Wide-Format and Specialty Printing Opportunities for In-Plants
An often overlooked area where the commercial-to-wide-format printing transition is taking place — albeit slowly — is in-plant printing departments. These are facilities located within parent companies and organizations that offer a wide array of printing and other communication services. Last year, the In-Plant Printing & Mailing Association (IPMA) published the seminal State of the In-Plant industry report, the result of an extensive survey of in-plant departments in such diverse organizations as schools and universities; local, state and federal government; hospital and medical facilities; non-profit organizations; trade associations; and a broad array of for-profit manufacturing, service and professional businesses. The report focused on challenges and opportunities for in-plants, and offered a “roadmap to growth.”
Among the findings of the study were that 72 percent of in-plants surveyed own wide-format printing equipment, and 71 percent offer signage as service to either their parent organization and/or outside customers, with 49 percent also offering displays. That said, when the report looked at overall volume of this kinds of work, wide-format printing amounted to less than 10 percent of in-plants’ overall volume. So there are a lot of opportunities for these entities do more wide-format production.
“Look at some in-plant applications, for example, a multi-location facilities management operation within a hospital group,” says Dan Johansen, Wide-Format Marketing Manager, Commercial & Industrial Printing Business Group, Ricoh USA (Booth 1351). “They can leverage wide-format to do wayfinding signage on a campus or facility. Even things that are taken for granted are very simple, like compliance posters that have to appear legally on every floor of every building that talk about employee rights and responsibilities, but often need to be customized.” A lot of in-plant departments are currently outsourcing this kind of work. “Bringing it in-house can make a lot of sense,” says Johansen.
The economic conversation tends to be different for in-plants than for general commercial printers. The latter frame the discussion in terms of “how much money can I make by adding wide-format?” while for the in-plant, the relevant question is, “How much money can I save my parent organization by in-sourcing this kind of work?”
It’s not just sign and display. As the IPMA report identifies, specialty items like pens, water bottles, YETI cups, smartphone cases, USB drives, T-shirts and other apparel, and more, are all fast-growing print applications. These kinds of items are often part of a company or parent organization’s overall marketing campaign, are often event-driven and can be customized and used at such events as conferences, workshops, seminars, open houses, customer meet-and-greets, etc. Indeed, a substantial number of exhibitors at this show give out press and other promotional materials on custom-printed USB drives. Someone’s got to print them. Virtually every graphic element in every booth on the show floor is a potential product or service an in-plant can offer to its parent.
In-plant departments are often challenged by needing to prove their value and relevance to their parent organizations. What better way to demonstrate that value than by demonstrating how the department can save the organization money?