Winds of Change in Wisconsin
Autumn should prove to be an exciting season at the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Bureau of Publishing and Distribution.
The all-digital, 60-employee shop, located in the state capital of Madison, is moving into a new facility this month. And, as temperatures outside begin to drop and leaves start to fall, the in-plant will be busy enhancing its new digs with fresh equipment and other improvements to help customers fulfill their printing and mailing needs.
As the State of Wisconsin’s primary print and mail facility, the Bureau of Publishing and Distribution provides print and mail solutions to the state legislature, government agencies, counties, municipalities and libraries throughout the Badger state.
The in-plant’s new facility is about four miles from the current building, which the state is razing to construct a new facility for archiving state historical materials. For Director Timothy Smith, vacating the former shop—housed in a 120-year-old building shared with other state agencies—will be a welcome change.
“From efficiency, environment and power standpoints, we were pretty far behind the eight ball,” Smith admits. “We are going to be in a much better situation.”
The shop hired a contractor to design its production workflow and equipment placement at the new facility, which totals 39,000 square feet of production, warehousing and office space.
“We are trying to gain as much efficiency as possible for our work processes,” Smith notes. “We are trying to take full advantage of what we are getting.”
Smith says that this is especially important because he runs a highly automated shop.
“We work to limit the number of touches,” he says. “But in terms of quality control, you need to be reviewing the products often. One thing that we work on is bringing the print side of the world and mail side of the world closer together.”
A Very Busy Operation
Publishing Services Section Chief Tony Kannenberg points out that the shop runs production Sunday through Friday, with three shifts per day in print and mail. The in-plant annually mails in excess of 40 million pieces of mail; 31.5 million of that total is pre-sorted, first class mail.
In the next few months, the shop is expecting delivery of four new Bell and Howell mail inserters. This equipment will replace three older model Bell and Howell inserters and one Pitney Bowes inserter.
The printing department consists of network printing and mainframe printing, which last year produced a combined total of 108 million impressions. The workhorse of the operation is a monochrome Ricoh/InfoPrint 4100 duplex system, Kannenberg explains. The continuous print stream feeds into Lasermax Roll Systems cut, merge and stack post-process equipment, delivering 1,440 letter-size, duplex pages per minute of cut-sheet output. About 99 percent of this material is delivered to the shop’s mail inserting department.
“We do a lot of printing that involves personalized information,” Smith says. “The state deals with a lot of different constituencies, and because of that we have a lot of highly personalized information.”
Using the in-plant keeps all of that personal information safe and secure, Smith adds.
“All of our employees go through background checks through our Department of Justice, and we have privacy agreements with various agencies,” he reports. “The agencies like it because it keeps everything in-house.”
In 1994, the state converted the printing operation from offset to all digital, with the majority of the output as monochrome. In 2010, it updated the print platform to its current configuration.
“We do all the data print for the enterprise,” Smith adds. “What you used to think of as mainframe printing with a lot of variable data.”
The shop also operates three Xerox Nuvera 144s and two Nuvera 288s with high-capacity stackers and an in-line Bourg BDFx booklet maker.
Color Print Growing
That is not to say the Bureau of Publishing and Distribution cannot do high-quality digital color work. The in-plant employs a Xerox 700 digital color press with an EFI Fiery RIP to handle brochures, flyers and color business cards.
“We keep the Xerox 700 pumping,” Kannenberg contends. “Color work is one of the growing sections of the shop along with wide-format.”
The shop relies on two HP Designjet wide-format printers to produce displays and signage for customers like the state historical society and various museums. Wide-format printing has been a nice addition to the shop, Kannenberg says.
“We kind of just fell into it,” he recalls. “One of the universities in northern Wisconsin (UW Eau Claire) was getting rid of a wide-format device. They were looking for someone to take it off their hands. Once we started to offer it to our customers, it has just kept growing.”
The in-plant also offers CD/DVD duplication and operates a full service bindery, which features Challenge cutters, drills and joggers; an MBO B20-P folder; a Duplo DB-280 perfect binder; a pair of Baum tabletop folders; and GBC laminating equipment.
Smith feels moving into the new facility will give the in-plant several advantages. One improvement will be on the customer service side.
“The old facility had numerous doors and access points, and we had stuff coming at us from all over the place,” he explains. “We try and focus on one point of contact with the customer, but people have historical memories and are used to coming in a certain door to hand off their work. In the new facility, we are going to have one point of contact with the customer.”
This will allow the in-plant to take more control of the incoming work and manage it more efficiently, Smith says.
Print and Mail Together
Smith also stresses the importance of having printing and mailing in the same area of the shop.
“Fourteen years ago, when we brought everything together, one of the problems we had was the print room was just that—a print room,” he recalls. “And the mail room was just that—a mail room.”
The two areas were separated by walls, and the employees could not see each other, Smith explains.
“So they thought of themselves as one little world, and that one didn’t really have anything to do with the other. That created problems for us.”
Smith continues to preach to his employees that they are all part of one large organization, not just a small piece of the production landscape.
“It is something you need to work on every day,” Smith contends. “Everything you do on a production line and everything you do right makes the next step easier. We continually push on efficiency from the standpoint of seeing this as a total process, from beginning to end.”
“We tried to keep this methodology moving forward into the new facility,” Kannenberg adds. “We blended the space to include both print and mail.”
Looking Beyond Madison
Kannenberg confides that the shop is now working on a business plan to implement a Web-to-print solution. The goal is to have a product in place by next summer.
“We feel like if we are going to increase our volumes we need to step outside of the Madison market,” Smith adds, noting that it can be cumbersome for some rural counties and municipalities to do business with the in-plant because there is currently no efficient process to send large files or to proof work from remote locations.
Kannenberg hopes that adding a Web-to-print option will bring an easy-to-use ordering platform and real-time proofing services to new and existing customers.
“And it allows us to step out across the state to offer the economies of scale that we have to counties, municipalities and school districts around Wisconsin,” Smith says.
This should also give a boost to the shop’s color and wide-format work.
“Satisfying the customer and staying ahead of the technology is really what we want to do,” Kannenberg concludes. “I think high-speed color is probably the next big thing for data printing.”