From the Editor: Old Threat, New Angle
As if the paper and toner shortages plaguing in-plants these days weren’t enough, the pandemic has also given life to an old demon, which is rearing its ugly head in new ways.
Twice now I have read or heard messages from industry analysts encouraging commercial printers to look more ravenously at in-plants and to try harder to take work from them. The authors of these directives painted in-plants as easy prey and their parent organizations as being eager to outsource due to pandemic-related business changes.
Their logic is as follows: Insurance companies, government agencies, universities, and many other entities have embraced a work-from-home model, with many of their employees not likely to return to the office full time. This is enabling these companies and organizations to downsize their real estate, as well as the amount of printed support materials their remote employees need. So those organizations, according to these theorists, are now looking to outsource printing to external print service providers (PSPs).
Whether or not this is true at your organization, the point is that commercial printers are being incited to call on your purchasing departments and explain all the great benefits they can provide. Inherent in this advice is the assumption that in-plants are unsophisticated pseudo-printers, just kind of dabbling in print. We all know this isn’t the case, but you’d better be ready to prove it. This is no time for you to snooze your promotional efforts.
I have seen some of these pandemic trends play out — in some cases to the benefit of an in-plant. In Colorado, both the Department of Revenue and the Department of Health closed their in-plants after most of their staffs switched to remote working. They started sending their print work to the state’s Integrated Document Solutions (IDS) operation, a win for that in-plant.
Similarly, the Mechanicsburg Area School District recently made a deal to start sending its printing to Messiah University Press and Postal Services after its manager retired. By doing this, these organizations retained the benefits that an in-plant provides: priority service, low cost, close proximity, fast turnaround, and attentive employees who understand the organization’s preferences and branding. Curiously, the advice givers I mentioned don’t list these as benefits commercial printers can provide to the organizations they’re preying on.
Some points the pundits are telling commercial printers to focus on bear a closer reading, since they will use them against you when talking to your management:
- Automation, they say, is a must to reduce touches during production and save money. They will try to point out how their automation makes them more efficient than you. Be ready with automation of your own.
- In-plants have smaller staffs, they claim, and have trouble keeping up, while PSPs have larger, more talented staffs. If you’re lean, make sure you’re also cross-trained, with the flexibility to add part-timers in busy periods.
- In-plants have a limited ability to invest in technology, they contend, so PSPs’ advanced offerings are more appealing. If there are services you aren’t equipped to offer, selectively outsource them to maintain control.
- In-plants, they surmise, print a limited scope of documents, not the great diversity handled by PSPs. From what I’ve seen, that’s rarely the case, so make sure management is aware of the range of applications you can handle.
They will also disparage the quality of your work and tout their ability to provide multichannel delivery. So be sure you are addressing these issues.
There are many lessons here for in-plants, but the chief thing to be aware of is that this is going on. It’s not the equipment vendors and facilities management companies looking to provide “managed print,” it’s the commercial printers. The skills and benefits they will tell your management about should also be focuses for you — and you should proactively promote these strengths: automation, responsiveness, technology, diversity of products, quality, etc.
What’s more, never stop looking for new services to offer, especially non traditional ones. What services can your in-plant add that will make it too invaluable to outsource?
Commercial printers see you as easy pickings. Don’t make it easy for them. Be ready.
Related story: Battling an Emerging Outsourcing Trend
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 more than 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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.