Print Management System Brings Efficiency to University of North Alabama
Situated along the Tennessee River in the small town of Florence (population just over 40,000), the University of North Alabama (UNA) is the oldest college in the state. Known for its business, music, journalism, marketing, and nursing programs, the modern campus attracts students with spacious green lawns, covered paths, sculptures, historic buildings, and a live African lion mascot, which students can visit.
To serve the printing needs of the campus community, including students, UNA relies on its Print Services operation, overseen by Print Manager Dede Simmons. A UNA graduate, Simmons returned to the university after a successful 30-year career in graphic arts.
“I never imagined I would be running a print shop,” says Simmons. “The previous manager in Print Services departed the role unexpectedly, and I was hired to take over managing the day-to-day operations.”
While settling into that job, she encountered a few surprises.
“As I was getting into the nitty gritty, I discovered we were using a complicated hand chart to quote services, and the department was run manually and offered no online ordering to customers. I knew we needed something.”
So, in the first quarter of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to shut down business in the United States, Simmons implemented Print Shop Pro (PSP) from edu Business Solutions to equip her department with better management tools and enable Web-to-print capabilities.
“I literally made the purchase the week before spring break in 2020. I almost didn’t pull the trigger, but I’m so grateful that I did,” she says. “We were told we wouldn’t be able to return to campus just before spring break was scheduled to end. The silver lining for me is that during the 2 ½ - 3 months we were shut down I was really able to focus on getting PSP going and building back better.”
Though Simmons is the shop’s only full-time employee, she’s assisted by one part-time employee and a student worker. The in-plant’s equipment includes a Xerox Versant 80 digital press, a Xanté Impressia envelope printer, a Triumph 6660 cutter, an MBM 1500S folder, and a RhinoTuff spiral binder. The shop averages about 35,000 impressions per month on its equipment, Simmons says, and while 2020 revenues were low, the in-plant currently generates about $15,000 in monthly print revenue.
“We’re printing lots of posters, postcards, and booklets featuring departments and their activities,” she notes. “We, like a lot of others, are down on our black-and-white printing. And, because there haven’t really been any student events, most printing related to that is down. Normally we would do roughly 150 - 160 jobs per month at a volume of between $16,000 - $20,000 per month in printing, and it was a challenge to track jobs and handle the day-to-day with the antiquated [manual] process.”
Advice From Peers
To get advice on how best to tackle implementation, Simmons called on Jimmy Robinson, retired print manager at the University of West Alabama.
“I called Jimmy to get his opinion of PSP. He said, ‘I don’t know how you’re running this operation without PSP.’ And, he told me that I needed to spend the time setting up the pricing and order categories correctly to make it as easy as possible for our customers,” Simmons says. “There was quite a bit of data entry involved, but it was worth every minute.
“There is not one day, and I’m not exaggerating, that I don’t set foot on campus and I thank God for my job and I thank God for PSP,” she enthuses. “I’m so glad I spent the time because it figures everything out for me and for my customers. All the information we need is right there. I love how intuitive it is. I can figure things out without having to call anyone for support.”
One key advantage, she reports, is PSP’s ability to handle automated chargebacks.
“It used to take me hours having my student worker enter every completed job in Excel. Then I’d have to go back and check and double check and find any data entry errors. The entire process took me about half of a day,” she says. “Now, with PSP, it takes me less than 30 minutes because all the data is just there. And, our customers love it. That’s the words I get… ‘I love it! This is awesome. It’s so intuitive.’”
Simpler Than Expected
Rolling out the system to the UNA campus was simpler than expected, she says.
“Because it was during the height of COVID and no one was on campus it actually turned out to be pretty easy. Printing was down to an all-time low; we didn’t have full-blown daily production competing with training, and so we dove right in,” she reports. “We did a one-month test run with a few major customers who place orders regularly. We made a few adjustments, then started enrolling users as they would place orders and got rid of our old forms.”
There are now 282 active users of the system, she says.
“I also jumped on a Zoom call with Laura Lockett at CSU Sacramento and she showed us their site and gave us some tips,” Simmons says. “That is another thing I have really appreciated. The PSP customer community is so welcoming, and it’s been very helpful to get advice from other users.”
Thinking back on how cumbersome and time-consuming shop management used to be, Simmons is ecstatic about the efficiency the new system has brought to her in-plant.
“It’s night and day,” she says. “I love the automated chargebacks, that PSP calculates pricing for me, the ease of ordering for customers, the ease of changing orders if I need to. I’ve just been happy with all of it.”