From the Editor: The Way Forward
By now, you know where your in-plant stands in the eyes of your parent organization during the pandemic: you are either essential and busy, or you’re slow and wondering about your future — and that status is largely a result of the types of applications in which you specialize.
For those printing transactional statements, health care information, training manuals, and wide-format graphics, demand continues to be high. For those who specialize in event promotion or black-and-white office documents, the sound of dropping pins may be the loudest noise in their shops.
Continuing to concentrate on applications no longer in demand and waiting for things to turn around is not the way forward. Those whose business is slow right now need to start thinking differently if they want to stay viable.
You have read many times in this magazine about new services your peers are providing. Maybe you thought, “We’re good,” as you flipped the page. Well, stop flipping. It’s time to get busy and move in a new direction — before that new direction is out the door.
One key activity keeping in-plants busy during these difficult times is insourcing. Many university in-plants, for example, are producing work for their affiliated hospitals, as well as for local school districts and even other universities. Government in-plants are looking to other municipalities for business.
As we’ve written about many times during the pandemic, COVID-19 safety signage has been an ongoing source of work. If you don’t have wide-format equipment, you may have already missed the boat for the initial surge, but the need for signage and wall/floor graphics will only continue.
Reinforcing your current equipment with new latex or flatbed technology will open up a ton of additional work, setting you up for a quick ROI. Wide-format is truly the future of the in-plant industry, and those not capitalizing on it will come to regret it.
And don’t forget about the installation of those graphics: your staff can provide a much-needed service by professionally installing graphics for departments that don’t have the time or the finesse to do it right.
Contour cutting is in demand. Customers see the types of items these cutters can produce and then come up with projects of their own to send the in-plant. In-plants with cutters are even taking in work from other in-plants. If you have been on the fence about adding a contour cutter, make your business case now. Don’t forget to factor in the work you’ll undoubtedly receive from outside your organization.
Is space an issue? (Who am I kidding? It’s always an issue.) This is the time to negotiate the use of a currently empty room, with so many of your coworkers working remotely. Running wide-format printers and cutters in separate facilities is more common than you think. The need for this service is strong right now; don’t waste this opportunity to justify it for the good of your organization.
Another service that might be right for your in-plant is adding digital embellishments to your printing. In our January/February issue we’ve highlighted two in-plants — the University of Oklahoma and the University of Pittsburgh — that are enhancing their printing by adding spot coating, foil, textured effects, and more to greeting cards, business cards, marketing material, and other items. Similarly, installing a laminator has caused the sky to open up with new work for Omaha Public Schools Printing & Publication Services.
Whatever you do, it’s important that you do it now. You must take steps during this slow time to stay busy, show initiative, and demonstrate your in-plant’s 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.