But in-plants are like commercial shops in that they are expected to run efficiently and keep costs down while handily meeting customer expectations and delivering work on time. To operate at thatlevel, management should perform operations assessments at regular intervals. Focus on areas such as technology, workflow, and marketing. Individual industries and companies may have different dynamics and needs, but the following basic steps are the building blocks of any assessment.
- Analyze the equipment. List every device in the shop, from prepress monitors to binding equipment. Analyze the fleet. Do you deal with multiple suppliers, and would it be more efficient to pare back to fewer? Map the activity of each device, listing who’s using it, how often it’s being used, its cost to operate, the needs it meets, how often it needs servicing, its environmental impact, and any other relevant metric.
- Look at automation. Do you have enough? Do you need more? Become familiar with the exact workflow of each job from order intake to mailing. Map out the touchpoints along the production process, a list of who’s involved with the job, and the equipment and technologies needed to get it out the door. Identify all repetitive steps, look for areas where you can standardize processes and highlight places where jobs will benefit from more structured workflows. Then align the software you have against your needs to determine whether you have underutilized tools or need to top up.
- Know your costs. Look not just at the cost of equipment and software, but the costs of maintaining those tools and training your staff to use them. Track the number of jobs that go out on time, and those that are late. Track how costs for each job compare to the original quote and, if discrepancies exist, check that your estimation programs are up to date. Also, seek relevant industry financial benchmarks and check how you compare against other shops.
- Measure value. It’s true that the first priority of an in-plant is meeting the needs of the parent company. But can you add value by selling to external customers if you have the capacity? Can you produce commodity products quickly? Can you develop abilities that serve your internal clients and external ones too, like variable printing?
- Assess your marketing. Regularly assess how well the shop’s capabilities and expertise align with the goals of the parent organization. For example, fundraising can be a very important function. Do you have the right technology and skills in variable printing which could prove valuable to fundraising?
Look at how regularly you touch base with the marketing and IT departments to discuss their major plans or projects and how you might prepare to meet them. Is your shop collaborating and strategically aligned with key departments toward meeting their goals?
Equally, assess whether key departments or personnel know what the shop can do and are aware of how you help the company succeed. How often do you brief the higher ups about the good work you do and how relevant your contributions are? Do you have a schedule in place to perform these tasks on a regular basis and, more importantly, does your shop follow the schedule?
In-plants do function in a hybrid environment where some things are out of their control. But regular detailed assessments of every area of the shop will ensure you deliver value, work efficiently, and make your in-plant indispensable to your company.
Gimbel & Associates helps businesses of all types assess their their operations for automation upgrades, cost evaluations and marketing objectives. For a free 1-hour phone consultation on how we can help you click here