Geisinger’s Healthy Outlook
One of Pennsylvania’s top-ranking health systems, Geisinger focuses on five key values in the care it provides for patients: kindness, excellence, safety, learning, and innovation. Supporting these values every step of the way is Geisinger’s 30-employee Digital Print and Mail Center (DPMC).
“We try to live that every day by promoting these values, by providing patients, members, students, and staff with the tools that they need to educate, inform, and communicate what’s going on in healthcare today,” says Manager Melissa Wallis.
The in-plant does it all from a 22,100-sq.-ft. facility in the rural central Pennsylvania town of Danville, 80 minutes north of Harrisburg. Using a mix of offset and digital printing equipment, the cross-trained staff produces high volumes of work in support of Geisinger’s health care business: patient education materials, medical records, statements, brochures, post cards, books, magazines, and more, as well as office materials like forms, checks, business cards, stationery, and envelopes. The in-plant utilizes variable data text and images to print personalized pieces like patient reminder cards, explanation of benefits statements, and correspondence materials.
“We produce a wide variety of products,” reports Wallis. “When vendors or visitors stop to visit … they’re amazed at how much we have going on under one roof.”
The DPMC also prints a large volume of posters and wall/floor graphics on its Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 and PRO-4000 wide-format printers and on its Canon imagePRESS toner devices. It even does custom framing of pictures and maps for the walls of offices. But COVID-19 safety signage is what’s really pushed the in-plant’s wide-format equipment to its limits.
“COVID signage has been keeping us busy for a long time,” Wallis says. Hospital visitation policies keep changing, she says, so the in-plant must quickly reprint those signs, then pack and label them for Geisinger’s 10 hospital campuses and other facilities, and get them to the couriers for delivery.
“Distribution and fulfillment have been huge since the onset of COVID,” she says, adding that the in-plant never closed down during the pandemic.
Fulfillment and Mailing
The DPMC also does fulfillment of other items; it packs and ships boxes of incentive gifts for employees and patients, for example. The in-plant recently printed and affixed labels to hundreds of glass candle jars that were sent to patients and their families, and it handled the distribution of thousands of Geisinger-branded facemasks earlier in the pandemic.
The DPMC’s busy mailing operation sends out about 580,000 pieces per month, Wallis estimates — statements, bills, correspondence, postcards, magazines, and more. The shop processes, comingles, and presorts this mail.
“We’re saving Geisinger money because we have that presorter,” Wallis notes. Those presort savings amount to more than $4,000 per month, or $480,000 per year, she adds.
Combined with the cost savings the shop provides on the $9 million worth of printing it produces annually, the in-plant more than proves its worth.
“It’s a huge savings for Geisinger to have a shop like this readily available to them,” she says.
The turnaround time alone makes the in-plant a far better resource than any outside printer, she emphasizes.
“We can turn around products for Geisinger very quickly,” she boasts. “There are times where we create, produce, and deliver requests within a few hours.”
Most of these projects come to the DPMC through its Ricoh MarcomCentral ordering portal, which
includes a catalog of some 4,000 items. It’s connected to the in-plant’s Avanti Slingshot MIS, which has greatly reduced the need for manual order writing.
“The MarcomCentral portal has been awesome to give people a preview,” she says. “They can see what something’s going to look like, and they can order it rather quickly.”
Customers can search by keyword, and often see items in their searches they didn’t know were available, which they add to their orders.
“That helps bring a little more business our way,” Wallis notes.
She relies on the data collected by Avanti Slingshot to generate monthly reports showing the in-plant’s operational costs and how much it is saving compared to the cost of printing jobs outside the company.
“That’s an important part of being an in-plant: constantly showing what it is we are providing for the [health] system,” she points out.
Founded in 1915 by Abigail Geisinger, that health system now includes 10 hospital campuses, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute, and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Geisinger has nearly 24,000 employees and more than 1,600 physicians on staff.
Though the in-plant still uses a two-color A.B.Dick press for business forms and letterhead, and a four-color Presstek 52DI direct imaging offset press for high-quality marketing and direct mail pieces, most of its work is printed digitally on an array of Canon toner presses. As those devices age and become less reliable, though, Wallis is investigating production inkjet technology for the future.
“It would be nice to replace several of those older pieces of equipment with one or two [inkjet] devices,” she says, noting she’s been looking into cut-sheet inkjet solutions, and is attending the Inkjet Summit this month for the second time.
Merging With IT Printing
Though the DPMC handles both transactional and static printing for Geisinger, this wasn’t always the case. For many years the company’s IT group had its own mainframe printing operation. To coordinate the merger of the two back in 2005, Geisinger brought in a management team from IKON Office Solutions (later purchased by Ricoh), and for 15 years utilized a hybrid team of Geisinger employees managed by Ricoh supervisors. Through this arrangement, the company consolidated its printing operations, installed new technology, increased equipment utilization rates, and realized significant reductions in labor costs.
After many years, however, with its goals now met, and with Geisinger staff having learned the necessary skill sets, the in-plant ended the Ricoh contract and brought all DPMC management back under Geisinger’s control.
“Having a subcontractor in the management positions wasn’t allowing our staff the opportunity to grow,” Wallis points out. The in-plant wanted to be able to promote from within and hire the next generation of employees into positions from which they could eventually advance into management.
“We want this shop to be a place where even our youngest staff members could retire from if they wanted to,” she says.
Ending the relationship with Ricoh removed the latent “us versus them” dynamic that made the work environment tense and brought Geisinger employees together more strongly, she says. She is proud of how her staff has advanced over the past few years.
“We have put very intelligent people in place,” she praises. “If we don’t know how to produce something, we’re immediately in touch with our vendors to figure out if this is something we can produce.”
Their drive to provide excellent service to customers stems from Geisinger’s emphasis on kindness as one of its key values: treating everyone as they would hope to be treated themselves. If a customer asks a question that employees can’t answer, they find the answer and point the customer in the right direction, Wallis says. It’s her hope that by providing such great, dedicated service, customers will find the in-plant essential, and the company will give it the right of first refusal, directing all departments to send their printing to DPMC.
“As we solidify our reputation and become a department that people are relying on, we are continually working towards that,” she says. “We want to grow. We want to become a strong department.”
And by focusing on Geisinger’s key values of kindness, excellence, safety, learning, and innovation, she is confident DPMC will become an even stronger, more essential resource for Geisinger.
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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.