An Accidental Printer
Tina Gray has managed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services' in-plant for 10 years, and she couldn't be happier. With a solid staff and an unforeseen passion for printing, Gray says the joys of the job outweigh the challenges by a long shot.
Gray, who has worked in the printing world for her entire adult life, entered the industry by chance. As a teen, she worked as a waitress at an Oklahoma City lunch counter in the Conrad Marr drug store. One day, a man whom she had gotten to know handed her a business card, remarking that she was a hard worker and deserved a better job. The man, Al McLemore, invited her to apply with the state's Central Printing department. So in 1981, at the age of 18, Gray turned in her apron and boldly leapt into printing.
"Once I got into printing, I loved the production end of it so much, and decided this is really what I want to do," the Oklahoma City native reflects. She started off running a Xerox machine at Central Printing. Soon after that, Gray was trained on a one-color press, then moved on to a two-color press.
Several years later, after a colleague left Central Printing in pursuit of a new job at Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), he encouraged Gray to apply for an opening at its in-plant. In 1985, she joined OKDHS's printing staff.
Upon arriving, Gray was impressed with the hard work the manager was putting in to make the in-plant more cost effective and beneficial for its customers. After his retirement, the assistant manager took over, and when he retired in 2003, Gray took the reigns.
Within the 5,850-square-foot print shop, Gray's seven-member in-plant team runs a pair of two-color ABDick 9995 presses, a Xerox DocuColor 8000 and Challenge and Prism paper cutters. The in-plant also relies on a four-bin Standard Horizon collator and saddle stitcher, with an added three-side trimmer, which Gray says has helped increase cutting efficiency. In addition, the in-plant added a wire binder this past year and a large cutter about two years ago. It currently has a bid out for a new drill.
With a $1.5 million annual budget, Gray's in-plant takes care of all of OKDHS's printing needs, which include products like forms, posters, brochures, flyers, mailers, pamphlets, print materials for conferences, business cards and envelopes.
Upgrading the Operation
Over the years, Gray has made several improvements to the in-plant. When she came on board as manager, the in-plant was no longer using its web presses. So Gray replaced them with a four-color Ryobi press in 2006, then replaced that with a four-color Presstek 34DI direct imaging press in 2011. In addition, she installed a Halm jet press for envelope printing in 2008.
Gray, who holds a Certified Procurement Officer license, eventually took on paper ordering, and now does all of the bidding for the in-plant's supplies.
"I do it internally and get it done right," she says.
When Gray's former boss retired, OKDHS was in the midst of a voluntary buy-out, which cut back the bindery manager and press operator positions.
"I was told to make it work with three less people," she says. Luckily for Gray, she says the in-plant has always boasted a strong staff.
"I really am truly blessed with really good people working for me. They take pride in their work and get the work out on time," Gray lauds. "It is very easy on my end, because they take care of their jobs every day. They are just awesome. They just make this place shine."
For its strong work ethic and tight print quality, the in-plant has received the OKDHS's Best of the Best award three times as a team, and Gray received an individual recognition.
"Our print shop [got one of the awards] for transitioning our business card ordering online," Gray proudly reflects. The in-plant has also received a handful of In-Print awards over the years for the quality of its printing, including both a Gold and a Silver award in this year's contest. Gray is thrilled about all the recognition her shop has received, as she is living her dream job every day, and says she plans on being with the in-plant until she retires.
Outside of work, Gray and her husband are avid sports fans, and love attending University of Oklahoma football and baseball games, when not taking sightseeing trips around Oklahoma.