New In-plant Helps Liberty University Thrive
Two years ago, Liberty University did not have an in-plant. Marketing materials were being outsourced, and Bob Boyer felt an opportunity was being missed.
“One of the things that one of the directors and I talked about a lot were variable data applications—how [VDP] was still not being utilized by a lot of colleges and universities,” recalls Boyer, senior director of Fulfillment, Postal Services, Print Shop and Warehousing. “It would really open up the spectrum of marketing we could do overall for the university.”
But the print strategy at the time—procuring print from outside—was standing in the way.
“We had a lot of applications out there that, if Liberty were to pursue with a print vendor, it might not be cost effective to do,” he says.
Boyer felt, by starting up a new in-plant with cutting-edge equipment, he could provide these variable data marketing materials, on demand, properly branded and for much less money than the outsourcing alternative.
“So we started researching what it would look like to bring operations in-house at Liberty,” he says.
After a diligent investigation of digital print and bindery equipment, Liberty University opened its new in-plant for business one year ago last month. The nine-employee operation runs an HP Indigo 7800 digital color press, an HP Scitex FB500 wide-format printer, a Graphtec vinyl plotter and a full bindery stocked with Standard Horizon equipment, including a StitchLiner 5500 saddle stitcher, a BQ-270V perfect binder and an AFC-566FG folder.
“We are a brand-new start-up operation, so we had the luxury of designing a solution without having to consider a legacy installation,” explains Boyer. “Marketing’s printing needs demanded more control and flexibility in the printing process, which was previously outsourced. We determined that an in-house operation would deliver cost reduction, more control and the ability to incorporate variable imaging into our marketing materials.”
Over the past year, the new in-plant has printed nearly 13 million impressions on the 7800—jobs like targeted direct mail, recruitment and fundraising letters, event invitations, programs, calendars, class schedules, campus maps and more.
And while print jobs that aren’t marketing-related are still currently being done off campus, Boyer has plans to bring more of that work in-house.
“It’s my goal, as the director, to try to bring more and more of that business in-house because, ultimately, we’re going to be able to save a good amount of money versus going outside,” he contends.
A Large University
Founded in 1971, Liberty University is reportedly the largest nonprofit university in the United States. Total enrollment is about 110,000 students. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, the liberal arts institution offers more than 200 undergraduate and graduate residential programs in fields such as medicine, religion, law, aviation, cinematic arts, psychology and business.
Before settling on the HP equipment, Boyer and his staff evaluated several digital presses.
“We undertook side-by-side comparisons of print as we considered the digital press vendors,” explains Danny Horsley, Print Shop Manager. “Apart from print quality, we looked at ease of operation and maintenance, training and support, and compatible finishing solutions. Accurate and consistent reproduction of the specific red and blue of the university’s colors was also an important factor.”
“HP Indigo and the HP team offered the best fit for our current needs, with opportunities for expanded capacity in the future,” notes Boyer. He especially liked the ability of the 7800 to consistently match Liberty’s red and blue colors.
“With HP’s ink technology, [ink] comes pre-mixed and we’re hitting it 100 percent of the time,” he says. “So it was another level of branding control that really helped marketing out.”
In-plant Expands Creative Options
Boyer feels that having an in-plant has allowed the university to be more creative with the pieces it produces. He cites an alumni survey that, when produced by outside printers, was basically a standardized form that looked the same for every school. Since bringing printing in-house and implementing HP SmartStream VDP software, more possibilities have opened up.
“We’ve been able to personalize it for each different school,” he says. This has greatly improved response rates. “Last year alone we were able to increase the response rate via mail from 9 percent to 25 percent, which is pretty significant.”
In-house printing has also enabled jobs to be printed on demand, rather than printing large runs and storing them, only to have to recycle pallets of outdated material later.
Having an in-plant has saved Liberty a lot of money, Boyer adds.
“We’ve been able to see about an average of 25 to 27 percent savings over what we were doing before,” he reports.
One area where the in-plant has saved a significant amount of money has been in wide-format printing.
“In addition to purchasing commercial and academic work, we were also
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