University of Massachusetts In-plant Tackles a Range of Wide-Format Projects
Kahrim Wade, the director of Print and Mail at Quinn Graphics, the in-plant at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, started with the in-plant as an operator more than 20 years ago, and has worked his way up to the top position. He saw the shop transform from an analog, offset-based operation to one that is all digital, and has developed a passion for the business.
In fact, the first big project that the in-plant produced when it added wide-format capabilities is one the entire campus still gets excited about to this day — the in-plant’s annual wall calendar.
“It is marketed and branded for the university,” says Wade, “and on it we highlight all the important days — not just academics and fiscal, but anything we can incorporate into it.”
He notes that even university paydays are highlighted, along with any events that departments want to include for the coming year. It is, he said, a great opportunity to talk to all of his customers face-to-face at least once a year, and keep those relationships ongoing and strong. In fact, even though he’s risen to director, this is one project Wade still takes on himself every year — “this has just been a baby I’ve grown to love,” he says. “It’s a frenzy on campus to get those calendars every year when they come out.”
But the in-plant didn’t stop with an annual calendar, and as technologies have changed, it has expanded its offerings as well. Today, Wade notes, the in-plant tackles a range of projects, including outdoor signage, event signage, wall graphics and even door graphics, allowing departments to stand out from the crowd and get their message across before students even cross the threshold. Lately, he notes, the in-plant has been producing frosted glass privacy panels.
“It is all about what keeps us relevant to the university,” Wade notes. “There is no need to go outside for print — we’re right here any time someone needs something. We still do posters, wraps, printing on vinyl, all types of substrates — canvas gallery wraps are a huge hit, for example. And we keep the costs down for what we sell it for, since it is all done in-house. We have seen our wide-format revenue stream go from a mere 5% to almost 35-40% of what we bring in — it has just exploded in the last 15 years.”
But Wade still isn’t content to rest. He stays on top of all of the latest industry trends, ensuring his operations are always one step ahead of any competition in the area.
“I find stuff to print on just to see if we can do it,” he laughs. And that dedication has paid off. Not only does Quinn Graphics do all the in-house work for the university, it also does much of the printing for the surrounding area — including the JFK Presidential Library and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate nearby.
“They are constantly doing events, which brings in revenue,” Wade says. Local elementary and high schools also order printing from the in-plant, as do a variety of local businesses. The local print market has gone from 10 competitors 20 years ago to just one today — and that one is looking to merge with someone else to stay relevant.
“But we’re still here,” Wade declares. “Our previous directors had a vision, and now it is up to me to keep that alive. It’s amazing.”
Related story: Using Wide-Format to Rebrand a Campus
Toni McQuilken is the senior editor for the printing and packaging group.