From the Editor: An In-plant Celebration
As I took to the stage to give my presentation on the first day of the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) conference, and gazed out at the roomful of in-plant managers, I couldn’t help but smile. We were all together again at last. After two years of virtual isolation, the opportunity to be with so many different in-plant managers seemed almost miraculous.
In the months leading up to the conference, I had worried that many managers would still not be permitted to travel due to COVID restrictions, or would no longer have travel budgets. My fears were unfounded; nearly 140 in-plant managers and other attendees, plus another 76 vendor representatives, showed up in Buffalo, New York, for the conference. It looked and felt like a typical IPMA conference, not a diminished, pandemic-weakened replica.
The opening reception was a nonstop stream of handshakes and hugs, as managers reconnected for the first time in years. I talked with dozens of them, both old friends and newcomers, learning about changes in their shops. Many are adding wide-format printers and contour cutters; others are implementing Web-to-print and other automation software. I heard about in-plants preparing to move into brand new buildings and others about to absorb all the work from neighboring school districts. This was all the news I’ve been missing out on over the past two years.
Thanks to the three-year gap between conferences, the networking was more enthusiastic than ever — and that’s saying a lot, since in-plant managers are already very social. When you put them together, they fall easily into conversation, happily helping one another out and sharing their own cost-saving ideas. They’re never guarded in their answers, as for-profit printers would be when talking with their peers (who are also their competitors). They know that sharing a revenue-generating idea with another in-plant won’t impact their own business, and will only make the in-plant industry stronger. That’s what happened throughout the entire four-day conference; lots of idea sharing and problem solving.
In all the discussions, very little mention was made of COVID, as if there were a tacit agreement not to bring it up (though it did rear its ugly head after the conference). Instead, managers focused on moving forward, adding new services, maneuvering past supply shortages, and learning about new technologies.
The educational sessions had the same focus, covering automation, color management, wide-format, production inkjet, equipment acquisition, outsourcing, postal issues, and other timely topics. Roundtable discussions allowed managers to bring their own problems and get solutions and ideas from their peers. I listened to many deep, engaging conversations during these discussions.
To offer a broader view of the industry and the changes that await in-plants, IPMA brought in a number of industry consultants and observers, including Howie Fenton and Greg Cholmondeley. Other keynote speakers focused on improving communication and leadership skills. The sessions were never dull, and the level of interaction was high.
One highlight for many was the awards ceremony, which honored the winners of the past three years of In-Print and IPMA Awards. Six different in-plants learned they had won Best of Show awards for the quality of their printing. I was personally pleased to finally tell them about these awards, having had to sit on this news for the past three years.
Overall, IPMA 2022 was one of the best yet, primarily because it happened. Three years without getting together was just too long for in-plants to endure, but they more than made up for it at this conference.
This fall, even more networking opportunities await. IPMA will hold four regional road show events, and the PRINTING United Expo will feature several free breakfast and lunch sessions just for in-plants. I can’t wait to see all of you and continue the networking in Las Vegas during that event, Oct. 19-21.
Related story: IPMA 2022 Recap: Roundtables Bring Out Concerns
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 more than 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.