From the Editor: Spring Conferences a Hit
April was a banner month for in-plants. It marked the return of in-person in-plant conferences following two years of virtual events — and frankly, it couldn’t come soon enough. Both the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP+) and the Inkjet Summit held live conferences, bringing managers together again for some much-needed networking time. And until you’re back in the room with peers, talking about whatever issues pop up in conversation, you don’t truly realize what you’ve been missing the past two years.
I flew out to Vancouver, Washington, for ACUP+ and spent three days mingling with higher-ed and K-12 managers. Being back in the room with in-plant managers, hearing about issues they’re facing — some of which I had no idea about — was something I’ve greatly missed. During the receptions and lunches I talked with many managers about developments in their shops and came up with new story ideas. I learned of new offset presses being installed in Texas, and new wide-format printers coming to in-plants in Michigan and California.
I even got to visit the University of Portland’s nearby in-plant with a small group of managers. We saw the production operation, with Xerox toner equipment and HP and Canon wide-format printers, and also the mailing area, and chatted with staff.
One hot topic at the ACUP+ conference was digital finishing, with Oregon State University managers showing samples of pieces they produced with innovative diecuts and foil and spot lamination effects. Fresh from winning nine In-Print awards with these pieces, the in-plant dominated the ACUP+ Awards as well, earning eight more awards. Judging by how many attendees snapped photos of these pieces, the interest level in these effects is very high.
That’s yet another benefit of an in-person conference over a virtual one: the ability to bring samples and let people pick them up and examine them — which is, after all, the point of embellishments: using tactile features to grab attention and make a memorable impression.
Sitting at the table with attendees over the three-day conference, I caught many snippets of conversation about issues they are facing. Some, for example, face restrictions on using their own school’s name and logo on items they produce, such as promotional products or signage, due to licensing agreements. Sometimes their bookstores have exclusive permission to sell branded items, inhibiting the in-plant from selling promotional products (ironic, since the in-plant is usually the best brand protector on campus).
Managers discussed their struggles trying to reach customers who work from home now and don’t keep regular business hours. They talked about new services they plan to offer, like garment printing and ADA-compliant signage. There was a lot of interest in small footprint flatbed printers, and those that have them answered many questions. Some talked about the “competition” they get from their universities’ sign shops, which sometimes inhibits their sign-printing aspirations. They discussed their challenges hiring skilled workers, with some saying it could be better to hire unskilled employees and train them rather than risk hiring experienced operators who bring bad habits with them.
My plans to attend the Inkjet Summit the week after ACUP+ were sadly disrupted due to the sudden death of my mother-in-law. I’ve since caught up with attendees who told me the networking was outstanding. They got to ask questions of peers who have installed inkjet presses and had their concerns addressed. Clearly the success of these two events suggests a rich summer and fall of in-person industry events.
Next up is the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association conference, June 12-16 in Buffalo, New York, with more than 100 managers expected, followed by the National Association of College and University Mail Services conference in July.
Then the biggest industry event of them all, PRINTING United Expo, will take place Oct. 19-21 in Las Vegas, and it will be a massive show. IPI will host several in-plant gatherings there, giving managers yet another opportunity to network in-person, and make up for the past two years of Zoom meetings.
Related story: First ACUP+ Conference in Three Years is a Success
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.