IPG Visits Three Manhattan In-plants
New York City is a festive place to be this time of year. And since it's also home to hundreds of in-plants, I try to visit every December and meet with some of these managers while taking in the holiday sights. I enjoy touring these in-plants, tucked away inside the city's skyscrapers, and talking with their managers about the issues they face as printers in a big city.
So I recently took a train to Penn Station and called on three in-plants serving different industries: investment banking, real estate and public transportation. Their in-plants were strikingly similar. Each had between four and six digital printers, along with numerous desktop binding devices. Each had been moved at least once in the past few years. And each was charged with producing essentially the same key printed product: a bound book filled with technical data that was used in meetings in their respective industries. The contents and binding methods differed, but for each in-plant, producing this book under tight deadline requirements was crucial and highly valued by their companies.
It was seasonably chilly as I walked the busy streets of midtown Manhattan, past window displays, Christmas trees and holiday decorations (including ice sculptures). The first in-plant on my list was at Rockefeller Center, home of the city's main Christmas tree, which looms above the ice skaters circling the rink below. It was nice to visit an in-plant that was not in the basement for a change. In fact this one was more than 40 stories up, with an amazing view of the city.
This in-plant virtually never closes. Its 16 employees work 24/seven and are always ready to print the landscape-format books the company needs, in runs ranging from just a couple to hundreds. The shop produces between 750,000 and 1 million impressions a month.
For a city in-plant, this one had a lot of space, with plenty of room to move between machines. With all deliveries needing to come up in an elevator, you would think it would be a challenge to get paper and supplies, but the manager said staying on top of inventory and ordering in advance keeps the shop running smoothly. Getting new equipment can be a challenge, since each machine has to come up the elevator in pieces, but he and his staff take it all in stride.
I found myself back in the basement for my next in-plant visit. This was the only one of the three that did wide-format printing. Its digital presses were spread out over three rooms. The books this shop prints — proposals and presentations — are either bound with an inline square fold stitch or an offline wire bind. Its Ricoh C7100SX has a fifth color unit, which the company's marketing department uses to add a clear coat to some pieces.
The manager told me he was hired by the company 12 years ago to start up the in-plant, and he has since built up a well-equipped, well-run operation.
From there I took the subway down to Battery Park where, after a brief look at the Statue of Liberty, I walked over to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Headquarters to see its in-plant (alas, in the basement). I met with Bryan Quail, assistant manager admin services, who showed me around.
The books his shop prints are essential for board meetings and comprise minutes, agendas, financial data and more. They are either tape bound inline on a Xerox digital press, perfect bound on a Duplo device or velo bound. One publication I saw was as thick as a phone book — 276 pages. The shop printed 160 of them.
Bryan said his in-plant has good support from management. Its run lengths have gotten shorter now that board members can download PDFs from a portal to view on an iPad, but the printed copies are still popular. To supplement decreasing volumes, the in-plant is always looking for new short-run, high-quality work, like brochures, business cards and labels. The shop produces 1.5 million pages a month.
It was a pleasure meeting these managers, all three of whom were extremely friendly and proud of their operations. None printed the fancy, glossy marketing pieces that some in-plants specialize in, but each plays an important part within its company, producing crucial printed material that helps the company accomplish its mission.
Related story: From the Editor: Out and About in NYC
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.