December 2007 Issue
IT’S BEEN a busy month for me. After a long break, I hit the road for a series of conferences and plant tours that brought me from Texas to Ohio to Washington, D.C. First I headed down to the University of North Texas to attend the TACUP conference. The Texas Association of College and University Printers has been meeting for 30 years now, and this year’s event drew 42 attendees. I had the opportunity to talk with in-plant managers from all over Texas. I also gave a presentation that included suggestions on steps in-plants can take to survive and thrive. (See full story on page
For years, Paul Lee played what he called a game of “Frogger” whenever he left his office on the first floor of an education building at Anne Arundel Community College, in Arnold, Md. “Getting from my office to the copy center I had to cross a hall,” says Lee, director of Document Services, “and if I did that between classes…” Frogger ensued—that classic video game where a frog tries to cross a busy street without being squashed. This danger aside, the in-plant’s location was less than ideal for another reason: it was in a different building than the mail center. So if jobs were finished late
AFTER YEARS of healthy investment in prepress and press, in-plants are finally taking notice that their bindery is inefficient, unproductive and poorly suited to the short-run requirements of today’s print market. At the same time, printers recognize that manufacturers are bringing labor-saving innovation to the bindery. Automation stands out as the most powerful theme, with stepper motor controls, touch-screen interfaces and integrated digital workflows that enable automated setups and changeovers. Also significant, in-line finishing is gaining favor for some work—especially digitally imaged output. Digital printing sparked a wave of in-line finishing several years back, with high-speed monochrome printers introducing a range of in-line
ANY ATTEMPT to predict the course of technological development amounts to an educated guess at best. (After all, experts once said that Adobe Photoshop and the Mac would never be acceptable for professional graphic arts applications.) That said, there’s a buzz in the air about three technological developments: printed electronics, security printing and lenticular. Each is still a work in process to a degree, so the exact size and nature of their market potential is yet to be determined. The term “printed electronics” (printing of conductive inks) is being applied to such a range of processes and applications that it’s hard to make
THE IN-PLANT market is probably the most underestimated user of digital printing technology. The influence of the in-plant is apparent from an examination of the segments where on-demand devices are being placed. The in-plant market drove the adoption of black-and-white digital printing and currently accounts for 40 percent of high-speed monochrome print-on-demand cut-sheet installations. The in-plants are also leading the color charge, accounting for 30 percent of placements in the 24-59 pages per minute (ppm) production color segment and 20 percent of the convenience color copier/printers and production color devices in excess of 60 ppm. Just like the entire print-for-pay market, in-plants are
THE MEANS for companies to communicate with customers expand on an almost daily basis. The Internet, cell phones, movie theaters, kiosks and dozens of other outlets have joined print, radio and TV as popular methods of delivering ads and messages. The market research firm Yankelovich quantifies the impact of the growing array of communication methods this way: consumers encounter between 3,500 and 5,000 marketing messages a day, or three to four times as many as in the 1970s. In this environment, conventional wisdom would suggest that no single medium would prevail…and certainly not the one that has been around the longest. In fact,
FOR 30 years now the Texas Association of College and University Printers (TACUP) has been meeting all over Texas. Last month, the University of North Texas (UNT) played host to the group, which included 42 managers from in-plants as far south as Brownsville, on the Mexico border. An affable group, they networked their way through 21/2 days of sessions and plant tours, finding plenty of time to laugh and learn. UNT’s Jimmy Friend modeled the conference’s theme on the TV reality show “Survivor,” splitting attendees into two tribes, the Inkadinkas and the Paperwampus. Members fielded questions throughout the event, getting points for correct answers.
Which in-plants are the largest in North America? We get asked this question dozens of times a year. To find out, we surveyed our readership. Most of the largest in-plants replied, allowing us to create two lists: The largest in-plants according to the number of full-time-equivalent employees (half of the part-time/temporary employees were added to the full-time figure). The largest in-plants according to sales. (If a sales figure was not provided, the annual budget was used.)
ORGANIZATIONS THAT leverage technology to their advantage are more successful than those that don’t. One technology that can greatly impact the success of any in-plant is a management information system (MIS). Business processes, business rules and workflow management are the domain of the MIS. The system provides access to information, and automation to simplify calculations, track resources and monitor costs. Historical reporting provides information to managers to help identify trends, areas for improvement and a picture of the overall performance of the business. MIS performs two primary functions: • It is a repository of data on the historical activities of the in-plant (and also of data that
MARKETERS RECOGNIZE that smaller, more targeted campaigns achieve a greater return on investment. Successful in-plants are aiding the marketing process by providing both versioning and personalization. • Versioning is when a similar piece is printed for multiple audiences. For example: a four-page company newsletter for a large corporation where the inside content is common to all versions but the front cover contains specific information for each location or division. Using versioning, each group receives relevant news about their company and job. • Personalization takes this a step further: each piece is customized for the recipient. Simple personalization often includes the person’s name and a personal URL
THE WIDESPREAD neglect of the in-plant is a phenomenon that makes no sense at all. To really understand the capacity and sustainability of the industry, I have attempted to frame the future through the lens of those that make up the industry. To do this, I asked myself: What are the attributes of successful in-house personnel
INSOURCING IS more than a trend. It can be a life saver to your in-plant. Who knew it would send me on a 3,000-mile last-gasp attempt to rescue my in-plant? Insourcing in Theory The policy of providing printing services to clients outside of the in-plant’s organization pays off in more ways than one. In the utopian model of insourcing, the in-plant manager zeros out his budget with external revenue and gives internal clients the lowest cost services possible. In return, the external clients gain the benefit of the in-plant’s cost-cutting philosophy. I sat through a session on insourcing at an IPMA national conference
I AM NOT a “techie.” I’ve never sent a text message in my life. I can barely navigate my basic cell phone, which I carry under protest. But that said, I am an absolute evangelist for Web-based submission for in-plants. By Web-based submission I mean the following: • A robust, interactive and customer-friendly Web site for your in-plant. • The ability to receive job orders, estimate requests and job files from your customers. • Easily accessible and useful information about all aspects of your operation (online work authorization forms, a map of how to find your facility, tips on preparing files, staff names and phone numbers, etc.). Why bother?
2008 WILL be a special year—a Drupa year. Next May, in D