In-plant Graphics September 2009
RIGHT NOW, somewhere in the world, a teacher is admonishing students: "Don't copy!" But within the Bethel School District, in Spanaway, Wash., educators and staff are applauding Diane Karl for nearly 26 years of consistent, finely executed copying (and printing). As the district's print shop manager, Karl oversees graphic design, production, reproduction and print distribution services for 17 elementary schools, six junior high schools, three high schools, an alternative school for grades eight through 12, an online academy and district administration.
How do you turn a rusty, 20-year-old delivery truck into the talk of the town? If you’re an in-plant with wide-format printing equipment, you wrap it in colorful promotional images and send it back onto the streets. That’s what the staff at The Hershey Company’s in-plant did to an old Isuzu box truck. They used their 54˝ Roland Soljet Pro III XJ solvent ink-jet printer to transform the truck from an embarrassment into a gem.
Alvin B. Griffin thought he was out of the wide-format business when his in-plant’s HP 750 became obsolete. Griffin, director of the Graphic Production Center for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, resigned himself to relying on commercial printers to produce large-format products for his customers.
Providing services of any kind to the Houston Independent School District means thinking big—there's simply no other way to approach the task. Educating more than 220,000 students in a 301-square-mile network of elementary, middle and high schools, HISD is the seventh-largest public school system in the nation and the largest in Texas. With an annual budget in excess of $1.6 billion and a work force of more than 28,000 full- and part-time employees, HISD is a producer and a consumer of services on a truly Texas-sized scale.
Tucked inside a nondescript brick building at the edge of campus, the University of Delaware’s Graphic Communications Center has brought a lot of favorable attention to the university in recent years. The quality of its offset printing has earned the in-plant numerous awards, including two Best of Show honors in the In-Print contest. Now the 19-employee in-plant is bringing the Fighting Blue Hens into the spotlight once again by becoming one of the first in-plants to install a new Xerox iGen4 digital color press.
Once their digital color presses are up and running, in-plants often discover a few things they wish they had known ahead of time. We asked six managers to tell us what they learned and what they wished they had done differently.
Different types of organizations tend to approach the lease-buy question from different perspectives. Businesses use a variety of tools, like computing the net present value of leasing vs. buying and picking the option that maximizes profitability. Non-profit organizations—including government agencies, colleges and universities—are not as concerned with profit, but they do need to look at the impact on operating and/or capital budgets to make financially sound decisions. In some cases, the decision is driven by organizational policy, legislative guidelines or procurement laws, so the in-plant manager has little if any choice.
After more than 10 years of service, the two-tower collator/booketmaker at Ken Maley’s in-plant was showing its age. Though it had served the Monroe Two-Orleans Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) very well, it was increasingly down for maintenance, and repair costs were mounting.
An inactive press is an unproductive press. Unfortunately, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington’s in-plant learned that costly lesson with its two-color Shinohara. The university’s Printing Services department had an imagesetter to make poly plates for its ABDick presses, but got away from metal platemaking several years ago, recalls Production Manager Steven Barrett. In order to use the Shinohara press, the shop had to rely on an outside vendor to secure metal plates, which Barrett didn’t find to be a dependable option.
For the first time, in-plant managers are now saying they buy less paper than they bought two years ago. This was just one of the revelations that came to light in our biennial paper buying survey, which pulled in 375 responses.
A few things have changed since we last surveyed school district in-plants in 2005. Fewer of them run offset presses now. Four years ago, 90 percent had them; today just 79 percent are inking up presses. Digital color printing, on the other hand, has grown from 62 percent to 82 percent. More are likewise providing design services. About 66 percent handled design in 2005 and 80 percent offer it today.
While school district in-plants print many of the same items they did four years ago, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of shops that produce course materials, tests, posters and direct mail. Here are some other interesting facts we learned:
FEW INDUSTRY discussions are as contentious as the debate about how a large company or organization should handle its printing needs. It is often impacted by prevailing management trends that swing from owning equipment and managing the staff to using a facilities management (FM) service to hiring a company to outsource the printing. After working with many companies, we have seen each of these options work or fail in different circumstances.
As a bonus for in-plants planning to attend Print 09 in Chicago, In-Plant Graphics and the In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) are each presenting a separate educational session, exclusively for in-plants. The first of the two sessions will be a breakfast roundtable on Monday, September 14, from 8:30-10:00