I recently had the opportunity to experience my first ACUP (Association of College and University Printers) conference. While RSA has been a sponsor for many years, this was my first conference. Like other conferences, this one had it's share of education sessions, networking and a vendor fair. Because many in-plants can't attend, I wanted to write about the tips that presenters, speakers and other in-plants shared: tips that are relevant to higher education and other in-plant print centers.
Bob Neubauer, Editor of In-plant Graphics, presented select results from the magazine's biennial market research, highlighting specific higher education statistics garnered from the study. Additional research results will be published in upcoming issues.
Using Benchmarks for Business Management
Co-presenters Abbas Badani, Penn State and Steve Dimond, MIT discussed four types of benchmarking: financial, marketing, strategic and operations. When asked, only about 25% of the audience responded that they benchmark their operations, primarily through financial and operational benchmarks such as pricing surveys and volume, respectively. An interesting discussion ensued, with Dimond emphasizing the importance of benchmarking against the university's mission- an approach
echoed in Ken Macro's conference keynote, "Graphic Communication is Sexier than Printing" - and Badani speaking in depth about how critical student engagement is at Penn State. He disclosed that recently, nearly the entire stationery ordering process was taken over by students.
Rowan College's Steve Amitrano gave a presentation about strategic planning. Amitrano shared pitfalls to avoid (some great take aways), how a plan can help justify an operation, the importance of monitoring and reviewing a plan, and that a plan should have several versions tailored to the audience, such as the department versus a board level version.
Outgoing ACUP President, Lisa Hoover of Bucknell University, headed a session, talking about the importance of developing your value proposition and how value is a measure of your in-plant's worth and the services that you provide. I found one idea that she shared particularly useful for other in-plants. Hoover suggests having simple success stories about various applications of your services that can be shared with customers and potential prospects.
ACUP members can download conference presentations on the ACUP website when they become available.
While In-Plant Graphics has already provided great coverage of the ACUP awards that capped the conference, I want to stress the importance of entering award competitions like ACUP's. Entering your work for awards offers great exposure and demonstrates to employees your recognition of their efforts, and as managers, your belief in the quality of the projects, even if a piece does not win an award. Several RSA customers won awards, including MIT, Penn State and University of New Hampshire (pictured above).
In-plant Associations and conferences offer an excellent mechanism for knowledge sharing and idea exchange. Next year's ACUP conference is in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 2-6, 2017. I encourage you to attend to directly gain information that is valuable for you and your higher ed in-plant operation. One manager- a K-12 in-plant manager- called the conference "career changing." I recommend joining ACUP and actively participating in the association even if you can't attend the conferences annually.