IPMA 2013 Conference: Bayside Blockbuster
In the Hall of Fame of great conferences (if there were such a thing) it would be tough to beat June's In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) conference. The location, on the outskirts of San Francisco, was excellent; the weather was sunny and pleasant throughout; the lineup of speakers and topics was among the best ever, with a nearly overwhelming amount of useful, timely information presented; and the evening boat cruise on the San Francisco Bay provided that combination of stunning views and friendly fraternization often sought but rarely achieved.
Almost 135 in-plant managers from all corners of the country gathered at IPMA's "Gateway to the Future" conference, the largest in-plant event of the year. A mix of returning veterans and excited newcomers, they mingled and got to know each other at Sunday's opening reception, and that networking continued throughout the four-day event. Speakers included some of the biggest names in the printing industry, such as Howie Fenton and Barb Pellow, as well as more than a dozen in-plant managers who shared their experiences and tips for success.
The conference culminated with the annual awards banquet, where dozens of in-plants were honored for their accomplishments, and the winners of the In-Print Best of Show awards were revealed: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Washington State University, both first-time winners and long-time participants.
At the IPMA business lunch on Wednesday, the IPMA board discussed the state of the association with members. Membership is up to 508 from 485 in 2012. Conference attendance was at 133 this year, down from last year's 149, but even with 2011 attendance.
The board announced several initiatives, such as a website overhaul, which will bring easier interaction and social media integration, and regional meetings in the fall, an opportunity to invite potential new members. IPMA will have a presence at at the PRINT 13 show in Chicago in September, with a booth and an educational luncheon.
Additionally, new IPMA President Rob Lingard updated members on a meeting he and a dozen other in-plant managers had with Printing Industries of America in which PIA encouraged in-plants to join its association. Lingard revealed that IPMA decided not to join forces with PIA, as the benefits for in-plants were stronger with IPMA than what PIA could offer. His announcement was met with a round of applause.
Tactics for Boosting Productivity
Kicking off the conference was management expert Barry Maher, who suggested some real-world tactics for increasing productivity and job satisfaction. (No football tossing, as in last year's opening keynote, though at one point a fusillade of paper wads whizzed toward the front of the room.)
One big challenge managers face, Maher noted, is getting people moving in the same direction as them without pushing against them (since they will just push back). Instead, make them feel important, he said. Show your employees there is more to them than they know, so they won't settle for less.
"Show them the vision that you have for what they can become," he said.
Another keynote speaker was Barb Pellow, of InfoTrends, who offered examples of in-plants that have successfully demonstrated their strategic value. Her main focus, though, was on cross-media services and the ever-growing importance of mobile technology. Printers must integrate print and mobile if they want to succeed, she said. She discussed mobile codes (such as QR codes), mobile messaging, augmented reality and near field communication (NFC), in which smart phones and NFC tags establish radio communication with each other when in close proximity, enabling offline-to-online engagement. Pellow said there will be more than a billion NFC-enabled phones by 2015.
"Be the partner that brings the resources to the table," she encouraged—even if someone else supplies the solution.
Pellow also encouraged in-plants to offer Web-based procurement to become more of a one-stop shop for their organizations. She pointed to Briggs & Stratton's online tool to let dealers order promotional materials and product literature, as well as Excellus BlueCross BlueShield's implementation of online ordering with standardized templates to bring business card production in-house.
The third keynote speaker, NAPL Senior Consultant Howie Fenton, provided a wealth of information on benchmarking. (See sidebar.)
Off to a Great Start
The conference started off strongly, with so many excellent sessions running concurrently that managers (and editors) had a tough time picking. The World Bank's in-plant management
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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.