In-plant Merger Bolsters Service at Sanford Health
Any time two companies merge and each has an in-plant of its own, there are bound to be cultural differences when the two shops integrate. That’s what Lisa Stelter faced when her company, Sanford Health, one of the largest health systems in the country, merged with the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, a not-for-profit provider of senior housing and services, in January 2019, bringing the Society’s in-plant under her supervision.
Of the two Sioux Falls, S.D., in-plants, Sanford Health Print and Mail Services was the more extensive and well equipped, boasting a Canon varioPRINT i300 production inkjet press with an in-line Watkiss BLM 600 booklet maker, a Xerox iGen4, and a 64˝ Roland wide-format printer. The Society’s in-plant, on the other hand, was more of a print-and-store operation, with a warehouse full of material that staff would pick and pack when needed. Print-on-demand was an alien concept.
“The urgency in which work was being done wasn’t as fast paced as how we do things at Sanford,” observes Stelter, manager of Print and Mail Services.
In mid-November 2020, after months of observation and preparation, Stelter closed the Society’s print shop and took over all of its printing. Its employees were integrated or offered other roles, and some of its bindery equipment was moved into Sanford’s Sioux Falls facility. Then Sanford relocated its wide-format printing operation into the other shop’s 3,000-sq.-ft. space, freeing up room in the main plant and laying the groundwork for an expansion of wide-format services.
“The space is big enough for us to grow — and we know we need to grow our large-format,” Stelter says.
She is looking into a flatbed printer and a rotary cutter to join the shop’s 64˝ Roland Soljet Pro 4-XR 640 eco-solvent printer/cutter and 54˝ Royal Sovereign RSC-1401HW laminator. Though there are 11 miles between the two operations, Stelter insists it’s a very smooth arrangement. She or her shop supervisor visits the operation weekly.
Stronger Than Ever
The merger has made Print and Mail Services even stronger in the support it brings to Sanford Health and now the Good Samaritan Society. With 26 employees and $3,675,686 in annual revenue, the in-plant prints 2.4 million impressions per month of patient education materials, variable data mailers, letters to patients, forms, flyers, brochures, booklets, pamphlets, and more. Its wide-format work includes foamboard posters, yard signs, banners, pull-up displays, decals, and adhesive vinyl applied to rigid substrates.
During the pandemic, the in-plant has been tapped to print floor graphics, door signs denoting isolation areas, table tents with COVID-19 information, labels for hand sanitizer, and even toe tags. The in-plant’s staff was put in charge of shipping personal protective equipment and sanitizer from warehouses in Sioux Falls; Fargo, N.D.; and Bismarck N.D., to Sanford’s medical centers around the region, using Pitney Bowes SendSuite shipping software to coordinate the process.
Stelter says 70% of the in-plant’s work is now printed on the i300, which the shop installed in March 2018. Though its volume in 2020 was down 7.6% from 2019, the i300 still printed 15,230,000 impressions, she says, and the machine just passed 60 million total impressions.
“It’s a beautiful machine, and it never stops,” she praises. Installing it “was a solid decision that we made.”
The shop is poised to add a second shift on the i300 to keep up with the new work coming in from the Society.
During the pandemic, the i300 has proven invaluable. The shop used it to print COVID test result letters for patients, for example.
“When our COVID testing was at a peak, our volumes doubled — if not tripled — some days,” Stelter reports. “So having the i300 and the ability to … print them quickly and insert them and meter them and get them back in the mail the same day was huge, because people wanted to know what their results were.”
A History of Mergers
The Good Samaritan Society merger is not the first in-plant consolidation Stelter has overseen. In March of 2018, she incorporated MeritCare’s Fargo, N.D., in-plant into Print and Mail Services, a move that — combined with the addition of inkjet — downsized the shop’s overall equipment arsenal from four color toner devices to one, from three monochrome printers to one, and from six offset presses to two.
