I've seen a disturbing trend in which in-plants that were performing well and did not appear to be under scrutiny were suddenly surprised to hear that they were closing. They were achieving their goals; some reported huge savings, and others talked about how happy their customers were.
Snoop Lion gets it. Lyrics from the rapper's songs were printed on 10-lb. onionskin with a perforation at the gutter and bound together with a hemp-covered case and a red phosphorous textured spine. Rolling Words debuted at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival where 420 elite and rare "prototypes" were handed out to fans of the hip-hop star.
When Cedarville University Postal & Print Services installed its Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition digital color printer in 2011, the 10-employee operation was quite happy with it. It greatly improved the quality of the color materials printed for the university’s Enrollment Services division, making the in-plant an integral part of the university’s marketing efforts.
As 3D printing technology becomes more accessible, in-plants are wondering whether adding this service might help them maintain relevance to the parent organization and increase the value they bring to their organizations.
And so another year ends, my 19th with this magazine. This was a busy year for me. Though 2013 lacked the international events that wore out my passport last year, it was a year packed with in-plant conferences, most of them grappling with the question "how do we add value and stay in business?"
On January 26, the USPS will require mailers to have implemented Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) in order to continue to qualify for postal discounts. The IMb barcode is a simple series of lines that contains a vast amount of information—and an opportunity to improve your in-plant.
It's been a rough road the last several years for in-plant printers. Disruptive technologies, economic uncertainty and the threat of being outsourced have taken their toll.
A few years ago I did a presentation at a conference, which I called "Prepare to Defend Yourself." In it I explained that in my experience senior management probably does not understand the strategic contribution of an in-plant, so it's up to us to make the connection for them. The content was informed by more than 30 years of dealing with management and hundreds of projects involving in-plant performance.
While the printing world gushed over FSC chain-of-custody certification a few years ago, Dwayne Magee made no secret about his skepticism. “The issue of the environment is important, but having the certification in our shop isn’t a huge issue,” he told IPG in a 2009 article. He had, after all, been duped into obtaining ISO 9000 certification at a previous print shop, with the promise that it would bring new business, which never happened.
Sometimes “temporary” can last a long time. For 32 years, the in-plant at California State University-Fullerton was housed in a “temporary” location on the north side of campus. This past summer, the long wait for new digs finally ended when the in-plant’s printing operation was relocated to the second floor of the library in the center of campus.
North America is home to some very large in-plants. We surveyed our readership to find out who they are. Not all of the largest in-plants replied, but most of them did, allowing us to create two lists.
As 2013 comes to a close and business plans for 2014 are put into action, in-plants are preparing to upgrade hardware and software to improve efficiency, while evaluating new opportunities to offer customers "the next big thing."
Washington State University Publishing has just installed an 11-color 44˝ Epson Stylus Pro 9900 wide-format printer. In the first two months the 45-employee in-plant has had the machine, it has pumped out well over 200 posters and other projects.
Is our department in the right business? Even though we are giving our customers the products they need today, are we paying attention to what they will need tomorrow? If not, what do we need to do to help them?