In September of 2020, I spoke with managers running large in-plant print operations — Mike Lincoln, Colorado State Printer and Tammy Golden, Assistant Commissioner of Document Solutions at State of Tennessee. Despite significant differences in print volumes and approaches, both managers expressed the need to assess, adapt and expand their services to meet the changing requirements of their customers.
In-plants continue to face multiple staffing challenges from high absenteeism, large numbers of retirements, and state mandated hiring freezes.
At the end of 2020, Mike Lincoln was thrilled to report the approval to hire five new operators to fill long-open positions and implement cross training as part of the on-boarding process. Earlier this year the Colorado Department of Revenue and the Department of Health closed their in-house printing operations and sent their printing to Lincoln’s IDS operation. This cut down on the redundancy of services for the state, while giving those departments access to advanced technology and intelligent workflow processes they weren’t taking advantage of in the past. As a result of this new business, Lincoln expects the in-plant’s print volumes will increase 30%.
One Year Later
Tammy Golden shared what has changed in her operation this year. The state of Tennessee has reduced their office footprint and consolidated buildings. Many changes in the print operation are a result of the work from home (WFH) policies that will remain in-place for the foreseeable future. Across many state agencies, administrative staff will continue to work remotely. Some managers and staff are working in the office 1-2 days per week.
Golden said they have continued to evolve their delivery process as “we can’t deliver materials to empty office buildings.”
Tennessee purchased and is finalizing installation of smart lockers in four state office buildings. Lockers will streamline the delivery to one stop per building. The lockers provide additional security and flexibility for recipients to manage receipt of packages and sensitive materials.
The operation has also expanded their scanning of inbound mail for electronic delivery. Golden shared they are imaging some mail while still delivering hard copy mail like checks, which require special handling. With electronic delivery and the use of lockers Golden has worked with the team to reduce the fleet size by two trucks and the corresponding number of drivers.
Golden indicated their overall print volumes are down significantly this year, primarily due to a lack of in-person state sponsored events. She is further challenged to manage staffing for large peak volumes with significant valleys of low volume work periods in between. Cross training has been one key to success. In 2018, Golden completed the consolidation of the mailing and warehouse departments into the print operation. Covid drove an expansion of a robust cross training program. Now most staff can perform multiple roles. With the three functional areas together, they have increased efficiency and have the flexibility to provide more services while managing the peaks and valleys in work volumes.
State policies have made it harder to hire temporary workers for the peak volumes, Golden has expanded her partnership with the Department of Human Services to increase their mentoring and internship programs for adults with disabilities. They are also looking to expand programs with local vocational technical high schools and the correctional department to identify additional potential new hires.
Recently, Golden’s team has invested in the Crawford Pro Conductor workflow tool to improve document management and postal processing. Their planned investments for 2022 include replacing older digital toner devices.
- Creativity breeds creative solutions: While the pandemic forced WFH rules it also bred creative thinking on many fronts. Golden shared that WFH has also been a huge benefit for employees and the state. Employees like the flexibility, and lack of commuting time, the state has lowered real estate cost and most importantly, morale has improved. She is encouraging her team to continue their creative thinking outside of the pandemic response.
- Print is a critical service: The pandemic gave pause and changed many business rules. While responding to ever changing working conditions, Golden’s team realized their critical role in serving state residents during hard times. In the last 12 months Nashville has experienced a devastating tornado, the pandemic, and a bombing which temporarily closed the in-plant facility. Her team felt the importance of delivering unemployment checks and other documents for state services. Despite personal hardships, her team showed up to get the mail out the door. They knew they were providing critical services to citizens, which included their own friends, neighbors, and family members.
- Partners Matter: At one point supply chain challenges stopped shipments of MICR toner. Golden was very concerned they were not going to be able to print checks. She reached out to her disaster recovery (DR) partner to activate moving the check printing to the DR facility. Rather than take the work, her DR partner shared their supply of MICR toner and shipped supplies to Golden’s facility so they could continue uninterrupted check printing. Golden was impressed by their willingness to share supplies and assist her team beyond their contractual relationship. Demonstrating a true partnership in difficult times.
What are your lessons learned from the last 20 months? Does your team need to assess and adapt in order to grow? Please email me at email@example.com to discuss how we may be able to support your operation.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at https://www.highrockstrategies.com/ or Lritarossi@highrockstrategies.com