The efficiencies gained by this consolidation saved Sanford Health half a million dollars, Stelter contends — about the same amount of savings created by the Good Samaritan Society merger.
“Going from three to one, we’ve had $1 million in annual savings,” she proclaims. This is money Sanford Health can use to better serve its patients.
Despite the financial benefits, though, Stelter admits it’s never easy to shut down an operation.
“It was hard. I had to have some incredibly difficult conversations with people,” she reflects.
All Good Samaritan Society in-plant employees kept their jobs or had an opportunity to move into another position, she says.
“Sanford wants to do right by its employees,” she adds.
Still, the transition to Sanford’s way of doing things wasn’t easy for those employees.
“Printing things on demand was a significant change for them,” she says.
But eliminating the cost of warehousing and the obsolescence of stored documents has been a major improvement. What’s more, items that had been outsourced by the Society, like envelopes and calendars, are now being printed in-house. Stelter also brought savings by introducing standards for printed pieces — changing the size of the Society’s brochures, for example, to enable more of them to fit on a sheet.
Phasing Out Hand Work
Since the Society’s print shop had done a lot of fulfilment and kitting work, Print and Mail Services took these jobs on, but Stelter hopes to phase out the manual assembling of packets by providing this information in different formats, like booklets.
“We’ve been working with stakeholders to identify how we can eliminate that hand work, because if we can do all that [work] on machines and make booklets, it’s so much more efficient,” she notes.
Print and Mail Services also brought efficiency to the printing of Society invoices and statements, which were previously done on a small copier and are now printed on the i300. Additionally, those documents are now presorted for postal discounts.
Stelter is looking for similar opportunities with departments at Sanford that are printing invoices and statements on their own copiers and inserting them by hand. The in-plant can better handle these on the i300, she maintains.
“Let us do what we’re really good at, and you do what you’re really good at,” she tells them.
Some of those departments are flipping through invoices and pulling out those with charges less than a certain amount. Print and Mail Services can save them that wasted time by removing those files during the presort process, before they are printed, Stelter says.
The in-plant mails about 460,000 mailpieces and packages per month, and recently added a new Pitney Bowes AddressRight 200 envelope printer, which can address up to 30,000 No. 10 envelopes per hour. In addition to the Sioux Falls mailing operation, Print and Mail Services also maintains mailing equipment and staff in Bismarck and Fargo.
Though, like many large in-plants, some Print and Mail Services employees have contracted COVID-19 over the past year, Stelter feels that working for a health care provider has given her staff a heightened awareness of the virus. She feels they have taken extra precautions to stay safe at work and in their personal lives. Three quarters of her staff have already been vaccinated, she says.
The in-plant’s 7,500-sq.-ft. facility is currently being renovated. The old floor tiles are being removed down to the original concrete floor, requiring equipment to be moved back and forth, and plans are underway to install a new humidification system. This will be a big help during the extremely dry South Dakota winters.
The shop’s wide-format operation continues to stay busy, particularly with event signage and vinyl lettering for the Sanford Pentagon, a 160,000-sq.-ft., 3,250-seat, five-sided sports facility. The long banners it prints to line the basketball court are frequently visible on ESPN when games are televised. Stelter says the shop’s wide-format business has grown 19% over the previous year and now makes up 10-15% of the in-plant’s total business.
She is proud of the in-plant’s diverse range of applications and its quick turnaround capabilities.
“We are nimble enough to support rush requests or last-minute needs,” she says.
Though the in-plant’s current equipment mix is handling the workload well, Stelter is looking to replace the iGen4 next year. She also has her eye on new services like 3D printing, garment printing, and promotional product sales. Stelter anticipates that Print and Mail Services will grow in the years ahead and she is preparing for that possibility.
“We’re working on plans for expanding in our current building,” she says.
This will enable the in-plant to provide even better service to Sanford Health, allowing the organization to focus on what it does best: providing health care to patients.
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.