“Our customers love it (PSP). Those are the words I get from customers. ‘I love it! This is awesome!'”
Dede Simmons, Print Shop Manager
University of North Alabama
Situated along the Tennessee River in the small town of Florence (population just over 40,000 according to 2019 census data) is home of the University of North Alabama (UNA), the oldest college in the state. Known for its business, music, journalism, marketing and nursing programs the modern campus attracts students with spacious green lawns, covered paths, sculptures, historic buildings as well as a live African lion mascot which students can visit daily.
UNA signed on as a Print Shop Pro® (PSP) customer in the first quarter of 2020. Dede Simmons, Print Manager of UNA Print Services shared details of how she was able to find the “silver lining” in the pandemic closure by equipping her department with better management tools and enabling web-to-print capabilities.
A UNA graduate, Dede returned to the University after a successful 30 year career in graphic arts. In discussing her transition to print she said, “I never imagined I would be running a print shop. The previous manager in print services departed the role unexpectedly and I was hired to take over managing the day-to-day operations. As I was getting into the nitty gritty I discovered we were using a complicated hand chart to quote services and the department was run manually and offered no online ordering to customers. I knew we needed something. We needed Print Shop Pro®.”
UNA Print serves the entire campus community, including students. The department is staffed by Dede, Karen, a part time employee and a student worker. Their equipment includes a Versant 80 digital press, a Xante Impressia envelope printer, a cutter, a drill press, a folder and a spiral binder. Regarding the department’s volume Dede shared, “We are currently doing about $12,000 per month in print. This is low for us, but we feel fortunate to be holding at that. We’re printing lots of posters, postcards and booklets featuring departments and their activities. We, like a lot of others, are down on our black and white printing. And, because there haven’t really been any student events, most printing related to that is down. Normally we would do roughly 150 – 160 jobs per month at a volume of between $16,000 – $20,000 per month in printing and it was a challenge to track jobs and handle the day-to-day with the antiquated process.”
Dede began putting together her list of system requirements and got a well timed call from edu. “I literally made the purchase the week before spring break in 2020. I almost didn’t pull the trigger, but I’m so grateful that I did. We were told we wouldn’t be able to return to campus just before spring break was scheduled to end. The silver lining for me is that during the 2 ½ – 3 months we were shut down I was really able to focus on getting PSP going and building back better.” shared Dede.
To get advice on how best to tackle implementation, Dede called on Jimmy Robinson, Print Manager (retired) at the University of West Alabama to ensure a successful implementation. Dede said, “I called Jimmy to get his opinion of PSP. He said, I don’t know how you’re running this operation without PSP. And, he told me that I needed to spend the time setting up the pricing and order categories correctly to make it as easy as possible for our customers. And, there was quite a bit of data entry involved, but it was worth every minute.”
Dede continued, “There is not one day, and I’m not exaggerating, that I don’t set foot on campus and I thank God for my job and I thank God for PSP. I’m so glad I spent the time because it figures everything out for me and for my customers. All the information we need is right there. I love how intuitive it is. I learn hands on and the system makes sense. I can figure things out without having to call anyone for support. Another thing I love about PSP is the automated chargebacks! It used to take me hours having my student worker enter every completed job in Excel. Then I’d have to go back and check and double check and find any data entry errors. The entire process took me about half of a day. Now with PSP, it takes me less than 30 minutes because all the data is just there. And, our customers “love it.” That’s the words I get… I love it! This is awesome! It’s so intuitive.”
I asked Dede how she rolled PSP out to her campus. She replied, “Because it was during the height of COVID and no one was on campus it actually turned out to be pretty easy. Printing was down to an all time low, we didn’t have full blown daily production competing with training and so we dove right in. We did a one month test run with a few major customers who place orders regularly. We made a few adjustments then started enrolling users as they would place orders and got rid of our old forms. We are now over 120 Users. I also jumped on a Zoom call with Laura Lockett at CSU Sacramento and she showed us their site and gave us some tips. That is another thing I have really appreciated. The PSP customer community is so welcoming and it’s been very helpful to get advice from other users.”
Dede lit up when I asked her favorite feature in PSP. Dede said, “Every feature is my favorite feature and I’m not kidding. What we came from… this rudimentary form that was open fillable and customers can put anything there and the complicated way we were figuring out estimates. It’s night and day. I love the automated charge backs, that PSP calculates pricing for me, the ease of ordering for customers, the ease of changing orders if I need to. I’ve just been happy with all of it.”
The Communications Department at UNA recently purchased Design Conductor®, a web-based template solution by edu. Dede said, “Graphics is my background and I know firsthand the challenge of trying to keep everyone on brand. The graphics department here is separate from print, but I’m hoping Design Conductor® will make things a lot easier for that group. When they told me they were looking at it, I said, “I promise you that you will be happy with whatever product you get from edu.” We at edu are so grateful for the vote of confidence and our partnership with UNA.
In her spare time, Dede finds time to keep her design skills sharp working as a contract laborer for loyal customers who need design such as a friend who is working on a book. She also enjoys spending time with her husband, grandkids and family. Dede always looks for the silver lining in a situation and she has kept that perspective even through COVID. Dede said, “That’s what I’ve loved more than anything during this time, really being able to focus on what’s important and have time with family.”