My best friend in high school was a motorcycle junkie. He loved to ride and race. He started on dirt and trail bikes, and shortly after we graduated from high school, he started racing sport bikes (road bikes). I had the opportunity to travel with him and act as his unofficial pit and support crew as he traveled to different racetracks around the western states. I loved it.
One of the things I loved most about traveling with my friend was the access to the paddock and interactions with the other privateer racers. I was mesmerized by the camaraderie, passion, innovation, and creativity of this disparate group of people.
Some racers were well-traveled veterans of the sport. Some were new and green. Some privateers had deep pockets with all of the newest bikes, tools, and gear, while others spent every last penny to stay on the track with older machinery and equipment. The commonality however, was that they all loved racing. Every one of them wanted to be on the track, and when the chips were down, they were there to prop each other up, regardless of station. If someone broke down or wrecked, everyone pitched in to make sure his or her fellow-racers were back up on the track for the next race or safely headed for home. There was solidarity amongst privateer racers that I thought was unrivaled until I started working in the in-plant print and mail industry and became a member of IPMA.
One of the first things I was introduced to when I started working in DMBA’s in-plant was the IPMA community. Rob Lingard, Director of DMBA’s Central Services Department, had been working in this industry for several years and was involved with IPMA on the national level and with the Utah Chapter. He could see, right away, that I needed to be educated. I was well versed in document imaging but knew very little about business and production print and mail services. Rob started taking me to both local and national IPMA events and acquainted me with the old IPMA listserv (now the Community Forum). Once again I was mesmerized by the camaraderie, passion, innovation, and creativity of the people I encountered.
Much like the privateer racing community, I found my in-plant colleagues to be a diverse group of like-minded professionals willing to collaborate and provide assistance when a need arises. This community is forged in a desire to support one another and preserve the unvarnished truth that an in-plant, if managed judiciously, can outperform potential outsourcing threats. With that said, there will always be pressure to outsource the services provided by in-plants. This constant risk underscores the importance of IPMA to its members.
I would encourage you to utilize the IPMA community as a resource to help better yourself and your shop. Sharpen your skills by taking advantage of educational and collaborative opportunities. Attend local events and/or the national conference when possible. Get on the community forum and participate. Keep up with technology innovations and best practices by signing up for webinars. Reach out to other in-plant professionals. In doing so you will not only strengthen your organization but the in-plant community at large.