Willis Jones: Powered by Service
For Willis Jones, supervisor of administrative services at Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), a commitment to service has been a lifelong endeavor.
While Jones admits that nothing in his early years prepared him for a life in the printing industry, the Oklahoma native does recall tackling service roles as far back as junior high school.
“I did a lot of office aid work and it got to the point that it was kind of fun to me,” he recalls. “Even back in junior high I was a library aid. And I have kept in that mode.”
Before stepping into the printing world, Jones spent 17 years working in the food service industry, enjoying a career at his family’s successful restaurant.
“Then one day I said, ‘I want to get into the corporate field,’” Jones notes. He soon heard about an opening at OG&E in Oklahoma City for a print operator position. He scored the job and remembers being welcomed with open arms, even though he lacked previous printing experience.
“When I came in, the manager that hired me was just looking for a general operator,” says Jones, who spent four years as a print operator. “I just felt my way through and started learning things, and I picked it up pretty quickly.”
Jones later graduated up to a production coordinator position, where he stayed for five years.
“After that, I had the opportunity to take over my boss’ position because he was retiring,” reports Jones, who will celebrate 20 years with OG&E this September. “My career at OG&E is completely print.”
Jones now oversees 12 employees in OG&E’s printing, mailing and wide-format departments. The wide-format operation is located off-site in a facility where electrical linesmen and electrical engineer offices are housed. This enables the operators to print wide-format blueprints and maps for utility crews, on-demand.
“If we have an outage somewhere from a utility standpoint, we automatically crank out several drawings for internal staff and vendors,” Jones says. The wide-format equipment operators are on-call 24/7, and are required to come in during an emergency to print out materials for repair crews. Jones contends that this is especially vital in a tornado state.
Fighting Back With Numbers
Last year was admittedly a challenging time for Jones and his in-plant. Outsourcing bids inundated the shop. Fortunately, Jones was armed with the numbers to fight back against the outsourcing threats.
“We went through a sourcing analysis against several big companies,” Jones confides. “A bunch of the big guys were bidding for our business. We had to really scrub our numbers and come up with our bottom costs. It was really agonizing.”
Jones worked closely with the company’s strategic sourcing group and financial department from March through December to back off the outsourcing threats with detailed internal reports.
“The one thing that really saved us is that our salaries as operators were not as high as some of the people that were bidding for our business,” Jones points out. “But I was confident because I already knew the numbers.”
Jones adds that he attends a lot of industry conferences and has paid close attention when groups like the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association preached about how to avoid outsourcing.
“I took all of that to heart, and I made sure that I had all of my ducks in a row,” he proudly states. “It really felt good when we did the presentation for our officers. It was a stressful situation but, in the end, it was worth it.”
This is not the first time outsourcing bidders have come knocking at OG&E’s door. Jones recalls one company went as far as having legendary former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys football coach Barry Switzer call OG&E on their behalf, seeking to take over the in-plant’s print work.
One of the biggest jobs the shop prints is monthly billing statements. Jones notes he has a postal budget of $4.9 million a year, and mailing utility statements eats up a big chunk of that budget.
“That is our bread and butter,” Jones says, noting that the shop cranks out about 1.4 million utility statements per month, using Xerox and Ricoh machines to print over a preprinted shell. The shop also prints a large number of training materials for the energy provider.
Focus on Training
“As a utility company, we are continuously training our field agents and customer service agents, and we have a huge department for training,” Jones confides. “And because we are a company that relies very heavily on safety, our training is continuous.”
Even the in-plant’s employees are required to go to training several times a year, which adds to the need for course packs and training materials.
Since going through the sourcing analysis, Jones has fresh ideas on how to bring more work back in-house. This includes producing business cards internally. Jones has already started pricing and testing equipment to add this service to the mix.
Looking to the future, Jones notes that, in 2017, he will budget for new inserting equipment to revamp the billing process. Jones attends the National Postal Forum every year to stay up on mailing equipment issues.
Jones describes the OG&E in-plant staff as a close group that works well together.
“We come in and have as much fun as possible and then we go home to our families,” Jones says. “That is my philosophy.”
Outside of work, Jones and his family enjoy traveling to different beach locales. He is also an avid motorcycle rider, taking long distance trips and participating in charitable events with his bike club.