Another Bad News Story
Just before July 4th we got word that another major university is closing its print and mail facility and writing specifications to outsource these services. Last week another in-plant manager at a good-sized university lost her position when the university closed the in-plant. That makes at least a half dozen major in-plant closings this year. And more are on the way.
The stated reason for closing these shops is generally financial. The university hopes to become more efficient and reduce costs by outsourcing printing, mail and copy centers. Supposedly an “analysis” revealed that money was flying out the in-plant’s door, and administration is in the process of drafting outsourcing specifications. Blah Blah Blah.
In one case the former manager, an individual who is highly respected in our circles and has been active in the in-plant industry for years, says that the only analysis that he knows of was done a couple of years ago by a big-box copier vendor. In other cases, administration closes the in-plants because they are losing money, and shutting down the plant seems to be unavoidable. Commercial printers are all too willing to take up the slack, so management, generally with some reluctance, shuts the operation down.
As one who studies in-plant operations and outsourcing, I have to ask the question “What kind of analysis was done, and by whom?” Did they have expertise in analyzing the offset workflow? Digital workflow? How was “efficiency” measured? Did they understand the culture of the organization—the way things get done?
Here are two points you can take to the bank:
1. If the in-plant is self-supporting, shutting it down won’t save a dime. Why? Because the print spend is budgeted at the department level, and departments will spend all they get. If they don’t, they lose it. So when an organization shuts down the in-plant (or any other self-supporting auxiliary for that matter) it forces departments to go to other sources for print. Sources that are likely to be more costly.
Ray Chambers, CGCM, MBA, has invested over 30 years managing and directing printing plants, copy centers, mail centers and award-winning document management facilities in higher education and government.
Most recently, Chambers served as vice president and chief information officer at Juniata College. Chambers is currently a doctoral candidate studying Higher Education Administration at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU). His research interests include outsourcing in higher education and its impact on support services in higher education and managing support services. He also consults (Chambers Management Group) with leaders in both the public and private sectors to help them understand and improve in-plant printing and document services operations.