Keeping Print Alive
Having turned an early interest in the graphic arts into a lifelong career, Gordon Rivera, coordinator of Campus Graphics at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif., is still a big believer in the printing process.
As a pre-teen, Rivera made a few extra bucks by producing advertising flyers for local landscaping companies. He had no formal training or access to desktop publishing equipment, so Rivera recalls cutting and pasting text and photos and using a copier to complete the projects.
"One of my first real jobs, when I was about 16, was doing layout for a classified magazine for a web printer," Rivera says. "I did paste up, and that's how I started in the industry."
The California native continued with the craft after graduating from high school, learning all areas of the industry. He remembers two co-workers at a San Jose commercial shop getting hired as managers, even though they lacked any hands-on experience.
"I asked them how they got a management job, and they said they went to Cal Poly [California Polytechnic State University]," Rivera notes, pointing out that he quickly enrolled and earned a degree in print management. "It was ironic—I was busting my butt working when all I had to do is go to the school in the area."
Rivera started at Allan Hancock College's in-plant in 1996, admittedly taking a pay cut to get away from the long hours he was laboring through in the commercial printing industry. He wanted a better way of life, and feels he found the right place to settle down on the commuter campus of 10,000 students.
"I brought a commercial printing attitude—that quality is 100 percent important—into the nonprofit world," Rivera contends. "And we always want to be entrepreneurial. We have to keep finding out what the college needs and how we can fulfill it."
Adding new capabilities would be much easier for Rivera if he had extra floor space. The four-employee in-plant currently operates out of a modest 2,200-square-foot facility. He says he knows he could make money on wide-format printing, but just does not have the room to add the equipment. He also has a strong interest in entering the realm of 3D printing.
Rivera has penned a proposal to acquire additional space, and has brought the school's board of trustees in for a tour to explain how much more work they could do with extra square footage.
"The college president knows we can do more," Rivera says, stressing that he gets a lot of support from the school due to the large amount of work handled by a skeleton staff.
Over the past seven years, the shop has been insourcing work from other schools and non-profits. Rivera points out that the in-plant runs a profitable retail printing operation for students, which has been growing by about 33 percent annually.
While managing a busy college in-plant would be more than enough for most people to handle, Rivera also serves as a lecturer at Cal Poly. He has taught a variety of production and management courses, and is now focusing on quality management, including Six Sigma practices.
Rivera is a proponent of using Six Sigma—a set of techniques and tools for process improvement—at his shop to boost productivity and streamline the whole printing process.
"Six Sigma can be applied to just about anything," Rivera says, noting that he has introduced Six Sigma techniques to other departments at the school. He is currently writing a white paper on implementing Six Sigma into a print environment.
"I am blessed because one of my employees is a Cal Poly graduate, and he was trained in the process," he says, adding that the other in-plant employees quickly got on board.
Rivera admits that teaching college courses and running the in-plant is a "quick recipe to burn out." However, he enjoys working with students and preparing the next generation of printing professionals.
"Dinosaurs like me who teach production, our days are numbered," he says with a laugh. "I try to apply real world examples and bring into the classroom what I have done in real life. And I think the students appreciate that."
Rivera proudly reports that he has successfully trained student workers, who typically stay at the in-plant for several years, learning everything from prepress to offset printing. The shop currently has two student employees.
Three of Rivera's former student in-plant workers have found jobs in the graphic arts industry. He plans on hiring another for a newly created part-time position that will allow the in-plant to offer evening hours.
"Campus Graphics is only as good as the people that work here," Rivera maintains. "We have a very dedicated staff that puts out quality work, and that is not a reflection on one person. It really is a team effort."
Outside of work, Rivera relaxes by fishing for halibut, sea bass and salmon in the Pacific Ocean. He and his wife of 16 years, Candice, live in a ranch-style home they designed and built.