What positions beyond the core could expand your shop's reliability and capabilities?
By Craig Miller
Last February, our small digital printing company completed its 20th year in business. Over the years, we have ranged in staff size from four employees when we started to a peak of 45 in 2007, right before the “Great Recession” began. During the recession, our staffing numbers dropped to roughly half of what they were at our high point. Like many print shops, we are grateful to have survived what bordered on an economic depression.
Over the past four years, we have regained profitability and gradually expanded our staff to pre-recession numbers. This experience of expansion, contraction, and expansion again got me thinking about staffing in our industry, and the positions that are core to what we do versus those that expand a printing company beyond its core functionality.
What jobs are required to simply operate as a digital printing operation? In very small companies, employees take on responsibilities for multiple skill areas. For example, when we started Pictographics in 1994, I did sales, customer service, prepress, design, printing, and delivery. Sue, my wife and business partner, did billing, collection, accounting, HR, purchasing, and finishing. Combined, we accounted for 11 job functions. As sales increased, we hired people who specialized in those skill areas.
So at its most basic, a digital printing company requires certain skills to get the file from the customer and the finished product delivered. At the risk of over simplifying, we break these skills into front end, printing, and finishing. I’m just going to focus on jobs that are directly associated with production, leaving sales and front-office roles for another time.
Laying it out
We define “front end” as customer service and prepress. A customer service representative’s basic job is to communicate with the client, receive customer files, and write associated work orders. In prepress, we hire specialists to receive the work order and customer files, and then prepare them for the printing department.
In the printing department, we employ press operators. Their job is self-explanatory: they load and unload media to the printers and run the jobs. Some companies have their prepress departments RIP the files; we have our press operators do it.