Hobby Lobby for frames and hardware, and plenty of input from his staff, the in-plant delivered the frames and began its journey into a new line of work. There were some hiccups to be sure, King admits. Finding 50 identical, non-chipped frames on a store rack was a challenge, and off-the-rack framing hardware (e.g., hangers, wire, etc.) proved less reliable than expected. So he learned to work closely with stores to get better quality products, and to perfect the packing process so frames didn’t move during transporting.
Word of this framing business has spread to the 75+ schools in Arizona’s largest school district and the in-plant is busy printing and framing photos, mission statements, school logos, certificates and other items. The markup ranges from 20 to 40 percent on frames, King says, plus an hourly rate for framing and attaching the hardware. His staff even cleans the glass before delivering the framed pieces.
“This provides our customer with a turnkey solution and solidifies how easy it is to do business with Printing and Publishing,” he says. “We don’t frame product every week, but the exposure and the calls we receive for our expertise, plus the revenue stream has been strategic. It gives me the opportunity to come in and talk about my business.”
Gallery Wraps Catching On at OU
In a similar vein, John Sarantakos, administrator of University of Oklahoma Printing & Mailing Services, saw gallery wraps being produced at a booth at Graph Expo and decided to give it a try at his Norman, OK, shop.
“If you’ve got wide format, there’s no reason not to do it,” he says. “There’s hardly any investment in it at all.”
The shop only had to buy the wood frames. The high-resolution images are printed onto canvas using the in-plant’s Canon printers. Then his staff assembles the frames and attaches the canvas in a fairly straightforward process, resulting in an impressive, professional-looking product that’s ready for hanging. The cost to produce gallery wraps is low, he says, and there are good margins on this work.
“We sell a lot of them,” reveals Sarantakos. “It’s just one more thing we can do that people don’t have to go outside to get.”
He is also an ardent believer in novelty item sales as an in-plant revenue source. OU Printing & Mailing Services made $400,000 in easy sales last year by selling hats, mugs, pens and other items imprinted with the OU logo, Sarantakos says, and he expects that number to double this year. Another advantage to selling novelty items is that it’s easy to cross sell other items. If someone is ordering mouse pads or mugs for a conference, the in-plant’s CSRs suggest having the in-plant print the program along with personalized note pads.
“The more [services] you can keep inside, the better [off] you are,” remarks Sarantakos. “It just make you that much more valuable.”
Penn State University’s Multimedia & Print Center took this idea a step further when it purchased new dye-sublimation equipment from Imprints USA for printing its own caps, door hangers, tags, coasters and shirts.
“The goal is to get customers in with new services that traditionally we weren’t offering,” Director Abbas Badani told IPG for a story in last month’s issue. “You have to look for new supporting channels to keep the in-plant fresh in the minds of the customers.”
The system comprises a tabletop Ricoh SG3110DN Gel Sprint Printer, a heat press and a digital mug press to print on mugs and water bottles. The heat-sensitive sublimation dye is printed onto a transfer paper, which is then placed into the heat press. The dye bonds with the material rather than just sitting on the surface, so it can’t be washed off. (For more details on dye sublimation, click here.)
Printing on shirts and other garments, as PSU is now doing, is catching on at in-plants. Several have found this to be a profitable niche. One of those is Ohio University Printing Services, in Athens, OH, which employs two different methods of garment printing: It uses a Brother garment printer to print four-color designs on shirts, and for larger orders, it buys transfer sheets from a local screen printer and uses a heat press to seal the ink into the shirt. Student employees do the work.
“It’s very good revenue for us,” notes Blaine Gabriel, director of Printing Services. “I would recommend every in-plant do it.”
Gabriel has found magnetic name badges are also a good business. The shop uses an Epilog Mini laser engraver to etch the names onto plastic. An adhesive-backed magnet is fastened to the back of the tag and paired with a metal piece, which is placed on the other side of a shirt to keep the tag in place.
“We do a lot of those,” he says, for everyone from university employees to conference attendees. “A lot of departments now, when they order their business cards [for new employees], they order them a name badge.”
In another town called Athens, this one in Georgia, badges of a different sort have been bringing in business for the University of Georgia, where Print & Copy Services produces 2.5˝ custom buttons for students and faculty. The seven-employee shop prints images six-up on an 81⁄2x11˝ page using its Konica Minolta C7000, uses a circle punch to punch them out, then employs a Tecre button machine to attach the image and a mylar covering to the button.
“We’ve done up to 500 in an order,” says Jody Hall, assistant director, adding that most runs are much smaller—between 20 and 250. They’re ordered by student groups, university departments or individuals.
“They’re really popular for football games,” she says. Georgia Bulldogs pins adorn many a fan’s clothing. They also make good name badges.
“We actually use our buttons as our name tags,” she laughs.
Sometimes new services may have nothing to do with creating products. The need for shredding and printer cartridge recycling have inspired some in-plants to start offering these services. In Anchorage, AK, where cartridge recycling vendors aren’t exactly thriving, Kim Stanford, director of University of Alaska Anchorage General Support Services, began collecting and recycling cartridges for her campus. They are picked up from departments by her mail staff as they make their rounds and then palletized. When the in-plant has a certain quantity, she emails a company called PCR America in Auburn, WA, which arranges for a freight company to pick them up, and sends the in-plant a check for the cartridges it can use.
“It’s not a big revenue source,” Stanford admits. The $500 or so the shop has earned is just enough to cover the cost of palletizing and shrink wrapping. But over the last year this program has kept 1,485 lbs. of cartridges out of local landfills, which, combined with the in-plant’s cardboard and metal recycling efforts, certainly brings favorable attention to the shop.
In Austin, TX, Richard Beto recognized the need for on-campus shredding at The University of Texas, and decided that his in-plant should be the one to offer it.
“I’ve got more business right now than I can handle,” he says. (See sidebar.)
Like Stanford, Beto saw a way to use his mail couriers to pick up and deliver non-postal items for university departments. But instead of ink cartridges, his staff collects bank bags that departments want delivered to the bursar’s office. This saves those departments from having to drive onto campus and look for parking. They love the convenience, and Beto’s department collects an extra $20,000 in revenue per year for making the same pickup and delivery stops it was making anyway.
In Atlanta, Printing & Copying Services at the Georgia Institute of Technology has found that managing student printing has made it more relevant to the school’s educational mission. The in-plant manages about 70 printers in more than a dozen locations. After students send their files, they go to a release station, swipe their ID cards and select their jobs, which are printed at a nearby printer.
The in-plant, which is part of the Office of Information Technology, maintains the servers and manages the service contract for the printers. It is in the process of installing a mobile print version of the Pharos Uniprint software. For providing this service, the in-plant collects a percentage of the technology fee that is charged to students, which just covers its costs. But making a profit from this service isn’t really the point, insists Scott Perkins, Printing & Copying Services manager.
“It ties us into the primary or the core function of the institute, which is educating students,” he notes. “The closer you can get to students, the more relevant you are.”
Related story: Add Value, Secure Your Future
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 more than 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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.