I asked him what he felt were the three things in-plants- both higher ed and other in-plants- could take away from his presentation. It's no secret that many feel the printing industry suffers from a stigma of being dirty, blue collar and dying. Ken proposes that higher ed in-plants try to change this perception- across all communities in an institution- to rise above the perception by being engaged and contributing to the institution's mission to become "sexy." Here is an excerpt of the audio from our conversation*:
Three Things In-plants Can Do to Rise Above the Stigma and Be Considered "Sexy."
- Align yourself strategically within the organization to be seen as a valuable, exciting contributor. A higher ed in-plant tends to get cast aside because they often report through administration and finance. "I don't feel that's the place they need to be. It brings with it the mentality of whether or not costs are recovered, which can then lead to conversations about outsourcing the in-plant. I think a higher ed in-plant is better aligned when it falls under the auspices of Marketing, IT, or a visual or communications entity. Better alignment may result in being 'sexier.'"
- What are you doing to enhance your services to be sexier, without taking away from the core function? At Cal Poly, the Graphic Communication program is so much more than printing. Ken states, "We do design, packaging, web, signage, printed electronics. You can see where there is a lot of sex appeal."
- Engage with academia, contribute to learning. You can't just set up a counter and people will come to your shop. You need to be much more aligned in the academic aspect. It's a "bastion of learning"- what are you doing to contribute to that? Macro said, "[Because] the way an in-plant is perceived within their administration, the academic community, the student community and the actual physical community- it requires you to rise above and beyond and get out and talk and be engaged."
Look at the curriculum to see where a project for the print center could fit in the curriculum. If you are not a higher education in-plant, you can work with local universities or even high schools. Disciplines he sees that the in-plant could engage with include:
- Marketing- bring a project to the department with specific deliverables. Projects could include design, establishing social media presence, re-branding, packaging, exploring new markets and products, and more. Seek out professors- they won't seek you.
- Electrical Engineering- printed electronics
- Industrial manufacturing or engineering- student work could include lean Six Sigma, developing work standards, creating processes and optimizing shop layout
- Finance- ROI development, equipment assessments, budgeting and financial reporting.
Student projects should receive a grade. These projects create an opportunity to mentor and contribute to student learning and the educational experience.
Other ways to engage students include a student run operation like Cal Poly has that takes in student work, producing and handling all phases of the work in the operation. The enterprise has students in all the functional areas of an in-plant- sales, production, marketing, general management, customer services, etc. They also produce a newspaper. The students in the enterprise make the decisions, get paid and receive class credit.
If a student run enterprise is not possible, you can employ students to take work, prepare jobs and communicate with the student operations they service. This approach is directly in alignment with the current focus on entrepreneurial studies in many universities. Ken also suggests forming an advisory board of 7-10 people. Board members could include a student, or two, a commercial printer, someone from Marketing and Marketing administration, administration and finance, a faculty member, someone from staff in an unrelated area and potentially a rep for a vendor of the print center.
Hold a Graphic Communication week. If held during or near Franklin's birthday, you could involve the history department and even issue a press release about the celebration. Ken's department holds a week-long festival that last week of January every year. On Monday they feature print, on Tuesday they feature new media, on Wednesday they feature packaging and printed electronics, on Thursday they hold an open house, and on Friday they hold an advisory board meeting.
Macro encourages in-plants to "get your sexy on."
Ken Macro is Chair- Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University and a professor in the Graphic Communication Department. Mr. Macro is a former in-plant director for both Cal Poly and the University of Akron.
*Note that not all browsers are able to display the audio file in this blog (it uses HTML5). Sometimes coming back to the blog will display it, or viewing it on a different device or browser will work. Contact us if you would like the file sent to you.