It’s not getting any easier to be an in-plant manager. No matter how much money you save your organization, no matter how much value you provide, a new vice president with outsourcing on the brain can still send you scrambling. And if you haven’t been continuously educating the leadership team about the crucial role your in-plant plays, you’ll suddenly find all your time devoted to defending your operation.
That’s what happened to the protagonist in Ray Chambers’ story who, after successfully turning his in-plant around, caught wind of back room discussions with a vendor and was suddenly sparring with administrators bent on outsourcing. His documentation of the process is eye-opening.
The outsourcing business is still very much alive, as Howie Fenton also points out in his “State of the In-plant” article. Offering the most relevant products and services is more important than ever, he insists, and not meeting financial objectives is a serious red flag. In-plants must examine the services they provide and look at industry trends to make sure they aren’t relying too much on products experiencing declining demand. Adding services like variable data and wide-format printing—both on the rise—is essential.
The in-plants I’ve spoken with lately seem to be heeding this advice. At the recent Southeastern University Printing and Digital Managers Conference (SUPDMC) the session that generated the most discussion was one about best practices during which managers around the room shared information on new wide-format applications that are generating revenue for their in-plants.
Wide-format printing is certainly a great market for in-plants right now, though as our story on wide-format trends and opportunities points out, competition is growing by leaps and bounds. The challenge for many providers is to maintain profit margins in the face of increasing commoditization. Finding new applications beyond banners, posters and signs—the most commonly requested ones—is the new challenge.
As we look to the future in this issue, we also focus on new technologies, such as production inkjet printing. Two industry observers delve into this topic to explain why in-plants should start making plans to replace toner equipment with inkjet, to prepare themselves for long-term success. In addition, we examine trends in the mailing industry and offer some ideas to help you position your mail operation for continued success.
So as we get ready to start another year—my 22nd year with IPG—I wish all of you the best as you prepare your in-plants for the challenges ahead. And I look forward to seeing some of you at conferences in 2016.
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, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.