IPMA Reaches New Heights
It was a mix of peer-to-peer education, intimate technology explorations, in-plant tours, inspirational humor and music. The recent In-plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) conference drew one of the largest crowds in years, bringing 154 enthusiastic in-plant managers to Boulder, Colo., in June.
Despite the snow-capped mountains sitting tantalizingly close on the horizon, temperatures soared into the high 90s during the conference. Attendees didn’t seem to mind, though, as they networked with wild abandon — at the outdoor opening reception, at the Ricoh-sponsored restaurant crawl down Boulder’s Pearl Street, and during the closing dinner outing, where a spot-on John Denver impersonator sang “Rocky Mountain High” amidst breathtaking mountain views.
Events at this year’s conference unfolded differently than in years past. After an opening keynote on the first day, attendees were immediately whisked away to tour the University of Colorado’s in-plant and the Ricoh Customer Innovation Center, both in Boulder. The awards ceremony, usually the conference’s grand finale, took place on the second day this year. Though it may have dragged on a bit, the ceremony honored all of the winners in the In-Print 2016 contest, especially the two Best of Show victors: The Church of Scientology International and Yale University.
The ceremony also honored the winners of the IPMA Awards: The World Bank (In-house Promotional Excellence), Delta Dental of Michigan (Print Center of the Year), the State of Colorado (Mail Center of the Year), the County of Ventura (Innovation) and Blue Valley Schools (Organizational Impact).
With the theme “Reaching New Heights,” the conference included a two-day vendor fair, which featured 39 exhibitors. Attendees used the conference app on their smart phones to collect points by visiting vendors. That app also helped them explore the variety of educational sessions, which took place in three locations this year: the hotel, the University of Colorado and the Ricoh Innovation Center.
At the IPMA town hall meeting on the first day, members learned that 52 of the 154 in-plant attendees this year were first timers. Overall, the association has added 87 new members since last year.
President Elect Dwaye Magee detailed IPMA’s three-year strategic plan, which will focus on growing membership, increasing value for members and strengthening awareness of the value of in-plants. IPMA’s In-plant Awareness Week has been extended to fill a whole month, IPMA is strengthening its presence at industry events and articles have been submitted to business journals focusing on the benefits of in-plants.
The conference’s opening session unleashed a deluge of data on unsuspecting attendees when analyst Dr. Joe Webb presented results from a recent survey of IPMA members. His report, titled “The State of the Industry: Challenges, Opportunities and Outlook,” sponsored by Canon U.S.A., provided a close look at the services and products in-plants provide as well as common practices and trends. (IPG conducted a similar in-plant survey earlier this year, the results of which have appeared in several recent issues.)
Among the numerous pieces of data cited by Webb, he noted that two-thirds of in-plants sell to customers outside their parent organizations, but that only 16% list this work as a budgeted item with a sales goal, and only 2% sell work through print brokers — an opportunity that he recommended in-plants look into.
Webb noted that only 37% of respondents have a policy mandating that work be sent to the in-plant and just 15% say this policy works well “most of the time”; 13% say it works consistently well. Of those with a “preferred supplier” policy, 58% say that enforcing it doesn’t cause problems while 12% say they have been told to selectively enforce the policy.
Overall, the best opportunities for growth noted by respondents to IPMA’s survey are wide-format printing, new capabilities from new equipment, increased insourcing, personalized printing and signage. Webb recommended strategically outsourcing these services before buying equipment to build demand.
Webb offered numerous other data points as well, all of which were detailed in a printed report given to attendees. IPMA plans to reveal more data from its “State of the Industry” study at Graph Expo, when Dr. Webb will go into detail about the survey findings during a special luncheon for in-plants.
Sessions at the conference covered a range of topics, both technical and management related. In-plant managers gave the majority of presentations themselves, sharing their success stories with Web-to-print, production inkjet, variable data printing, partnering with IT, developing a strategic plan and much more. Consultant Howie Fenton, in his home town for a change, offered some new strategies to help in-plants increase their performance. Motivational speaker Steve Gilliland topped nearly everyone’s list with his two presentations, in which he co-mingled personal stories, humor and an occasional management lesson.
Surviving a Crisis
One of the more interesting speakers was Michael D. Brown, deputy director of FEMA from 2001-2005, who offered his observations on disaster recovery and gave his take on the missteps that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Though the audience — which included more than a few Louisiana residents — approached him with some skepticism, he tried to win their hearts at the onset by revealing that his father was a printer.
“I’ll never forget the smell of those inks, the sound of that print shop,” he reminisced.
Brown wasted no time jumping into the Katrina controversy and the lingering bad feelings it produced.
“Isn’t this the guy that screwed everything up?” he asked, by way of introducing himself.
