Opportunities to Profit with In-Plants

These are not the best of times for in-plant operations. Many have been shuttered, and those that remain are being scrutinized ever more closely by the companies and organizations for which they provide printing services. But not all is doom and gloom in the world of in-plants, says Elisha Kasinskas, Marketing Director for Rochester Software Associates (Booth 237) in Rochester, NY.

“Despite what we hear, every in-plant is not closing,” says Kasinskas, whose company markets workflow software. “But to really thrive, they need to be strategic components of the organization. That involves being a part of the fabric of the organization, serving on committees, participating in the organization or company community, and actively seeking business for that organization.”

Phil Larson, President of the consultancy Shepherd OK in Oklahoma City, calls this “an incredibly exciting time” for in-plants that are amenable to evolving. “You almost have to learn a new business,” he says. “You have to be able to relate to the executives and to the marketers. You have to adapt.”


In-sourcing and value-added services

Howie Fenton, Denver-based Senior Consultant with NAPL (Booth 4023), also feels that in spite of the threats to in-plants, some very positive trends are in place.

“There’s a whole trend toward in-sourcing,” he says. “I’m an in-plant, I work for an insurance company, providing all the documents, but I take work in from outside…When you in-source, that provides an additional revenue stream that helps you augment your finances so you can get closer to breakeven. It also reduces your manufacturing costs. Volume determines cost per piece, so it lets you be more cost-effective for your in-plant client. It’s a huge opportunity.”

In a world of declining demand for traditional printing and mailing services, another big opportunity lies in providing value-added services, such as variable data printing, email marketing services, or QR codes.

“There’s a host of ancillary services you can offer existing customers that add value and aren’t as commoditized as traditional products,” Fenton says.

Additional promise may lie in consolidation, say Fenton and Larson. Larger in-plants have the opportunity to absorb the in-plant business of smaller companies that lack the volume to effectively run their own in-plants.

“That gives the chance for larger in-plants to pick up new business and smaller companies to get better pricing that comes with volume,” Larson says.


Overcoming challenges

Still, many in-plants face an uphill battle. Surviving the battle will require helping the organization recognize the value of the in-plant and what it brings to the table in terms of understanding the organization’s needs, insuring brand integrity, and providing a competitive cost, Fenton and Kasinskas say.

“If you look at what’s happened over the last five years and extrapolated that out, you’d have a very pessimistic view,” Fenton says. “There are people looking to close in-plants. But we’ll see that pendulum start to swing the other way. I’ve seen a back and forth over the last 20 years. At some point, they think it has less value, and at other times it’s believed to have more value.”

For his part, Larson reiterates, “It’s all about adaptability.” Those in-plants that can offer variable printing and more customized work will be around half a decade from now. “They will have to learn the marketing language and marketing flow, and if they do they will be there,” he says.

Note: Kasinskas and Larson will appear on the GRAPH EXPO Show panel “Empowered In-Plants: Tell-All SUCCESS Stories from the Field.”