Government Printers Meet in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS' devastation at the hands of Hurricane Katrina was witnessed on TV screens worldwide. But seeing the aftermath first hand, as attendees of the recent National Government Publishing Association conference did, left a far more poignant impression.
On the second day of last month's NGPA conference, members boarded a bus for a sobering ride through the New Orleans neighborhoods that flooded after the city's levees failed, including the infamous Lower Ninth Ward. Many homes were still boarded up and dilapidated four years after the storm, the high water mark clearly visible on their facades. Gaping holes in roofs showed where residents had chopped their way out of attics in a desperate struggle to survive. Mostly, though, the lots of once thriving neighborhoods were empty and overgrown, the houses long since torn down.
This was not just a gawking tour, though. The group disembarked to examine a new home being built by Habitat for Humanity, a project sponsored by Kodak. In the vicinity were other new homes (funded by actor Brad Pitt), built on raised platforms to withstand future floods. NGPA presented a Habitat representative with a donation to be used to plant trees on the property, once the home is finished, as a way to contribute to the rebirth of New Orleans.
This field trip was one of the highlights of NGPA's 33rd annual conference, which also included three days of educational sessions and a vendor exhibit area. The event was organized by Susie Barthel, director of the state of Louisiana's General Services Division. She and her staff were excellent hosts throughout the conference.
Inspired by the New Orleans location, some speakers added a unique Louisiana twist to their presentations. Konica Minolta's Erik Holdo—also an accomplished chef—managed to cook up shrimp and other delicacies while at the same time offering in-plants advice on how to implement manageable change and identify their shops' "secret ingredient." Another speaker brought Bourbon Street into the conference room by serving mimosas during his talk.
And then there was the evening outing to the New Orleans School of Cooking, where attendees learned how to cook like a Cajun (thanks, in part, to volunteer chef Richard Beto, NGPA president, who stirred up some mean pralines).
Speakers included several Louisianians who brought some local flavor to the event. Most memorable was Jay Dardenne, Louisiana's secretary of state, who gave an informal and entertaining history of the state during the farewell reception. Equally entertaining was Rose Hudson, president of the Louisiana Lottery, who provided an amusing look at the different generations all trying to work together in today's workplaces. The younger "Gen Y" workers have different motivations and perspectives than Baby Boomers, leading to confusion, exasperation and (in Hudson's telling) amusement as they try to interact with one another.
Though the program was packed with information, the conference was definitely not packed with people. About 24 in-plant representatives were on hand, way down from the 82 that attended last year's NGPA conference in Belleview, Wash. The economy seemed to be the main reason for the decrease, as many previously active members were not permitted to travel out of state this year. Members discussed co-locating with other conferences in the future, but in the end decided to proceed with holding their own conference again in 2010.
The Four E's of Customer Contact
In his kickoff keynote address, Kodak's Egeling suggested that in-plants use social media like Facebook and Twitter to engage, educate, evangelize and excite their customers. What's important, he said, is to keep the in-plant fresh in the minds of customers.
He warned against focusing on equipment lists and services when communicating with clients, and showed some government in-plant Web sites that do precisely that. Your site, he said, should clearly state what the in-plant can do to help customers. It should also be interesting and engaging for visitors.
Debbie Pavletich, Graphic Services Manager at Briggs & Stratton, detailed some of the challenges in-plants face from executives who think they can save money by outsourcing. She advised managers to calculate their budgeted hourly rates and their financial contribution, and always have this information ready.
Insourcing printing from outside the organization can help in-plants overcome outsourcing attempts, she said, because it brings in revenue (something an outsourcing provider would not do). To overcome outsourcing threats, Pavletich urged managers to understand their competition in the commercial sector and know who they are contacting within the organization. Do whatever it takes to satisfy customers' needs, she said, even if it falls outside standard print production.
"Find ways to build relationships," she said, such as joining teams and sitting in on meetings.
The Recession Can Help You
Greg Cholmondeley, In-plant Segment Marketing Manager for Ricoh Americas, offered a unique perspective on how an in-plant can use the economic meltdown to its advantage. Organizations are focused on saving money right now, he said—which is exactly what the in-plant is doing. Report on the savings you bring and the profit you generate, he said. Tell customers how much you saved them last month; this will get them thinking about other jobs they can send you to save even more.
During a recession, he noted, people are more open to doing things differently to save money. This is the time to meet with customers, explain your shared priorities and tell them what your in-plant can do to help them succeed.
Achieving strategic relevance with the parent organization should be every in-plant's goal, and Xerox's Ed Danielczyk offered some advice on how to go about it. As PSO World Wide Industry Marketing Manager, he has visited in-plants all around the world. His recent trip to Asia showed him that in-plants everywhere face the same challenges, including proving their value. He offered these five steps to success:
1. Consider your customer (their applications, critical success factors, etc.)
2. Understand the market (pricing, services offered, differentiators)
3. Develop a plan (including business and marketing plans)
4. Market your services (communicate your value, educate your customers)
5. Expand your offerings
Danielczyk also went over Xerox's Lean Six Sigma program for identifying non value-added steps, eliminating waste and enhancing efficiency. In-plants need to collect and analyze data on their processes and bottlenecks, create a process map, brainstorm solutions and create an action plan. His talk was followed by a discussion in which attendees offered ideas on how to get employees to buy into these changes.
A Tasty Session
Erik Holdo, Senior Vice President of Production Print Solutions at Konica Minolta, used plenty of cooking analogies during his stove-side presentation. As the delicious smell of sizzling shrimp and andouille sausage permeated the room, he and colleague Barbara L. Stainbrook, Senior Vice President of Production Print Sales, encouraged managers to stop doing things the same way (and getting the same results) and instead tear the recipe down and then use fresh ingredients; get ideas from your team for new ways to do things.
"Find your team's strengths and build a new recipe," said Stainbrook.
In-plants should establish measurable goals, Holdo added, and put them into writing. Review them quarterly. Each individual and department in your operation should have a plan, he said.
When looking at equipment, Holdo added, managers should not settle for what one vendor has to offer; like in the kitchen, the best dish may have ingredients from several sources, he said.
Holdo and Stainbrook concluded the talk by serving the food Holdo had prepared (including the most delicious grits this Yankee editor has ever tasted—yes, I said grits).
Successful In-plant Marketing
To encourage government in-plant managers to market their services, Sherri Isbell, from the University of Oklahoma, gave a presentation filled with examples of successful marketing campaigns she has spearheaded at OU. These include open houses, "lunch & learn" sessions and Webinars. The in-plant runs Printing 101 classes to teach customers about file preparation and design. To thank loyal customers, Isbell sends them cookie baskets during the winter holidays. When the shop wins In-Print awards, it creates duplicate plaques and presents them to its customers.
In other sessions:
• Steve Radcliffe, of Louisiana State University, discussed the benefits of providing in-house design services, including cost savings and efficiency. He detailed steps in-plants can take to bring design in-house.
• Avanti President Patrick Bolan explained how, by using MIS and Web-to-print systems, in-plants can increase their automation, become more efficient and save money.
• Two speakers from local hospitals discussed disaster recovery and detailed how the post-Katrina floods impacted their hospitals. One lesson: Communication is everything. Keep an analog phone on site and have employees use that number to stay in touch.
• IPG Editor Bob Neubauer reviewed some of the major in-plant news stories of the year and showed videos from PRINT 09 and from last year's NGPA conference.
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.