Isolation? Hardly, Thanks to Video Technology
Like many out there, I’m coming to the end of my third week of isolation. Working from home has gone better than I would have expected, and I’ve been able to access most of the resources I need, or figure out creative ways to get them.
I managed to finish editing and proofreading the April issue of IPI remotely and send it to the printer. Now I’m working on articles for the May issue, while trying to keep in touch with in-plant managers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
My time “alone” at home has been spiced up immeasurably by the numerous video calls I’ve been having with both colleagues at work and in-plant managers. Instead of being isolated I’ve had more face-to-face meetings than ever, ironically.
Some of my video interviews have been posted on our site. Others were just informal chat sessions, like the one I organized with ACUP members on Tuesday. Thirteen managers from schools like Yale, M.I.T., Bucknell, the University of Illinois, and others joined for a 45-minute meeting that was both lighthearted and serious. It didn’t quite make up for the ACUP conference we were missing, but it was a close second.
On Wednesday I had another video conference call, joined by IPMA Executive Director Mike Loyd, with the managers of three of the country’s top in-plants: Richard Beto (University of Texas at Austin), John Sarantakos (University of Oklahoma), and Mike Lincoln (State of Colorado). All of us shared how much our jobs have changed over the past three weeks.
In Lincoln’s case, the distribution part of his responsibilities has moved to the forefront as he and his staff now coordinate the distribution of critical supplies around the state. But the print shop is extremely busy as well, with such a high demand for mailings related to housing assistance, unemployment and other human services. Still, he noted, his non-transactional work has dried up, a fate that has hit many in-plants out there.
We lamented that, with no revenue coming in, but many fixed costs that still need to be paid, in-plants around the country are in a state of high concern right now. Though some university administrators have assured their in-plants that everything will work out, they likely have no understanding of the business costs involved.
We talked about some unseen concerns, such as how to engage staff who are now at home with no work to do and are at risk of feeling forgotten. Also, how do managers keep up the morale of workers who have to brave the virus to come to the shop to work, even as they watch executives work from the comfort of their homes? It’s important to remind them how crucial their work is in support of the university or company, not to mention to the future of the in-plant.
Despite the lack of print work at the moment, all of us felt there will be a time after the pandemic subsides when in-plants will be deluged with jobs from customers trying to catch up. Start talking with those customers now about their future needs, so the in-plant can prepare for the work they plan to send. Even if they aren’t ready to think about it yet, they will remember how proactive the in-plant is being.
We had a great conversation, and it was nice to be able to see everyone while we spoke. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, video conferencing is experiencing a boom right now, one that is sure to transform our workplaces in the months ahead.
I’ve even started doing interviews for articles using the Zoom platform. On Thursday I talked with three in-plants managers via video, including Chuck Werninger, senior manager of IT Administrative Services at Houston Independent School District. His in-plant, unlike those at many university in-plants, is deluged with work right now.
“We’ve extended to 24 hours a day and we’re struggling to keep up,” he told me.
With schools closed, classroom materials that teachers were used to printing on their school copiers is now flowing to the in-plant, giving its Canon i300 inkjet press a workout. Report cards, traditionally printed as shells for each school to imprint with individual student info, will now be printed by the in-plant, to the tune of 250,000 pieces. The changes this pandemic has brought to the district could turn into an opportunity for the in-plant, as schools start to realize how little sense it makes to have teachers printing their own materials.
“Why don’t we let the printers do the printing?” Werninger asked.
We had a great discussion, which will be part of my ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on in-plants.
Finally, if you missed this breaking “news” story from April 1, it might give you a smile in these trying times: Industry Associations Agree to Abolish the Word ‘In-plant’
Drop me an email any time to let me know what your in-plant is doing right now to help your parent organization through the pandemic.
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.