From the Editor: An In-plant Reunion
As I write this, I’m preparing to attend an in-plant reunion: my 25th In-plant Printing and Mailing Association conference. For the past month, the buzz around this conference has been building, since it will be the first time this group has convened since 2019.
When I attended the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP+) conference in April — the first in-plant conference in three years — attendees were certainly enthusiastic. But IPMA 2022 is set to host three times as many managers at its Buffalo, New York, conference, and the excitement is strong. For the past month, it seems like most of my emails to managers have ended with “see you soon.”
I looked at the registration list and it’s quite robust. I had worried that COVID travel restrictions would still be in place or that in-plants’ travel budgets had been reallocated, but that does not appear to be the case. Nearly all the regular IPMA attendees will be there, plus an impressive 44 first-time attendees. They will hail from insurance companies, healthcare organizations, nonprofits, state and local governments, school districts, and, of course, universities, to name just a few sectors.
Not being able to spend time with this group of managers over the past couple of years has made it very difficult for me to cover the in-plant industry. This conference is where I usually hear about equipment upgrades, new services, and other initiatives. I learn about struggles managers are wrestling with — things they wouldn’t think to tell me in an email. I overhear managers giving each other ideas and sharing success stories, and some of these make it into the pages of the magazine. So I’m very much looking forward to returning to the networking scene.
I’ve also got another mission at the conference. I’ll be unveiling IPI’s latest research report, Trends and Services in the In-plant Industry, in my opening presentation. Every two years we survey in-plant managers to collect the data for this report, but COVID brought a few changes this time around. It exacerbated an existing migration toward wide-format and motivated an increase in value-added services.
Our research shows 81% of respondents now provide wide-format printing services, up from 77% two years ago and 69% in 2018. What’s more, wide-format printing now accounts for an average of 14% of respondents’ revenue, compared to 9% when we asked in 2020. Complementing this are the wide-format signage installation services many in-plants now offer. In 2020, 29% handled graphics installation; in 2022, 35% provide this service.
Of all the items in-plants commonly print, floor graphics grew the most over the past two years, according to the report. In 2020, 35% produced them; today it’s up to 62%. We can thank those “stand six feet apart” graphics for that. The percentage providing wall graphics also climbed, from 52% in 2020 to 61% this year. Window clings and rigid signage grew as well.
Beyond wide-format, other applications that increased in popularity since 2020 are books, envelopes, and transactional statements. On the other hand, some printed pieces are produced by fewer in-plants today than in 2020. These include manuals, marketing materials, business forms, and directories.
One other interesting trend turned up in the research: the percentage of in-plant respondents that report being approached by facilities management/outsourcing firms has dropped every year since 2014. Certainly these companies are still hard at work, but as in-plants increase the value they provide to their parent organizations, FMs are finding it harder to spread their message .
The report points out many intriguing trends as well as opportunities for savvy in-plant managers to take advantage of. You can download it now at this link.
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.