The way we print is changing

According to Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the definition of a mentor is ‘an experienced person acting as a sounding board and a critical friend to help someone develop their abilities’. The definition of a coach is ‘someone who assists individuals and teams to improve performance’. And a business advisor is ‘an expert who recommends best courses of action.’

Research shows that whilst nine out of ten business people who have engaged a business mentor have seen a benefit, use of mentors is still relatively low, with only seven per cent of small and medium size businesses having employed one in the last twelve months. Mentoring, coaching and business advice can be complimentary elements in a programme of business support and can provide the essential independent input of an experienced practitioner to significantly move businesses forward – particularly during periods of change.

Becoming a modern print facility
Long term BPIF consultant, Chris Springford, suggests that it is important not to get tied up in text book definitions of different types of input, but to accept that businesses will look for different contributions at different stages of organisational development and the most important factor is to gain trust.

Springford gives as an example his long‑term relationship with a specialist government printing facility, which over the last decade has been transitioning from a very traditional pre‑press and litho operation totally focused on ‘printing for stock’, towards a wholly digital printing operation. The aim of the project is to use the flexibility and speed of inkjet printing for short-run work to achieve a balance between print on demand and  minimal stock holding solutions to maintain the ‘supply on demand’ service.

The first step in developing their transition programme was to project their future market demand using technology to provide increased printing and finishing capacity to reduce the impact of their volume requirements. They then wanted to consider the best option to deliver the requirement from developing the current facility to outsourcing the whole operation; and finally they wanted to ensure that change programmes were implemented effectively with no disruption to service, delivering maximum value for their commissioners.

They needed support in looking at the full lifecycle of their production processes from pre‑press through production to final distribution. They wanted to embrace within their processes best practice in data management, print and finishing quality, environmental and colour management practices. It was also critical that their data systems allowed them to maximise their flexibility to embrace both litho and digital solutions.

Springford not only brought his vast experience of UK transition projects but also researched cutting-edge solutions globally and, having experienced a similar service in the USA, was able to discuss with the team alternative multi-media solutions.

Embracing the change
This was a massive cultural change programme that required buy-in from not only the IT, pre-press, printing, finishing and logistics departments but also from the departments they interfaced with on a daily basis.

Springford says: “It has been a fascinating development that has generated multi‑million pound savings for the operation, requiring a transformation in skill mix, and an enhanced approach to key performance management.  Whilst the result is all encompassing, in reality we have assisted in implementing nearly twenty development projects each owned by the local teams, tailored to their specific requirements. Everyone has had the opportunity to contribute to both project development and implementation to gain an understanding of how the different processes, procedures and standards combine to deliver best-in-class results in terms of uncompromising quality and cost effectiveness.”

Having fully evaluated likely change requirements, the project team is now specifying the requirements for the next generation of digital equipment with in-line and offline finishing, and Springford is working with them to ensure that they maximise the opportunity of the tendering process to continue their great success story.

Mentors, coaches and advisors

In summary, during the project each of the hats has been worn – mentor to the managers and project team by bringing commercial manufacturing know-how to a major change programme; coach to the management teams as they looked to improve their performance; and business advisor in assisting with the development of the business case to put to tender using the OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) process, evaluating supplier options and pulling together their business proposals for new investment.

Mentor, coach and business advisor, and finally champion as the team successfully won the financial support to continue to develop the in-house solution rather than outsource.

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