In-plants Share Growth Strategies
The in-plant community was well represented at PRINTING United and eager to learn. At a panel discussion during the event, attendees got to hear four leading managers reveal how their in-plants have achieved "growth through change."
The panel discussion was moderated by Elisha Kasinskas of Rochester Software Associates and included:
- Mike Lincoln, Colorado State Printer;
- Richard Beto, director of Document Solutions at The University of Texas at Austin;
- Lauren Tarbet, Copy Center Supervisor at Pflugerville Independent School District;
- Laurie Metzger, Valero's manager of Print and Promotional Products.
Each manager related how he or she has brought innovative ideas to their internal customers and added services. By doing this, they have enhanced the value their in-plants bring to their parent organizations.
Metzer noted that her 11-employee in-plant has improved its efficiency by rearranging its equipment for a better workflow. Mail and print were combined, giving the shop the ability to cross-train staff across departments.
"If we have a bottleneck somewhere or the work backs up in a certain area, we have more people that we can now shift and move around in those particular areas when it's needed," she said.
Metzger focuses on staff development and training to make sure her employees are prepared for the future.
At Pflugerville ISD, adding new services and rebranding existing services has increased awareness of the nine-employee in-plant, Tarbet said.
"The demand for our services keeps increasing," she noted. "We just purchased a large wide-format printer, so we're going to start offering all of that in house and we're about to start adding mailing services as well."
Lincoln noted that adding production inkjet printing six years ago "has really transformed what we do." The 58-employee in-plant also increased its inserting capabilities and automated its USPS address quality system.
"We're validating addresses before we print so we can save print dollars and budget dollars for the agencies we serve," Lincoln said.
Lincoln is now looking to bring more work in-house that is currently being outsourced. Getting in front of customers to tell them how the in-plant can benefit them is important, he said. He holds focus groups with customers to discuss past experiences the customer has had with his operation, opportunities, how the in-plant can help agencies with their strategic plans and how the shop can adjust its course to better serve customers.
"We're constantly looking to improve and increase the value that we bring for the taxpayers in Colorado," he said.
Beto, who oversees a 65-employee in-plant at UT Austin, noted that the business needs of customers are continually changing, so in-plants must be alert to what new services are needed, what current services need to be modified, and what services should be discontinued.
"What do your customers want?" he asked. In his case he saw a need for wide-format printing and promotional products and has added these services. He also started providing courier services, and in January took on Central Receiving services for the entire university. To promote the shop's offerings, Beto holds two showcase events a year in different parts of campus.
"You constantly have to be in the face of the customer," Beto said.
For employees with the mindset that they are just a mail carrier or a press operator, Beto has a sobering message for them: "The job that you have today isn't going to be here in a week or two weeks or three weeks. We're no longer print, copy and mail, we're Documents Solutions, and we try to move our employees around from spot to spot to make sure that they understand that they're working for one unit."
Related story: The Wide-Format Evolution of In-plants
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.