13 Sep Embracing service diversity in public sector print rooms
Having already forged a near 35-year career in print and design, Anthony Evans can reflect on much that he has experienced first-hand in the industry so far.
The increasing digitisation of printed documents is just the latest challenge to vex the print industry. But it’s no real surprise, either to Evans – who has been the DesignPrint Manager at Swansea Council for 19 years – or to other public sector print unit managers he engages with through his role as President of APCOM, the organisation for print and communication managers employed within the UK public sector.
“This is something we have seen coming for a long time, both from an APCOM point of view and from print units across the country,” he told Ricoh in an exclusive interview. “The Digital By Default agenda from Government pushed digitisation in the public sector, and that started everyone thinking about it.”
“But it was only really when austerity kicked in that the change was forced on print units. Print volumes started dropping with letterheads and business forms going online, which was a natural progression. The print rooms had to change.”
And change many of them have. Diversity has become a desirable attribute. Public sector print units are now doing much more than print and design. On top of those core services, they are adding electronic forms of communication such as email and URL production, as well as ancillary services such as shredding and scanning/archiving. More specialist print services such as wide-format print production have been added in some cases.
“These are all areas that councils need,” he continued. “Print units are pulling things together that are associated with print, rather than printing directly, and keeping these things in-house also has benefits in terms of data security.”
Evans would refute any suggestion that public sector print rooms operate to lesser standards than those maintained by commercial printers, and he can point to a number of areas where the public sector performs just as capably.
Marketing is one, customer service another. “There are public sector print facilities out there that have a really good marketing strategy. They work very hard on their image and make sure they engage with customers.
“We tend to work as partners with internal stakeholders, ensuring they get the best value for money, and ensuring the product they asked for is suitable for their requirements. We aim to work with people and add value.”
Although the relationships between a public sector print room and those it is producing work for – who mostly work for the same organisation – might seem fundamentally different to a commercial printer attracting clients on the open market, in fact, many of the same rules apply.
“I really try to push the importance of customer satisfaction and service across my unit, and within APCOM,” Evans continued. “There’s nothing new here: you just need to engage with customers and understand what they require, and make sure they understand what we can produce; setting expectations and hopefully beating them, if you can. It’s all about trust at the end of the day. If you can produce good quality, on time and on price, they will keep coming back.”
He goes on to field a question about the colour management demands of public sector organisations with ease, seeing different levels within the subject area. Colour consistency is, of course, important: you want the last leaflet to look like the first. Colour matching is, he accepts, less of an issue for an organisation such as a council, compared to, say, an FMCG manufacturer such as Coca-Cola.
The skills needed to colour match are still called upon though. “Our logos are relatively small, and it may be that this is the only thing that is critical for us to colour manage. That said, when we have an exhibition that’s open to the public, the exhibition stand needs to match the leaflets and brochures, and that’s where it becomes more important.”
Investing in high-end digital equipment is therefore essential. Doing so cost-effectively requires shrewd choices and an ability to put together a good business case for the technology – as would be the case for any print operator.
Evans concluded: “Our stakeholders rely on us as professionals in this field to advise on those kinds of things and show a return on investment that works for them. People talk about public sector printing not being on a level with the private sector, but in reality, it is. In the public sector, we have a professional print outlook, and we can produce the same quality and the same products. We must justify what we do to our directors and board of managers; the private sector must justify things to their stakeholders or shareholders. We get the same sorts of issues – there’s not much difference between the two.”
To learn more about public sector printing read our case study on Westminster City Council.
About Anthony Evans:
DesignPrint Manager at Swansea Council for 19 years, and before that Design Studio Manager at DW Jones (Printers) in Port Talbot, where he worked for more than 13 years. Anthony has been a member of APCOM for many years and has served as President of the Organisation, between 2010 and 2012, and again since September 2017.