IPI Visits Five In-plants in Washington, D.C.
I spent two days this week in Washington, D.C., where I toured five in-plants, both large and small. The largest (truly the largest) was the U.S. Government Publishing Office, where I sat down with Director Hugh Halpern to talk about how GPO has been changing with the times, getting leaner, and incorporating advanced technologies.
We talked about the improvements happening with the transition to XML based publishing, and GPO’s embrace of telework for about a third of its 400-plus employees. Then we walked the production floor, where I got to see GPO’s six Canon production inkjet presses in action. These replaced several Hantsho web presses that had been used to print the Federal Register and the Congressional Record. Now those publications have been moved to inkjet, with great success.
Even more impressive were two new Hunkeler/Horizon finishing lines where rolls of printed materials were being folded, cut, and perfect bound or saddle stitched in one smooth process, without manual intervention. A web inspection system gives operators a view of individual pages as they stream past, allowing them to spot-check for problems.
“This reduces the possible points of failure and lets us produce this with fewer people and more precision,” noted the director, as we watched book blocks pass on the conveyor belt. Indeed, the entire printing and binding process for publications like the Congressional Record has gone from 21 people a few years ago to just a couple of operators today running the inkjet and bindery lines, noted Greg Estep, managing director of plant operations.
The removal of the large web offset presses has opened up space in GPO’s eight-story building, enabling bindery equipment to be moved closer to the inkjet presses, and shortening the distance jobs have to be moved between press and bindery. Some of that excess space is being rented out to other government agencies.
Of course, I couldn’t depart GPO without watching the unique marbling operation, where the edges of books are hand-dipped into a paint-water mixture to create swirling patterns. Sarah Hurtt was halfway through an order of 10,000 books for the State Department as I watched her work.
From GPO’s building I strolled past the U.S. Capitol to visit the Library of Congress, where Michael Munshaw oversees a much smaller operation. With about 11 employees, Design & Printing Services runs three toner devices and a wide-format printer, and produces a lot of posters and signage for Library events. The shop also prints brochures, bookmarks, annual reports, invitations, stationery, and envelopes, among other items. The most recent new addition is a creasing/perforating machine, and Mike looks forward to using it to improve the quality of the shop’s folding. All of his staff have been cross-trained to handle everything from machine operation to front-end work, like estimating.
The in-plant receives job files through an ordering site created by the Library, but Mike says those files are often not quite finished when they arrive, and his team must work with the customer to perfect them before printing. Though last-minute rush jobs can make life challenging for him and his team, he feels the in-plant has the full support of the Library, which appreciates the hard work of his staff and their contributions to the Library’s success.
I thought I was done with my in-plant visits that day, but as I passed the Capitol again, whom should I spot strolling past but Richard Silver, director of Mail Services at George Fox University, in Newberg, Oregon, in town with his wife for a visit. We caught up for a few minutes, with the Capitol dome looming over us, and then bid a fond farewell.
The next day I trekked over to an in-plant I had not even known about before a local Ricoh representative pointed me toward it. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission runs a nine-employee printing and mailing operation on the fourth floor of an office building (with windows lining one wall, offering a nice view of the outdoors). I met with Ty Simpkins, chief of Logistics Operations and Publishing Services, who couldn’t say enough about what a great work environment FERC provided, with upper management willing to listen and make necessary improvements. In fact, he told me that in just a few months, his in-plant was getting a full redesign and renovation with the goal of making it a place the team will enjoy working in.
Ty wears many hats beyond his print/mail one. He also oversees conferencing services, logistics, executive drivers, and parking, to note a few. But he’s very proud of his in-plant staff, who are contract workers from an agency specializing in hiring people with disabilities. He calls the decision to employ disabled workers one of the best ones FERC has made. There’s nothing they can’t do, he said.
“Even when the fire is on us … they get it done,” he praised.
The print shop has four Ricoh digital presses: two color, two black and white. It prints a lot of public notices to let residents know about a new pipeline being developed in their area, for example. The in-plant also prints information pamphlets given to people at public meetings. Twice a year it prints environmental impact statements that can run more than 300 pages. The shop also uses a wide-format printer for maps and floor plans, but other wide-format signage gets outsourced.
Just outside the shop floor is a reception desk, where Ty says a lot of people like to come to bring job files personally, even though there is a job ordering system in place. This just underscores the friendliness of FERC employees and their eagerness to talk with one another, he says.
I took a quick METRO ride from there over to the sign shop for the Smithsonian American Art Museum. There, Grace Lopez and Nathaniel Phillips handle all the design and printing of graphics that support the museum’s exhibits. They also do most of the installation. “We’re up on ladders a lot,” said Grace.
They print the graphics on an Epson printer and mount them on a large table. Some signage gets mounted to a magnetic material for quick installation and removal. They use a vinyl cutter to create lettering for walls. This shop, Grace told me, is just one of several sign shops at different Smithsonian museums around the district.
The last stop on my D.C. in-plant tour was to the World Bank’s large facility in Landover, Maryland. I took the METRO out there and Wes Troup picked me up at the station for the short ride to his facility. The HP T230 inkjet press installed a decade ago is still in operation, printing books for the Bank – including some very thick perfect bound books, which were on display on a table. When the press was installed in 2013, the World Bank’s Printing & Multimedia Services operation became one of the first in-plants – if not the first – to install a production inkjet press.
The T230 runs in-line with a Hunkeler/Horizon finishing line that produces book blocks, which are then brought to a Horizon BQ-470 perfect binder. The shop also has two Kodak NexPresses sitting side by side, which it uses for high-quality color work, including book covers. It also runs a Ricoh 7110sx, with a long-sheet feeder and clear ink capabilities.
Wide-format is keeping the in-plant busy, Wes told me. That equipment is in a separate facility in the city, and is soon to be joined by a new Colex automated cutter.
The in-plant is unique in its embrace of virtual reality (VR) to support Bank initiatives. This has created numerous cross-media opportunities, where printed and virtual elements are used together to achieve a goal. Wes told me about one such project where a meeting space was transformed into a classroom in Ecuador, using wide-format graphics. Participants sat down at desks, donned VR goggles, and experienced that same classroom as it underwent an earthquake. The effect was quite powerful.
After that visit, Wes dropped me at the Amtrak station for my ride back to Philadelphia. My time in the nation’s capital was very productive, letting me meet some new in-plant managers and giving me several story ideas. Expect to read one of them, a profile of the GPO, in the next issue of In-plant Impressions.
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 more than 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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.