Inkjet Summit: Dealing with the New Normal
The virtual Inkjet Summit has been generating a lot of buzz all week, and Thursday's opening general session was no exception. Consultant Barb Pellow, of Pellow & Partners, started the day with a discussion that took COVID-19 head on: Dealing with the New Normal: Rebuilding and Resuscitating Your Business.
Print providers and business leaders should not expect their businesses to return to the way they were last year even after the pandemic ends, she stressed.
“The new normal won’t necessarily fade away,” Pellow proclaimed. “And service providers are going to need to redefine ‘business as usual.’”
Cutting costs and operating lean have become necessary during COVID-19, she pointed out.
“Owners need to continue with that frugal mindset,” she said. “It’s time to look at right-sizing your business.”
At the same time, it’s crucial to show customers you are the right partner with the right solutions to take them into the future. Make sure your facility is safe for both employees and customers, with the proper sanitizing, mask wearing, and health monitoring, and communicate your COVID-19 strategy to customers, Pellow said.
“Your customers want to have confidence that you’re going to be there for them and that you’ve got the infrastructure and backup and redundancy in place so that if something does happen, you’ll make sure that … their service won’t be disrupted,” she said.
Pellow highlighted one company that has found success during the pandemic, Runbeck Election Services, a Phoenix-based provider of election ballot printing and mailing services.
“Our print volume is up 5% or 10% for the year,” reported Jeff Ellington, president & COO of Runbeck, who was interviewed by Pellow during the session.
Because of the push for voting by mail in this year’s general election, driven in part by the difficulty of finding volunteers to work the polling locations during the pandemic, municipalities are switching from ordering printed poll ballots to mailings. So, while Runbeck’s printing is up somewhat, its mailing has gone through the roof, rising 300%, Ellington said. This necessitated adding inserting and mail sorting equipment starting back in April.
“In hindsight, it’s a good thing we converted to inkjet,” remarked Ellington. His company installed an HP T230 inkjet press in 2014, then added a pair of HP T240 inkjet presses and an HP Indigo 1200.
“If we were still trying to use toner-based equipment to do our digital ballot printing, we would have struggled this year quiet a bit,” he said.
In 2014, he noted, the company printed 10 million ballots and inserts; this fall it is on track to print more than 50 million ballots and inserts. Because of inkjet, Runbeck was able to handle this increased volume and serve more states. Currently the company prints ballots for 22 states and 24 million voters, about a third of all registered voters, Ellington said.
Ellington recommended his fellow print providers talk with their customers about the services they need and look into providing them. He has seen more customers requesting data management services, he said.
“If you’re not doing a lot of data management now, you should be looking at it,” he suggested. “It separates you a little bit from some of the other printers out there.”
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.