In-plant Forums Bring Scores of Managers Together in Vegas
During the In-plant Forum hosted by In-plant Impressions on the second day of PRINTING United Expo, print shop managers for corporations, universities, healthcare facilities, school districts, and energy companies talked candidly about their experiences adding services such as wide-format printing, promotional products, or garment printing to their product offerings.
Bob Neubauer, editor-in-chief of In-plant Impressions started the session with a slideshow of the variety of wide-format graphics some in-plants already offer. Projects include wall wraps, elevator wraps, acrylic signage, construction fence wraps, vehicle graphics, and bus wraps.
He then cited examples of in-plants that have generated up to $1 million annually by selling promotional products with their organization’s branding. Some shops, he added, use direct-to-garment printers to produce shirts and other items for their parent organizations. Or, they have screen-printing companies print graphics that can be transferred to garments with a heat press as orders come in.
Featured speaker David Earp, supervisor of Print and Mail Services at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, believes wide-format printing is the best opportunity for an in-plant to add value to their organizations. In-plant shops can make money for their shops while helping employers achieve substantial savings by avoiding outsourcing the printing and installation.
Lake Land started out with a Roland roll-to-roll printer and upgraded to an EFI flatbed printer to avoid the need to apply the vinyl graphics to sign materials. At that point, the shop was bringing in about $50,000 a year. Four years later, the Lake Land College print shop is generating about $425,000 in wide-format work.
“We have had extreme growth,” said Earp. They added a flatbed cutter to further expand their capabilities. But what really pushed the in-plant’s revenues upward was learning how to install the graphics.
For example, $65,000 was the lowest bid they received to have an outside company install graphics on a 20 ft. x 12 ft. brick wall. “We did that install for $5,000 and still made money on the job,” said Earp.
The in-plant also handled the printing and installation of wayfinding signage throughout the campus. The project would have cost $1.2 million if outsourced. But the in-plant was able to complete the job for $200,000. The only portion they outsourced was installing posts in the ground.
Earp experimented with garment printing but believes “Wide-format printing is a bigger opportunity than garment printing in the volumes that we were able to produce.”
Featured speaker Debbie Cate, Managing Director of General Services at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), in Lubbock, generated revenue from promotional products by adding a 30 to 40% markup to a variety of small, creative items including Christmas ornaments and casino chips for game nights. But the shop shied away from producing garments because of the licensing rules and potential for copyright issues. Plus, she didn’t have the staff to devote the time to building a garment production business.
Others in the session, however, touted garment printing as a profitable service for in-plants to pursue. Mario Masselli, associate director of production operations at Yale University, oversaw a thriving garment printing operation at the University of Hartford, which generated $20,000-$45,000 per year from shirts, jackets, hoodies, shorts, jerseys, and backpacks. Masselli's former in-plant ordered screen-printed transfers from Stahl’s Transfer Express, then used a Hotronix Auto Clam heat press to press designs onto shirts.
Encompass Health Print Services also runs a thriving garment printing business, and Director Danny Kirkland said apparel decorating makes up about 10% of Print Services’ business, saving the company $200,000 per year. (Read about this success story here.)
Related story: In-plant Forum: Workflow Automation Can Save Your In-plant
Eileen Fritsch is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist who has covered the evolution of wide-format digital printing for more than 20 years. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.