Logistics Management Institute: Why Go Anywhere Else?
As Phillip Ward observes, if your in-plant’s customers “think you’re still operating the way you did five or 10 years ago,” that’s exactly how they’ll go on utilizing your services — a disconnect that leaves everybody feeling underappreciated and unfulfilled.
This is one reason Ward and his four-person team in the Office Services department of Logistics Management Institute (LMI) are working diligently to promote the new capabilities they’ve added. Another is to reaffirm the in-plant’s role as the only production source the parent organization needs — a goal that the shop has come very close to achieving.
LMI, a not-for-profit consultancy, solves problems of logistics, infrastructure management, finance, technology and human resources for government agencies. From its corporate headquarters in Tysons, Va., the in-plant supports the main office and six satellite locations, as well as LMI’s network of clients.
The largest of these is the U.S. Army, for which Office Services produces a cross-section of printed communication material: trifold booklets, manuals, brochures, reports and posters. The parent organization orders the same kinds of things, and Ward says the workload is split about 80/20 between jobs for LMI clients and projects for internal customers.
It all comes to about 250,000 impressions per month in what Ward describes as a “hill and valley” workflow. He and his team cope with it in a compact (5,100 sq. ft.) but well-equipped print center working 12-hour shifts with overtime as needed.
Until the installation of new machines and software last August, the shop had been highly productive but not as efficient as Ward — who has been with LMI for 16 years — knew it could be. Punching for bookletmaking, for example, took place entirely offline in a time-consuming process. Nor was there an automated system customers could use to place and track their orders, generating data that could help the in-plant measure and reduce cost per page.
Centric Business Systems, an equipment dealer serving the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metro areas and other parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, resolves situations like LMI’s by analyzing workflows and equipment configurations and recommending ways to optimize them. Mike Gorton, a production and workflow specialist for Centric, says a year-long consultation with Office Services involved working closely with key internal customers to map out and implement a path to something better.
Ward says it was particularly important to get buy-in from LMI’s graphic design, IT and enterprise technology services departments, each of which was invited to submit a wish list of capabilities that the in-plant compared with its own. The result was a shopful of new press and postpress equipment installed over a summer weekend and largely up and running the following Monday.
Finesse in Finishing
The centerpieces are a pair of digital presses: a four-color Ricoh Pro 9110 and a five-color Ricoh 7110, both outfitted with GBC StreamPunch Pro attachments for double-cut inline punching. Also helping to streamline finishing are a James Burn Wire-O Bind unit, a PBS QS4 coil inserter, a Standard Horizon CRF-362 creaser/folder and a Challenge Titan 265 paper cutter.
Together, says Ward, these devices are taking touches out of production by combining and automating steps that used to be performed separately. For example, being limited to manually punching 10 pages at a time meant printing and binding a workbook might take four hours. Now, according to Ward, printing them two-up and punching them inline on the Ricoh printers cuts production time by three-quarters and labor by half. The new, integrated routine, he says, “is awesome for our work.”
Web-to-print Brings Workflow Automation
The other component of the upgrade was workflow automation in the form of EFI’s Digital StoreFront Web-to-print and e-commerce solution, also installed with the assistance of Centric. This has created a portal to the in-plant from LMI’s various locations and eventually will be available to a select group of its customers as well.
With Digital StoreFront, current users will be able to order their printing from an online catalog and see the fully burdened costs of what they are buying — not just the ballpark numbers of an estimate. Along the same lines, says Ward, the in-plant has learned how to analyze its production data so it can see beyond click charges to actual cost per copy. These costs are tracked monthly and linked to workflow fluctuations, better enabling Ward and his team to keep them under control.
Thanks to these improvements, there’s even the possibility of opening the system to insourcing from external clients. “We used to have to turn this kind of work away because our accounting wasn’t where we needed it to be,” Ward says. Now, with costs comprehensively identified, the in-plant can broaden the scope of its services and, hopefully, attract new sources of revenue.
Opening its Doors
News like this is too good not to share, and the in-plant took a big step toward spreading the word with the open house it hosted for LMI staff and management last October. The 135 people who attended received a tour of the print center, demos of the new equipment and a brochure detailing all of the resources now available to them. Also on hand were some LMI customer representatives who came away with a fuller picture of the facility’s capabilities.
As Ward notes, however, the quest to build goodwill is never ending. The in-plant does it by keeping management in the loop about all of the things it has done to improve operating efficiency, for instance, cutting cost per copy to a point where it now stands at half of what it was seven years ago.
This has paid off in management’s increasing willingness to entrust its printing to no other source but Office Services. Stationery that used to go to outside printers now is provided by the in-plant. Ward says that when the shop recaptures the assignment to print LMI’s annual report, as it expects to do, all of the parent organization’s printing will be in-house.
The breadth of the in-plant’s responsibilities has increased as well. As the supervisor of LMI’s fleet of copiers and MFDs, the shop has issued an RFP for managed print services to be implemented under its oversight. The goals are to make the fleet fully visible and controllable with the help of centralized software, and to optimize the mix of devices of which the fleet consists. Steering big jobs away from office copiers and into the in-plant where they belong will better enable the shop to keep LMI’s printing costs in line, says Ward.
Looking back, he admits that even he is impressed “when I think of how we ever did it the old way.” Ward and his hard-working team have every reason to be confident that when the parent organization calls Office Services “the backbone of the company,” the sentiment behind the accolade is genuine.
Related story: LMI Adds Booklet Making System