How In-plants Can Thrive After COVID-19
Monday’s In-plant Forum was devoted entirely to in-plants, and it managed to pack a ton of information into the four-hour program. Covering topics from rebuilding operations after COVID-19 and writing five-year strategic plans, to workflow, wide-format and production inkjet printing, the sixth day of the PRINTING United Digital Experience drew a worldwide audience. IPI will recap each of the day’s sessions, beginning with the opening keynote.
Consultant Howie Fenton started off the In-plant Forum with a presentation detailing how in-plants can prepare their operations to thrive after the pandemic. (Watch Fenton’s full presentation here.) He broke it down into four steps:
- Rapidly recover revenue.
- Rebuilding operations
- Rethinking the organization
- Accelerate digital adoption
Look at three years of past customers and list them based on which use your services the most and the least. To engage the latter group, he said, create a marketing campaign to raise awareness and show off what your in-plant can do.
One important step, he said, is to create a sample book to show off your work. In focus group meetings he’s had with in-plant customers, one of their biggest complaints is that in-plants don’t have sample books.
“It’s a very easy way to start a conversation with somebody,” Fenton noted.
Videos are another great marketing tool, he said, pointing out that 68% of consumers prefer to learn about products from videos. Look around your operation for people interesting in making videos.
“Video’s a great marketing tool right now to help increase sales.”
When it comes to rebuilding your operation after COVID-19, he said, look now at projects sitting on your back burner.
“Training is often overlooked,” he said. This is a perfect time to get manufacturers to train your operators on the right way to do things. It can even be done via video calls.
If you’ve been struggling with color or quality issues, use this time to get your manufacturers’ help to solve these issues, Fenton said.
Another good activity during the COVID-19 slowdown, he noted, is to focus on suspect numbers in your metrics. Look at four random jobs to see how your actual costs and time compare with your initial estimates and figure out where you went wrong.
Also, don’t forget cross-training. This has been very important during COVID-19 so that multiple operators can run each piece of equipment in the event someone gets sick. Schedule time for cross-training like you schedule work, he said.
To avoid stagnation, Fenton said, rethink your operation.
“Pretend that you’ve been hired as the turnaround expert,” he said. “Pretend you’re walking in the door like you’ve never seen the operation before and look at it with fresh eyes.”
Ask what you need to change to make a significant difference. Look at staff, training, equipment, and procedures. Have you cut too deep in staffing? Do you have any training needs? Are you struggling to overcome problems? Should you add wide-format or in-line finishing?
“Make the change before somebody else forces you to make that change,” he said.
The In-plant Forum continued with panels, presentations and product demos. Click the links below to read about some of the other sessions.
- Innovative Wide-Format Printing Applications
- Workflow Efficiency in the In-plant
- Developing a Five-Year Strategic Plan
- Production Inkjet in the In-plant
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.