I recently interviewed three managers running large in-plant print operators — Mike Lincoln, Colorado State Printer, Jerry Hill, California State Printer and Tammy Golden, Assistant Commissioner of Document Solutions at State of Tennessee. Despite significant differences in print volumes and approaches, all three managers expressed the need to assess, adapt and expand their services to meet the changing requirements of their customers.
Some in-plants have eased work from home restrictions and brought more staff onsite than they did in June and July. In Colorado and Tennessee, administrative staff who are able to work remotely will continue to work remotely into 2021. Each operation has implemented changes for physical distancing of production employees and new procedures for cleaning equipment. They’ve also adopted effective shift scheduling to reduce contact between employees.
More to Print
All three managers shared positive news: their print volumes are growing. Growth is driven by two primary factors.
- Larger states are consolidating multiple in-plant operations. Some are closing smaller print facilities for specific departments like motor vehicles and moving the volume to the larger primary print operations.
- COVID-19 has directly impacted public demand for state services resulting in increased printing for departments related to unemployment and health and human services benefits.
In-plants continue to face multiple staffing challenges.
- The three managers expressed the ongoing concern of high absenteeism due to COVID-19.
- In the next three to five years, managers need to address the reality of significant numbers of staff who are at or are approaching retirement age. There are no junior level staff to fill the positions of running machines and presses.
- In California and Colorado, the in-plant managers are also facing a true lack of available and relevant training when hiring inexperienced staff.
- State mandated hiring freezes further pressure managers who are experiencing ongoing staff shortages.
Mike Lincoln was thrilled to report the approval to hire five new operators to fill long open positions and implement cross training as part of the on-boarding process.
As work from home rules continue for many state employees, in-plants have had to change delivery procedures and courier routes.
California and Colorado are now offering expanding digital solutions for scanning and archiving electronic documents to support remote workers.
Tennessee found they could easily create digital branded backgrounds for key departments needing green screen virtual background images for workers using web cams.
Each manager has taken an approach to review, assess and implement changes in response to new requirements to serve their customers.
The in-plants are offering additional wide format services to meet the growing needs for additional signage.
In California and Tennessee the in-plants are now the primary solution for digital distribution and archival of publications. They are offering services for content management for documents that is some cases do not get printed.
Tennessee has gained efficiencies by merging several separate departments for print, graphic design, photography, and postal distribution into one combined unit to serve the communication and distribution needs of all state agencies.
Software and automation are driving investments in expanding web-to-print and MIS capabilities. As more state agencies are continuing to work remotely, in-plants are adding new features and expanding their services through W2P portals. Some are supporting ordering and processing for promotional products and storing electronic files.
The need to adapt and handle growing volumes is driving the continued investment in inkjet platforms. Managers expressed the opportunity to leverage inkjet to address the staffing challenges and replace offset equipment that is difficult to maintain and to train new employees to run. Inkjet, both cut sheet and continuous feed platforms are providing the speed to market and flexibility to meet new demands for staffing, scheduling, increased volume and flexible applications.
Once in-plants adapt to the different cost structures for inkjet compared to offset or toner, they find it is easier meet changing demands with inkjet solutions.
In a changing environment inkjet continues to provide flexibility to adapt and evolve.