From the Editor: Together Again, At Last
Finally, 613 days since I last saw an in-plant manager in person, I greeted Richard Beto at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, and we rode together to tour his in-plant at the University of Texas at Austin. I was fresh off my first flight in 17 months (an experience worth a story of its own), in Austin to attend the Inkjet Summit. There, for three days, I got to hang out with some two dozen in-plant managers — in person, no Zoom involved.
It was like being courtside in Madison Square Garden after a year of watching games alone on TV. At the opening reception, it was hard to stand still, there were so many people I wanted to talk to.
I joked with Doug Maxwell, of Brigham Young University, the subject of our cover story this month. Apparently one inkjet press is not enough for the largest university in-plant; Doug and his team are looking into a second.
I chatted with John Yerger of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In charge of one of the largest in-plant offset operations, he was at the summit to find out if inkjet can handle the volumes his shop cranks out daily — and he was impressed with what he heard.
I greeted Julio Rosado, director of the New York Police Department's Printing Section, who was the last in-plant manager I saw in person, back in Nov. 2019. He caught me up on some of the struggles he’s been facing over the past year and a half.
I talked with Danny Kirkland, of Encompass Health, whose friendly manner always puts me in a good mood. Though his in-plant added a Xerox Iridesse and an HP Indigo 7900 a year and a half ago, he is giving inkjet another look, he said.
I met some new managers, like Forrest McGuire of Des Moines Public Schools, who was at the Inkjet Summit to learn how inkjet might allow his in-plant to print curriculum materials — something a number of other K-12 in-plants are successfully doing already.
I sat with Donna Horbelt, who made the trip back to her home state of Texas from the University of California-Davis, which recently added two Xerox Iridesse presses. Always a joy to talk to, she filled me in on her ambitious plans for the in-plant. I also talked with Nathan Thole, from Iowa State University, who sounded very close to making a decision about adding an inkjet press.
Also in Austin were in-plant managers from the states of Nebraska and Oregon, interested in learning how they could join the seven other state in-plants that have already moved into inkjet.
I sat with in-plant managers for lunch and dinner as they talked with each other about a variety of issues — something they have not been able to do properly for the past two years. Conversations shifted from topic to topic, as they do. They talked about material shortages and running out of toner at crucial times. One mentioned having to take machines offline due to low volumes during the pandemic (and still being billed for them). Others compared their universities’ approval processes for new equipment.
During the case study sessions, managers had spirited discussions about labor shortages. They confronted sponsors with tough questions about the merits of inkjet. The conversations just flowed — and no wonder; they’ve been bottled up for the past two years.
As the industry’s first live event since the pandemic began, the Inkjet Summit was a big success. It gave us all a chance to forget about COVID for a while and interact with one another the way we used to. The conversations and shop updates gave me ideas for stories, something I’ve been missing greatly during the pandemic.
It was a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again on an even larger scale in the fall, when we bring in-plants together for the In-plant Forum in Orlando, on Oct. 5, the day before the PRINTING United Expo. I hope to see many of you there so we can remember what it was like to network in person.