Penn Lithographics--Partnering and ProgressingMay 1998
"We did that with training," Robison says. "Project coordinators have more client contact and now work as a true part of the sales team. They watch over work while it's in-house, which enables sales reps to be out where they belong—with the client."
A positive outgrowth of this closer sales rep/client interaction has been the repositioning of the rep as a resource instead of a vendor. "Our people work with the client to create new products and services," Howington maintains.
The development of the Penn-Pak—a press-finished, all-in-one CD holder—is the perfect example of how this process works. Several Penn reps heard clients describe a need to replace loose support materials with a single, unified marketing piece, thereby lowering unit costs by reducing assembly, postage and shipping expenses.
With that in mind, the reps worked with the Penn manufacturing department and created a prototype that was tested extensively. Today, the product is used by many clients, including two of the world's largest high-tech companies.
"With the Penn-Pak and other products we've developed for the finishing line, the reps aren't asking, 'Do you have anything we can bid on?' " notes Howington. "They're providing options to help a client in selling his or her product. They're working smarter."
Three years ago Penn launched a company-wide continuous process improvement effort: Penn Quality Management. An ongoing "investment in the future," as Howington sees it, the program is designed to improve quality, break down barriers between any two positions and remove the need to place blame.
"It's no longer about each person," Howington says. "Penn, as a whole, wins the gold, or nobody does."
The program calls for and rewards "bottom-up" communication—which has provided managers with invaluable suggestions—and client awareness on the part of all employees.
To encourage this team commitment, Penn employs Director of Training Thomas J. Barry, who says his position is probably not a common one at most printers. "The fact that I'm here proves Penn's commitment to the program and to improvement," he says. "I focus on our ability to create added value for our clients, on improving the way we do things, in process, instead of only inspecting after the fact."
Equipment, too, is better utilized thanks to intensive training. And it is always evaluated in long-range plans to ensure the right upgrades for better service. "New machinery has broadened our scope," Robison explains. The company has added Videojet addressing and mailing capabilities in order to manage a project from disk to destination.
"While still concentrating on what we do best," Robison says, "these are logical extensions of what we offer. Our goal is to provide the client with peace of mind."
Several years ago, Penn created Penn Digital Services (PDS), a highly integrated system of shared databases, communication and management tools and workflow solutions. Via high-speed data lines, and with guaranteed security, clients transmit files directly from their computers to Penn's 64-plus gigabyte server and also access their files in Penn's PostScript environment to make online adjustments to color or text placement before documents are sent to press.
Penn now has 13 Macintoshes for use in PDS, which is staffed with 36 people. "Fifty percent of our current volume is generated electronically," Howington points out. "And that number is only going to grow." For that reason, Penn is gearing up for the future, which is, of course, already part of an established plan.
"By the end of the year, we'll add FTP capabilities via the Web site to our existing alternatives for file transfer," Howington promises. "That's www.pennlitho.com. And we're developing other asset management systems utilizing Internet interfaces as well.
"This is still a very challenging marketplace, no doubt about it," he says, "and we can't just be someone who puts ink on paper. Commercial printers must adapt to digital technology, in all its forms, because whoever controls it becomes a partner in its multiple uses. At Penn, we're positioning ourselves to play that partnered role with clients."
And if the last 10 years are any indication, that's a role Penn Lithographics will play with great success.