He contended that his efforts to evacuate New Orleans before the hurricane were ignored and his subsequent recovery initiatives were not supported. In short, nothing worked. The real lesson for him, he said, was that he failed to turn to his network of friends and contacts to help him through the storm of unfavorable media coverage and give him perspective.
“That network is critical,” he said, advising managers faced with serious problems to step back, reach out to their network and ask for a change in perspective.
“You can survive any crisis if you can learn to change your perspective and utilize your network,” he said.
Ideas For Reaching New Heights
One of the most informative sessions was also one of the last. Rochester Software Associates’ Elisha Kasinskas moderated a panel of four in-plant managers who shared some of their innovative ideas.
“Most of the ideas I’ve got, I’ve stolen from other in-plant managers,” quipped panelist Doug Larsen of Boys Town.
He and the others agreed that wide-format printing has been a growth area. Larsen said his in-plant’s three wide-format printers paid for themselves in less than a year. John Cruser of Bloomberg said adding a flatbed cutter not only improved safety by eliminating the need for hand trimming, but led to a 60% increase in new work. Robbie Feazel of Federal Home Loan Bank Atlanta said his shop plans to add a new wide-format printer to add even more value. Teachers at Richland School District love the oversized calendars and vinyl banners the in-plant prints with its two printers, Chelle Palmer said.
Larsen explained how he encourages his staff to provide “radical” customer service — going above and beyond to help customers. His in-plant has a reputation for solving problems. Likewise, Palmer coaches her staff not to overlook problems but to “See it, own it, solve it.”
Cruser noted that he views rush jobs as an opportunity to build his team’s reputation as a department that can be relied on. The in-plant averages 350 rush requests per month.
“This is where we prove that we’re here to support the company,” he noted. “When you do the right thing enough times, they become your best cheerleaders.”
Feazel related that one of his operators challenges himself to have projects printed before the customer gets to the print shop.
Other sessions of note:
Donna Horbelt, of UTHealth Houston, talked about her in-plant’s successful installation of the PageFlex iWay Web-to-print system, which interfaces with the shop’s EFI Monarch management system so that jobs are entered into the system automatically and set up for automatic billing. Adding a Web-to-print system, she said, makes your in-plant look more professional and cutting edge. “Customer service,” she noted, “is vastly, vastly improved.”
Attending his first IPMA conference, Bob Boyer, of Liberty University, told how he worked with his school’s marketing department to create a new in-plant less than two years ago, both to save money and to allow the university to do more variable data printing. Personalized mailings have generated much higher response rates, he said. Since the in-plant started 17 months ago, he said, it has printed 1,993 jobs totaling 4.87 million pieces, and saved the university 20% over what it previously paid for printing.
Al Goranson of the University of Colorado-Boulder, was everywhere this year, welcoming everyone to his town, giving in-plant tours and leading sessions. He gave a talk on how to tell your in-plant’s story to your organization so management understands the value you bring. Know what management considers critical, he said, so you can align with those values. In his case, the university’s key goals are revenue, reputation and retention. So he collects data showing how the in-plant saves money, how it protects the brand when printing the school colors and logo, and how it prints materials that help the university retain students. Goranson showed off an annual report his shop has created comparing stats on his in-plant with IPG research data on the industry.
Tim Hendrix, Oregon’s state printer, talked about technology acquisitions and suggested first putting out a Request for Information (RFI) to see what solutions are available. When your Request for Proposal goes out, it must have a clear set of mandatories and desirables, he said. Create a concise implementation plan as part of the statement of work and include clear deliverables, rolls/responsibilities and completion criteria. Involve staff and stakeholders in the process, he advised.
In his session “Making Your Strategic Plan a Reality,” Tom Tozier of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas demonstrated a toolkit of specific templates for creating a strategic plan with effective mission and vision statements. By analyzing operations and influences managers can create a map of realistic goals.
Alvin Griffin of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools led a two-part workshop titled “Better Leadership through Intentional Leadership” in which he introduced attendees to the benefits of taking care of themselves by reducing the clutter in their lives. He talked about how to say “no” to the things that really don’t matter and how to say “yes” to the things you choose to “go big” on. Concentrate on the things you’ll get the best benefits from, he said. Your shop will run smoother, and you’ll feel like you have accomplished more.
After the conference officially ended, several managers stayed in town to tour the State of Colorado’s Integrated Document Services operation, where they got a close look at the in-plant’s Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 MP production inkjet press.
Next year, IPMA 2017 will take place in Pittsburgh, Pa., from June 11-14. Find out more at www.IPMA.org
Related story: In-plant Research: IPG vs IPMA — Who Is Right?
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.