From the Editor: Beware the Backstab
Even though the pages of In-plant Impressions are filled with articles about successful in-plants that save their organizations tons of money, this information doesn't seem to matter to some executives out there, who naively believe they will get a better deal from a facilities management company.
These FMs have always been around, but lately they've been busier than ever, spinning their webs and ensnaring gullible VPs all over the country. In the past several well-run in-plants have been stunned to learn their shops were being shuttered and an equipment vendor was coming in to run things "better."
These ill-advised shop closings were nothing more than a stab in the back for loyal in-plant employees. While they were working hard to serve their organizations, their upper management was sneaking around behind their backs, whispering with equipment vendors, never consulting the in-plant. And then—plunge!—in went the knife.
Why didn't management include their own printing experts in the discussions? Why did they trust the advice of a profit-seeking outsider over their own dedicated employees? It boggles the mind.
In every case, management said they were bringing in the outside vendor to reduce costs. Yet the cost analysis on which they based their decision was done by the very vendor they planned to contract with! How can anyone think this is a fair and accurate analysis? The in-plant manager should have been involved, to examine the claims of the FM and point out areas of concern.
Consultant Ray Chambers once noted: "As one who studies in-plant operations and outsourcing...I have yet to find anything that substantiates the notion that outsourcing printing saves anything. In fact, there is quite a bit of academic research that shows just the opposite."
The FMs know this, so they intentionally avoid the in-plant manager when approaching impressionable VPs. They try to portray the in-plant as being inefficient and costly, using distorted figures based on national averages, not the in-plant's actual production figures. They toss out trendy terms like "downsizing" and "core business." (And they leave out the fact that lower black-and-white page costs will be offset by higher bindery and rush charges.)
The executives, in turn, are more than happy to hear all this because it means they don't have to do any research of their own. And since they're not familiar with the printing business, they don't know how to properly evaluate their in-plants to discover what a great deal they're actually getting.
This is where in-plant managers must be proactive. Even if things seem to be going well for you, find a way to meet with those who have the power to decide your fate. Provide cost comparison data that you've compiled; stress the often-overlooked benefits you provide (like meeting impossible deadlines at no extra charge). Essentially, you have to beat the FMs to the punch. Because if you don't get to your VP soon, you can be sure the FMs will.
Related story: From the Editor: Uninformed Outsourcing
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.