From the Editor: In-plant Duty
I had jury duty a few weeks ago. I seem to get “randomly” picked for it every three years like clockwork, while half the people I know have never been summoned. I’m just on the reliable list, I suppose.
But anyway, even though I’ve served on a jury before and found it very interesting, I wasn’t really excited about the thought of a long trial this time, my mind already stressed about finishing this issue by the deadline while simultaneously preparing presentations for two conferences in early April (the Association of College and University Printers and the Inkjet Summit). So I was relieved when I wasn’t picked as a juror, and suddenly found myself let loose before lunch. What could I do with this extra time?
Visit an in-plant, of course.
The courthouse was not far from a college where a manager I’ve known for years recently moved into a new facility. I’ve been meaning to check it out, so thanks to my early release I headed over.
The in-plant’s move to this new space was accompanied by several other big changes. The shop decided not to bring its offset presses to the new plant and instead went all digital. It inherited two wide-format printers from a donor to the college. And it merged with the county government’s in-plant.
All of this has created a much different environment for the manager, giving him new challenges. For instance, offset jobs continue to be sent to the in-plant, but he has to shop them around to local printers now to find the best value, and then check the quality of their work when it’s done. He has the vendor send sheets back on pallets for the in-plant to finish, which brings some cost savings.
To make up for the loss of its offset presses, the shop has upgraded its digital devices and now runs four Ricoh production printers, plus an OKI envelope printer. The donated wide-format printers are not being fully utilized yet, as the in-plant lays the groundwork for this new enterprise. The fact that the printers came to the in-plant for free doesn’t mean there was no cost; inks are very expensive, the manager was shocked to discover.
The biggest change, however, has been the assimilation of the county’s in-plant and its customers. As separately managed operations, the two shops developed their own methods, so bringing the staffs together has brought some challenges.
Their customers, too, have different expectations. Perhaps the biggest issue resulting from the merger stems from the fact that the college in-plant charges back and the county in-plant did not. So customers of the county in-plant were somewhat surprised when they started getting a bill for their printing.
This is something every in-plant that’s started charging back has faced with customers, and it usually takes time, and a lot of foot-stomping by customers, for everyone to get used to it. One down side of not charging back is that it lets customers feel they can order far more than they really need, since they don’t see the price tag, and then throw out the extras once they get too old.
The manager I met with said he was trying to change that wasteful tendency by pointing out the cost ahead of time and urging his new customers to do more printing on demand.
Thanks to the merger, the in-plant’s bindery is very well stocked. I didn’t see a bindery technique that wasn’t represented now that two in-plants’ worth of equipment has been brought together.
One of the best things about the new location is that it’s not in the basement. Windows let the bright sunshine into the production area, which can’t help but have a positive impact on employee’s moods.
Despite the changes and challenges facing it, the merged operation seems to have adapted nicely and is well-poised to handle the non-stop flow of print business coming its way.
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.