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By John Sarantakos, OU Printing, Mailing and Document Services

One of the curious things about the In-Plant Printing/Mailing industry is that our administrators and customers generally lack a clear knowledge of what it is we do.  If you were to ask our customers, they would tell you one thing.  Ask our direct supervisors and you would get a different answer.  Ask senior management the same questions and they will either know who you are and what you do, or they will question what that is and why are we doing it.

Herein lies the crux of our problem.  There is no one focal point or answer to who we are and for that matter, why we are.  This is the most significant hurdle we must overcome.  On a daily basis we must define, market, and prove our worth.

My initial question was “Why IPMA?”.  The answer is simple.  IPMA is an Association run by the members, for the benefit of the members.  The single most important advantage IPMA has over other groups, is the fact that we do not compete with each other.  What one shop does will not affect what another shop in the same vicinity does.  Different customers, different missions, different scopes of work.  What it does foster is an environment where help and resources are always available and shared by members.

IPMA provides a single resource for all In-Plant operations, regardless of size, number of employees or equipment mix.  With over 600 members, all segments are thoroughly represented and all size shops have more than just a few fellow members. In other words, if you are a small operation with three employees and believe you are all alone.  You would be very mistaken.

For those of you that belong to other groups, I say good for you.  Other groups have some value, but you must also belong to IPMA.  For the simple reason that it provides more access to a diverse membership.  For those that say my group deals with different problems, I say they do not completely understand the In-Plant market.  Educational institutions have to fight political battles just like state printers.  Industrial operations must support stockholders just like insurance segments.  You cannot single out any specific problem that does not also affect many other segments.  This fact is what provides the solidarity offered by IPMA.  All members are willing to share processes, procedures, and all thing In-Plant.  In other words, IPMA has a stronger foundation that supports a bigger house.

I have personally been a member of many print related organizations, such as IPMA, ACUP, SUPDMC, TACUP, ACUMS, SWACUMS, Craftsmen’s Club, Litho Club, Big 10 Printers, and Big 12 Printers.  All were worthwile groups.  None of them provided the wealth of knowledge and the breadth of support IPMA has over my career.

I would encourage each of you to evaluate why you belong to any group.  Ask yourselves:  Does it provide value?  Does it provide solutions?  Does it provide learning opportunities?  Does it help me do my job better?  Does it provide community support?  If you answer no or hesitate to say yes, then why belong?  IPMA delivers all these things and more.

Our jobs are not getting easier.  The pressure to do more with less is each of our concerns.  Your opportunity to join a group that can provide solutions, knowledge, value and help you preform your duties to a higher standard, is right before you.  IPMA is that organization.  Is bigger always better?  No, but in this case it is.  More members, more collective knowledge, more resources and most importantly, more community.