In-Plants do Your Customers Know you are Open?

By Lois Ritarossi / Published:

In-plants are often the unsung heroes for their companies. They often operate in a basement or a remote facility without too many visitors. Their internal customers are the many departments and lines of business, like marketing, legal, compliance, customer service and HR that create communications for customers and employees. In many cases, the departments they serve have no idea what the print department actually does or how they do it.

Print is Essential

The current business environment has demonstrated the importance of printed communications, signage, and direct mail across all verticals. Everyday in-plants produce critical customer communications like bills, statements, welcome kits, ID cards, claims, and explanation of benefits. You name it they print it.

Many in-plants swiftly changed their operations to enable non-essential employees to work from home and revised shift schedules to minimize contact between production employees. Others even moved equipment to comply with CDC recommendations for six-foot distancing between workers. Some in-plants have experienced sizeable increases in print volumes. We’re seeing insurance companies. government and school districts handling large numbers of new jobs with less people onsite.

Mail it Now

One in-plant print manager at an insurance company indicated they were asked to generate over 2.1 million letters to inform policy holders that they would soon be receiving rebate checks. And the production team had to complete the printing and mailing of both the letters and the checks with an aggressive turnaround schedule. Thanks to the migration to continuous feed inkjet printing on white paper, the team was able to fast-track the printing and mailing of the letters.

This insurance in-plant made the migration to inkjet a few years ago. They made a commitment to improving and automating their workflow. With solid tools for job scheduling and shop floor management, they met all production deadlines with much of their staff working from home.

Their white-paper migration included a review of all legacy documents. The project enabled the print production team to build relationships with their internal customers and educate them on the processes needed to manage content and to optimize customer mailings. Their investment in inkjet and workflow technology has enabled them to institute changes in response to COVID-19 while handling increased volumes of print and mail with less staff onsite.

Does your organization know what capabilities you have?

Another in-plant print manager shared how she made several operational changes in response to the pandemic. She instituted split shifts to keep her employees as safe as possible. It’s been stressful, but they’re getting the work out the door. She was taken aback when her manager asked if she could do the work with less people. With a manager who has little visibility into the daily running of the print facility it seems a viable question.

The operations manager had to explain in detail what was really happening. To meet the SLAs with a reduced staff has required an extraordinary effort by the team. In addition to working overtime, employees have not taken personal days, used vacation time, or called in sick. Additionally, people have willingly covered for fellow team members in roles that they usually don’t perform. They also developed new services for web-to-print submission to meet the print and communications needs of employees who are working from home.

This manager described how she was personally doing a significant amount of production work in the finishing and bindery area while also managing the team. Her inkjet equipment has proved reliable and enabled the team to meet their SLAs with fewer onsite staff.

The hard part was admitting that she and her team have been under a lot of stress yet continue to perform. This communication to her manager resulted in recognition for the team.

The current situation has demonstrated the need to continually communicate internally and externally. Senior leaders expect managers and teams to get the work done. While they may not need to know all the details, ongoing communications are critical. Senior management needs to understand the current state and changes implemented to manage staff, safety, production SLAs and equipment optimization. Operations managers must provide context and demonstrate the value of print and the print production team in an ever-changing business environment.

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About the Author

Lois Ritarossi

Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, an independent management consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors.

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