New Press, New Plant for University of Alabama Printing Services
The University of Alabama (UA) has grown significantly over the past decade. Last fall, enrollment exceeded 37,000 students — up nearly 70% from the 2005 enrollment of about 22,000. As a result, UA is continuously broadening its academic programs and looking for space to expand.
When administration’s gaze fell on Printing Services’ 25,000-sq.-ft. facility, Bill May could have been concerned. Similar scenarios at other schools have not gone well for their in-plants. But as director of one of the largest in-plants in the country (number eight on IPG’s December listing of the largest university in-plants), May knows what a valuable role his in-plant has played in the university’s recruitment renaissance.
“The administration has unequivocally been very supportive of what we try to do,” remarks May. “There’s still value in print, and our university recognizes that.”
To ensure that Printing Services continues its excellent work in support of UA, the Tuscaloosa-based university found a new, even larger facility for the in-plant on a newly purchased tract of land on the northeast corner of campus, just a half mile from its old plant. In June, Printing Services relocated to the new 30,000-sq.-ft. facility.
What’s more, May timed the move to coincide with the installation of a brand new five-color, 36˝ Ryobi 925 UV LED offset press. It will join the shop’s existing four-color, 26˝ Sakurai 466SIP convertible perfector and replace its 14-year-old four-color, 29˝ Sakurai 474 EP 2.
“We really liked the drying characteristics of UV,” explains May. “It dries instantaneously, so you can finish the printed material immediately when it rolls off the press.”
Offset powder is no longer required, adds Assistant Director Daniel Sieber, and the UV LED drier generates no heat.
“It’s environmentally friendly because it doesn’t use as much electricity for the UV as the IR drier would,” Sieber adds.
As an auxiliary enterprise operation, Printing Services paid for the press out of its five-year rolling equipment acquisition fund, May says. Having such a fund is crucial for an in-plant, he insists.
“I do believe that it’s very important to provide your own funding for equipment repair and replacements so you’re not having to go ask for that money from the administration,” he says.
The in-plant also paid the expenses for its move, which he says went without a hitch.
A Transparent Move
Printing Services’ business office stayed open in the old facility until the last moment, taking orders the whole time. It closed on a Friday and reopened on Monday in the new building. The new Ryobi was operational before the move began and was pressed into service immediately.
The new facility is better in every way, May says. It’s a modern plant with excellent HVAC and climate control. It has a training room that will accommodate all 38 full-time employees, as well as an executive conference room, both of which the old plant lacked. The offices of the management team are now all situated together as well.
The new plant has a mezzanine area, which was perfect for the in-plant’s sign shop, previously jammed into a small room. The shop’s 60˝ Roland printer and HP printers churn out a variety of banners, event signage, vehicle wraps, and building, road and parking signs. The sign shop also includes laminators, engravers and dye-sublimation equipment for printing T-shirts and mugs. A flatbed printer may join the arsenal as well, May hints.
With six loading docks versus two at the previous location, deliveries come and go much faster now. May feels that the new location gives the shop faster access to campus as well. Its previous shop was near Bryant-Denny Stadium and student housing, where there was often lots of pedestrian traffic, hindering delivery trucks.
More Efficient Workflow
Where the advantages of the new facility are most apparent, however, is on the shop floor.
“We’ve got significantly more space for our production operations,” says May. “We’ve got a better plant layout, much greater efficiency. We were able to plan an up-to-date, modern pressroom around this new machine.”
Though the shop has only been using the new press for a couple months now, May has seen a definite increase in productivity.
“We’ve noticed that the makeready and startups on this press are very, very quick,” he comments. “It’s a more productive machine. We can run a lot more impressions per hour and we can also do more changeovers in an eight-hour shift than we were able to do previously.”
The Ryobi can run 16-page signatures where the old Sakurai could only run eight-pagers. This ability lets the in-plant compete with commercial shops, Sieber points out.
May has been very pleased with the quality coming off the Ryobi.
“The colors are very bright,” he notes. “Very crisp, clear images.”
As a result, the recruitment materials, athletic media guides, alumni literature, magazines and other materials printed by the in-plant look excellent, a reflection of the university’s high-quality academic program.
May is quick to point out that, despite all this offset firepower, the in-plant is no slouch in the digital printing area. It employs a pair of Canon imagePRESS C6010VP digital color presses to produce short-run personalized recruitment materials. May also manages the university’s fleet of 750 copiers, a program that saves the university about a half million dollars a year. Student lab printing also falls under his purview.
Clearly, print has a strong future at The University of Alabama. “Print’s been around a long time,” May observes, “and it’s still an effective means of communication.”
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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.