From the Editor: Not Business as Usual
Let’s see, what should I write about? Oh, I know: the only thing any of us is thinking about right now. I don’t need to say its name. We certainly live in a different world these days. With our office in Philadelphia shut down, I’ve been working from home since mid-March, trying to keep tabs on how the coronavirus is impacting in-plants.
Some shops have been closed along with their campuses and companies; others were deemed “essential” and are open with skeleton crews. Some are monitoring production from home via their Web-to-print systems. The operators and front counter staff still in the print shops are observing strict sanitization and proximity rules, keeping six feet apart from each other and from customers. No more signing for deliveries.
Many university in-plants have seen their work dry up. With students attending online classes and all activities canceled, printing for courses and events has all stopped. On the other hand, hospital in-plants are experiencing a surge in demand for signage and virus-related materials.
As the world swiftly moves to online education and gets comfortable with virtual meetings, we can’t help but wonder what the impact of the current business and school shutdown will be on in-plants. Will people go back to printing educational materials once we’re done staying six feet apart? Will the PDFs we’re sharing now that we have no choice seem good enough six months from now? With businesses shut down for so long, and no money coming in, will customers curtail their print budgets?
These are sobering thoughts. In-plants will definitely have to step up their internal marketing once the virus is no longer in the headlines. For those still operating now, this may be your opportunity to really shine by proving yourself invaluable in an emergency situation.
For my part, the pandemic has given me a crash course in telecommuting. I’ve worked from home many times over the years when writing articles, but to suddenly have to do everything from home has been a challenge. Until my company arranged to ship me a massive 27˝ monitor, I was squinting at a 14˝ laptop screen (and even using a magnifying glass at times).
I’ve set up shop in the “sun room” of my house, with windows all around me to let in the sun and give me a view of the trees outside. (I just spotted a red-headed woodpecker!) It’s from there that I’ve been writing updates on the impact of the virus for our Enews and making video calls to managers to learn more about what they’re facing. At the same time, I’m proofreading articles for this issue on screen instead of paper, interacting with our designer via email and Microsoft Teams, and doing a lot of conference calls.
A few weeks ago, I was looking forward to a busy spring full of travel to industry events. I had tickets for trips to Germany, Phoenix, Austin, and other places, where I anticipated seeing many in-plant managers. Every one of those trips was canceled or postponed. It was very disappointing, but other worries have long since replaced my dejection.
Though I’m so busy I haven’t had much time to think about it, I do miss going into Philadelphia to my office, walking or biking there from the train station, chatting with coworkers — all those normal activities I took for granted. This new reality, with my kids and wife all in the house with me as I work, is novel right now, but if it goes on another month … well, it helps to think about the end of this pandemic and life returning to something like normal.
This issue of IPI marks the transition point between two worlds: the normal world before the coronavirus, when new machine installations and adding services seemed important; and the much darker reality of a spreading pandemic, isolating us and souring our dreams. The articles on inkjet and bindery equipment in this issue, all written before the pandemic, may seem naive and pointless in our current environment, yet we’ll soon be back to that world, thinking again about wide-format and selling promotional products.
As we move forward, we’ll continue to try to bring a sense of normalcy into the chaos with stories about in-plant successes and new technologies. Though we will certainly continue to cover the impact of the virus on in-plants, we don’t need to give you an overdose of what you’re already reading in the news. So while the latest digital devices may not seem that important as you worry about braving a supermarket full of potentially infected shoppers, or the fact that your kids are missing months of school, think of these stories as a break from the madness, an opportunity to look forward to a time beyond the pandemic, when you’ll once again be looking for ways to better serve your organization and show your value.
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.