Thinking Big Leads to Growth, Savings, and Respect
To Delvecchio “Del” Shankle, his in-plant’s mission is no different from the mission of the CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System.
“Our core business is patient care,” says the director of operations for Print Services at the Catholic-sponsored nonprofit health care provider. The in-plant supports this by saving CHRISTUS Health more than $1 million per year in print costs — money that can be put to better use helping patients.
To bring this message home, Shankle tracks how much the in-plant is saving the health care provider and points out specific hospital equipment that could be purchased with that money, making it easy for administrators to see the value Print Services is bringing. This approach has endeared the in-plant to the health system and enabled it to greatly expand its equipment and services.
In October 2021, the 10-employee operation moved from a cramped 7,000-sq.-ft. space where growth was nearly impossible into a spacious 14,200-sq.-ft. facility where it has been able to broaden its services, particularly wide-format printing. The in-plant recently added a second flatbed printer, a Ricoh Pro TF6251, to its arsenal, which includes a Mimaki JFX500 flatbed printer, a Mimaki CJV300 Series roll-fed printer, and a Colex Sharpcut Pro contour cutter.
The new Ricoh LED-UV flatbed can print on rigid substrates up to 4.3" thick. Shankle loves the near-photographic quality of the TF6251 and its ability to print white, clear, and primer. This has bolstered the quality of the artwork the shop prints for the walls of CHRISTUS Health facilities — a booming business for the shop.
“Acrylic artwork has taken off,” he says.
The in-plant also prints ADA-compliant signage for the health system on the flatbeds.
“It’s been a good addition to our wide-format area,” he says of the Ricoh Pro TF6251. “It has increased our capabilities. And it’s fast.”
Expanding Healthcare System
Based in Tyler, Texas, CHRISTUS Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit system made up of more than 600 centers, including community hospitals, urgent care centers, health insurance companies, and physician clinics. It has more than 1,000 providers in 113 locations throughout Northeast Texas and Louisiana and continues to expand.
“We’re very much on a growth spurt,” Shankle says.
To aid CHRISTUS Health in its mission, Print Services processes more than 16,000 print jobs every year, including some work for private customers, community support projects, and pro bono work for nonprofits. This equates to 26.8 million impressions and nearly 36,000 sq. ft. of ridged and banner materials. By comparing the in-plant’s costs with outside providers, Shankle has shown combined print and mail processing cost savings of more than 35%, equivalent to $685,000 in a six-month period.
In addition to its wide-format equipment, the shop runs three Ricoh Pro C9210s — two with Plockmatic 500 inline booklet making — two- and four-color Ryobi presses, a Xanté En/Press, and a host of inserting, binding, and coating equipment. It uses this equipment to produce stationery, appointment cards, menus, patient reminder letters, direct mail, books, and many other essential materials.
“We do a ton of variable data,” adds Shankle, who has worked at the health system for 24 years, 16 of those overseeing printing. For example, his shop will have printed 2.6 million pieces of direct mail, letters, and personalized booklets by the end of open enrollment. The mailing of these items is aided by BCC Track N Trace intelligent mailpiece tracking software, which provides exact timing of delivery to help improve delivery effectiveness. The in-plant is also currently implementing PlanetPress software from Objectif Lune to aid in batching and comingling mail for better discounts.
The latest initiative taken on by the in-plant is the kitting of recognition and new associate gifts. This new line of business started during COVID when departments had difficulty sourcing awards and certificates to recognize associates. The in-plant stepped in, designing and fabricating acrylic awards, then placing these, along with certificates and tumblers, into personalized boxes. This new service was a hit, and CHRISTUS Health has since stopped outsourcing this work. The in-plant brings in students with disabilities, through the Project SEARCH job training program, to help with this manual work, which teaches them organizational and communication skills.
A New Way of Thinking
Years ago, Shankle admits, looking for new services to add, such as kitting, was not a priority for him.
“We were thinking very small,” he reflects, “and when you think small, you stay small.”
That changed when his operation partnered with Ricoh Professional Services, which did an in-depth operations assessment to find ways the in-plant could better serve CHRISTUS Health.
“They changed our way of thinking,” Shankle says.
Led by former in-plant manager Debbie Pavletich, director of Ricoh’s Business Consulting Practice, the Ricoh team used predictive analytics to show how much CHRISTUS Health was spending to outsource printing. Ricoh proved through the data that Print Services had the infrastructure and equipment to take on more work. This gave Shankle the confidence to expand the shop’s services.
The Ricoh team also helped the in-plant find internal production efficiencies, reduce turnaround times, process more precise mailing lists, and incorporate higher security to help ensure confidentiality. When the in-plant relocated, it worked with Ricoh to plan the shop’s layout, creating a more efficient workflow. Ricoh’s partnership enabled the shop to transition from a niche service provider to an indispensable resource for CHRISTUS Health.
The in-plant’s accomplishments have been noticed by the industry. In June, CHRISTUS Health Print Services received the 2022 Organizational Impact Award from the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association, honoring its outstanding contributions to non-production activities within the parent organization.
“It was a major morale boost for my team to receive this Impact Award,” remarks Shankle.
Looking ahead, Shankle intends to focus on innovation, automation, and better leveraging the shop’s equipment and software, while continuing to keep the mission of CHRISTUS Health front and center.
Related story: In-plant Takes on Kitting of Gift Items
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, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.