UK In-plants Meet for Virtual Conference
In a well-attended virtual conference on Dec. 1, nearly 100 U.K. in-plant managers and suppliers, as well as a handful of U.S. managers, gathered online to discuss how they are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and share ideas for new services they are implementing.
The Association of Creative and Print Managers in Education (ACPME), comprised of in-plants from educational organizations across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, convened its Creative Climates virtual event in the wee hours (for U.S. attendees) with a keynote on “Positivity in a Pandemic” followed later by a session offering “Positive Thoughts for Uncertain Times.”
Then four managers from U.K. universities gave “lightning talks” (about five minutes each) on how they have adapted and expanded their services during the pandemic.
Like many, Paul Bishop, of Sheffield Hallam University, saw an opportunity early on to produce social distancing signage. He and his staff contacted all their stakeholders, explained what they could do, and created a brochure showing examples of signage. They explained the different materials and colors available and created easy-to-use order forms. The in-plant ended up printing approximately 50,000 signs.
“We took control,” Bishop said. “We played a key role in the reopening of the campus.”
A similar tale was told by Dene Fletcher, with the University of Reading, whose designers created a signage toolkit that included some 10,000 items the shop could produce. Fletcher said his operation saved the university 60,000 pounds, or $80,095.
Helen Clarke, Print and Post Services Manager at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, U.K., noted that one way her in-plant provided value was to distribute PPE to the campus. She said the parcel service stayed open during the initial lockdown, and has remained busier than normal. The in-plant implemented parcel lockers (in record time) to help distribute these packages. These moves have proven the in-plant’s value to the university, she said.
“I no longer need to write a document to explain why we’re here,” she said. (Watch for our article on Loughborough University in the next issue of IPI.)
One useful session by Carol Hartfree, Imaging Specialist at Panasonic Lumix, detailed how all of us can look more professional in the virtual meetings that have become commonplace. Instead of simply using our laptops’ webcams and internal microphones in our kitchens, she said, hook up an actual camera using webcam software for a sharper view that will enable you to slightly blur the background. Plug in a USB mic, which will produce better sound than your computer’s internal mic provides.
As for backgrounds, she recommended angling the camera to show your room diagonally, so you don’t have a flat wall behind you. Make the background pleasing, not crowded, perhaps with a plant or a pop-up graphic. Use lighting to improve your look. Avoid direct lights on your face, but diffuse lighting, point lights toward a wall, and use an accent light behind you.
And perhaps most importantly, raise your laptop (or camera) to eye level, so you are not looking down at the camera. This will help give you a more professional look.
The conference included opportunities for attendees to see and talk with one another via Zoom meetings. Managers split into groups to discuss design, print and photography issues. In the print discussion group. Managers talked about their interest in adding flatbed printers and automated cutters, as well as online ordering software. They considered ways to share the business cases they have written to justify new equipment, possibly via a private area on the ACPME site.
During the day, suppliers like Xerox, Canon, HP, Ricoh and Konica Minolta had opportunities to speak to the group, and attendees could also visit virtual booths where suppliers showcased their technologies.
The final session, by Tejal Fatania, senior fellow at the University of Warwick, delved into the ways the pandemic has permanently changed the workplace. We will not go back to the way life used to be before COVID-19, he said. Wide-scale remote working is here to stay now that companies and organizations have seen it can work. More than a quarter of the workforce will continue to work from home after the pandemic, he said, up from 12% pre-crisis.
“That’s a major change,” he noted.
Research shows remote working can result in greater productivity and happiness, though it can also bring feelings of isolation and loneliness for some. Others can’t switch off from work and experience more stress and burnout, particularly if they don’t take breaks. Organizations will have to monitor this and consider the impacts, he said.
Though the need for commercial office space will decline, “offices will not disappear,” he noted. Instead, they will become hubs for face-to-face meetings.
He noted that IT policies and data security will need to keep pace with this switch to remote working. HR will need to reevaluate its approach to rewards and monitor the health and safety of remote employees, in areas such as ergonomics and appropriate screen breaks.
The conference ended with the presentation of ACPME 2020 COVID-19 Special Awards to several universities and individuals for:
- Best in-house service support of the institution during Covid-19 (University of Exeter and University of Birmingham)
- Best team member who went above and beyond during Covid-19 (Nigel Bowles, Cardiff Met University, along with runners up Peter Davey, University of South Wales, and Sheryl Mather, University of Sheffield)
- Best engagement by a supplier during Covid-19 (Ricoh)