Playing A Pivotal Role
When COVID-19 hit U.S. shores last spring, the shortage of PPE was one of the first hurdles the country faced. At the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the Documents and Media (DM) department wasted no time stepping in to help. The in-plant began using its Challenge drill press to turn clear plastic report covers into face shields for front-line health care workers at the UCSF Medical Center and beyond.
Though DM made national headlines for its efforts, it was just one more example of how this versatile in-plant has always been ready to adjust its services to fit the University of California’s needs. From wide-format printing and copier fleet management, to design, photography, and Web development, the 26-employee in-plant has expanded its services over the years, and now handles work from UC campuses up and down California’s vast coast.
Located on the first floor of an old Woolworth Co. warehouse in the city’s Mission District — miles from the cable cars and wharves that draw tourists to the City by the Bay — DM squeezes a variety of capabilities into its 10,000-sq.-ft. space. Its Xerox production equipment includes an Iridesse 120, a Versant 180, and a D125 monochrome printer, and it uses a Canon ColorWave 500, an HP Designjet T2300, and an HP Designjet Z2100 for wide-format work. The shop recently added a Duplo CF375 folder/creaser and a Lami Revo-Office laminator.
The in-plant is situated between UCSF’s two primary locations: its main medical center campus near Golden Gate Park, and the newer medical center campus at Mission Bay, a stone’s throw from the Chase Center, where the Golden State Warriors basketball team plays. DM has service centers at both locations, plus another at UC Hastings Law, and a four-employee service center at UC Berkeley, across the San Francisco Bay. Heading up the whole operation is General Manager Mario Carmona, a 26-year UCSF veteran.
A Surprise Role Reversal
DM’s Berkeley operation is the result of another pivot the in-plant made back in 2010, when UC Berkeley abruptly closed down its in-plant, which had utilized a six-color, 40˝ offset press.
“We literally found out the day before,” recalls Carmona. Prior to that, he had been in discussions with UC Berkeley’s in-plant about redirecting UCSF’s offset printing there — then suddenly it was Berkeley asking DM to take on some of its work. First, DM was asked to manage Berkeley’s library copiers and the copiers at Berkeley Law, as well as Berkeley’s two copy centers. Then the in-plant started printing letterhead and business cards for Berkeley.
“Geographically, it just made the most sense for us to be the main supporters, because we’re literally across the bay,” Carmona says.
But other campuses also send work to the in-plant, from as far away as San Diego.
A Medical Research Institution
DM’s main customer is the UCSF Medical Center, for which it prints patient education materials — such as informational packets for new mothers — along with marketing materials, signage, business cards, letterhead, and more. The in-plant played a pivotal role in printing COVID-19 safety signage for campuses, and in normal times uses its wide-format equipment to print student posters for class projects, IT diagrams, and other facilities projects.
In October it finally stopped producing face shields when the PPE stockpile had reached adequate levels. The shop had drilled approximately 14,000 plastic shields.
A major chunk of DM’s $10 million in annual revenue comes from its copier management program. It handles more than 575 printers and copiers at Berkeley, more than 450 for UCSF, and another 100 for Hastings Law.
“Thirty-six percent of our revenue is from the copier program,” Carmona reveals.
Overseeing this allows him to monitor the clicks on these machines, and if he sees a volume spike, he uses it as a conversation-starter with that department to remind them of the in-plant’s services. Unfortunately, there are very few clicks happening during the pandemic, and his department has taken a revenue hit.
The Studio Experience
One of the key new developments at the in-plant was the creation of The Studio Experience in 2018 — a department within a department that offers a cross-channel set of digital services that go beyond printing. It combines a design department, a photography studio, and a Web and integration development house to give customers more options than just ink or toner on paper.
“When … they’re looking for something different, like a digital pivot … we can accommodate them,” says Carmona.
The team’s designer and Web developer can create microsites or enewsletter templates for departments that want to get their messages out in new ways. They handle digital signage, application integrations, multichannel communications, Zoom backgrounds, and more. The team’s photographer does everything from studio portraits to onsite photo shoots. By reimagining and modernizing the department’s core services, The Studio Experience gives customers new options, and has become a hit at UCSF.
Listening to customers and updating services based on their changing needs is on ongoing focus for the in-plant. “Keep your customer happy and they’ll come back and do business with you, even in tough times,” Carmona insists.
If a copier in the program is down, he offers to print that work in the nearest service center and deliver it for the same click charge the customer would have paid on the copier. When medical experts who have switched to teletherapy need small runs of brochures to mail to patients, the in-plant ships them to their homes. If customers have documents they want to digitally archive but have privacy concerns about sending them to the university’s off-campus scanning provider, DM will do the scanning in-house. The in-plant is currently implementing WebCRD from Rochester Software Associates to provide customers an easy way to order printing.
Despite the in-plant’s strong customer service scores, Carmona doesn’t take DM’s success for granted. He maintains a “battle book” full of key financial and volume data, broken down by campus, which he can quickly use to generate reports showing the in-plant’s value. It’s an idea he picked up at an Association of College and University Printers conference after talking with Al Goranson, then with Ricoh, now director of Print and Mail at Western Carolina University.
With no mandate for campus customers to send their print jobs to the in-plant, Carmona must continually market the operation. He stresses the importance of keeping budget money on campus by using DM’s services, noting that the in-plant does not charge sales tax. He emphasizes that if the customer makes a mistake in the print file, outside printers will charge them anyway; the in-plant, on the other hand, will work with the customer to fix it and help them through their projects, because it is part of the university and wants all UCSF communications to look their best.
“We take pride in being UC employees and understanding our customer base,” he concludes.
Related story: San Francisco In-plant Helps Produce Face Shields
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 nearly 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, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.