For the last ten months my colleague, Mark Fallon, and I have been working with a an in-plant to assist their team in right-sizing their print operation. In the utility sector, Salt River Project, (SRP) is a community-based, not-for-profit water and energy company. SRP provides reliable, affordable water and power to more than two million people living in central Arizona.
Many changes were underway at SRP. The print operations manager retired, a decision to outsource daily customers’ bills and an internal reorganization of several departments involved with print. SRP needed guidance to restructure their in-plant.
SRP sought out our industry expertise to determine how best to adapt their printing operation. They have a 10-color offset press and three digital toner devices and two wide format devices.
Guiding the SRP team to a better printing operation and potential inkjet solution was a three step process. We did an assessment, a multi-faceted analysis, and education on new solutions and workflow optimization.
1) Assess current state
With the decision to outsource the customers’ bills the assessment began with the remaining print jobs. We gathered data about current jobs, customers, various workflows, SLAs, equipment capacity and how the print team measured their work. The assessment included interviews with many departments who generated print jobs and content creators for their perspective on the value of the in-plant operation and the impact on serving customers. The assessment included quantitative and qualitative data from multiple sources to understand daily operations, average and peak volumes, customer satisfaction and annualized costs.
2) Analysis to define future state
We began the process of educating the print operations team, and the senior leaders about what was important for the print work that would remain. The assessment uncovered several leading software solutions that were under-utilized or not fully integrated. Operators were performing many manual steps that with proper configuration and integration could be fully automated.
Besides bills, much of the print volume was commercial and large format work for community partners of SRP and print to support for community events. Senior leaders deemed in-house printing a critical service for SRP to continue to provide for internal departments and community partners. The future state mission is to provide a wide array of print services, efficiently, from a new smaller facility. As their guide, we have raised the profile of the printing and mailing departments by connecting their services to the organization’s larger goals and identified improvements for compliance issues. With an offset and toner background SRP’s print team did not think inkjet would be a good fit for their needs. They had not looked at inkjet equipment in over five years. They had little knowledge of the advances in inkjet platforms for image quality, ink sets and substrate options.
3) Education from multiple sources
SRP’s print and management teams have embraced the learning process. They have continued to educate senior leaders and stakeholders about the impact of the services the printing and mailing teams provide to the organization and community partners. We continued to guide the team to learn more before choosing inkjet, digital or new software. We recommended SRP attend the Printing United trade show to learn about innovative solutions and tools to improve their workflow. SRP attendees from Printing United then continued the process by educating their IT teams on further leveraging software they already owned. Content from the show led to potential strategies for improving integration between print and SRPs business systems. A show as large as Printing United can be daunting for first time attendees. We arranged appointments and demos with exhibitors to maximize their time and focus their learning on solutions that fit their needs.
We encouraged SRP to join the In-Plant Printing and Mail Association (IPMA). SRP was impressed with the education and sharing among peers on the inkjet journey. Industry trade associations provide invaluable unbiased insights to their members.
The result of the future state analysis will be for SRP to issue an RFP for new digital printers as they decommission their offset press and move to a new print facility. Inkjet excitement has set in. SRP has learned that inkjet will be more efficient than an offset press with the flexibility of digital and run at a lower cost compared to their current printers.
SRP has continued their education path by meeting with leading digital/ inkjet equipment and software suppliers. They visited print facilities to see software demos and inkjet equipment running in similar production facilities.
We have guided SRP through the process to validate their future state and address gaps in their workflow. They have identified areas for improving print and mail services to their organization. SRP is on the path to managing an effective RFP process because they have listened to their guide and embraced education on multiple levels. If you anticipate the need for new inkjet/digital investments, consider getting a guide to determine the best path for your organization. A good guide will evaluate your needs and define your critical success factors in choosing the best solutions for your future state.