Higher-Ed In-plants Exchange Ideas at Lake Tahoe Conference
Though known for its deep, frigid waters, Lake Tahoe gave a very warm welcome to the 90 or so attendees of the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP+) conference earlier this month, when they convened for the 53rd time. The many educational sessions were supplemented by a series of interactive roundtable discussions on the last day — though attendees spent pretty much the entire three days interacting with each other and sharing ideas.
IPG played a part in the conference as well, with Editor Bob Neubauer presenting the latest IPG research results covering in-plant services, applications and software trends. ACUP then honored him with a “Friend of ACUP” award for his 23 years of attending and reporting on the conference.
Education aside, perhaps the most striking memory attendees will take with them from the conference is the view from the 18th floor restaurant where breakfast and lunch were served: the shimmering waters of Lake Tahoe fringed by snow-capped mountains was a sight few will forget.
ACUP sessions delved into a variety of important topics, with in-plant managers sharing their success stories and ideas. There were also several technology-focused sessions led by vendors like Xerox, Canon, Riso and Ricoh. USPS representatives talked about changes in USPS regulations that will impact in-plants.
One intriguing session explored disruptive strategies for coping with changes. Steve Dimond, of M.I.T., detailed how his 19-employee in-plant coped as course packs migrated online in the early 2000s and digital color replaced tried-and-true black-and-white.
Managed copier programs become life savers, he said, and his in-plant adopted digital file submission technologies to answer customer demand for this. The shop added wide-format printing due to demand for these products, as well as other diverse services like short-run envelope printing, promotional imprint services and digital display screens.
The lesson, Dimond said, is that in-plants must stay informed on breaking technologies, be prepared to make bold changes and remain in the spotlight by telling their story to everyone.
“Be the disruptor, not the disruptee,” he urged.
The story of how one in-plant took a chance on a project that was outside its comfort zone was revealed by Tom Lydon of Bucknell University. Though his 18-employee in-plant has done a lot of wide-format printing, when it was asked to print graphics for 20 large windows (75x65˝) for Bucknell’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts, the task was a bit daunting, Lydon admits.
“We had never done anything of this scale,” he said.
Still, the in-plant took on the project using its Roland VersaCamm VS 540i. Graphics were printed on IMAGin WindowVIEW 70/30 perforated material from MacTac, with two graphics needed per window. In-plant staff handled the installations over three days with help from Facilities. Each window took about 45 minutes to install. Not only did the results look great and make the university very happy, but this project won Bucknell Best of Show in the ACUP Awards competition.
Copier fleet management was addressed in several sessions and roundtables, but perhaps most interestingly by John Wesseling, of the University of Cincinnati. He described the “trial by combat” process he uses to select copiers for his campus, which yields contracts with multiple vendors rather than the single-vendor contract most in-plants strive for.
His rationale is that traditional five-year contracts aren’t flexible enough to adapt to technology changes (or lemons). His term contract includes a 30-day out clause where the university can drop the vendor for any reason. The winning vendor knows if it doesn’t provide great service, it can be dropped. Wesseling said this strategy only works if several vendors are utilized and pitted against one another.
Some of the best information shared at ACUP came from the rountable discussions that made up day three. They covered topics like merging print and mail, copier fleet management, customer service, pricing and more.
At a roundtable on using student workers, all agreed that training students at the end of the school year was crucial, so they could start, fully trained, at the busy beginning of the next year. Naomi Quiram, of Gustavus Adolphus College, told her colleagues to learn to trust that students can handle most processes themselves and give them a chance. Others agreed, some revealing that students were running their in-plants while they were at ACUP.
Quiram noted that employing students makes the in-plant part of the university’s educational mission. It also helps reduce the full-time employee count, another goal of most universities.
At a roundtable on revenue-generating ideas, suggestions included producing customized promotional items using dye-sublimation and selling them in the book store and printing stage sets for the theater department. Arizona State University recycles old banners and has them sewn into tote bags. One manager suggested that, when repurposing old boxes to send out finished jobs, in-plants should put stickers on them pointing out the sustainability benefits of doing this, turning an old box into an eco-friendly endeavor.
At the ACUP member meeting on the conference’s last day, President Richard Tussey noted that the association now has 193 members. The group discussed whether ACUP should offer professional certification for members and whether such certification would matter to members’ schools. Audience members emphasized that ACUP is a national organization with a board, so ACUP certification would be just as valid as certifications offered by other national organizations.
Next year, ACUP will move from the West to the East Coast for its 54th annual conference, when it reconvenes in New Haven, Conn., the hometown of Yale University, April 7-11, 2019.
Related story: Oh, Shift: Dealing With Change