A tale of two cities: privatizing printing
As the city of Rock Hill, S.C., has grown, so too have its printing and copying needs. In mid-1995, the city reached a critical juncture in the area of reprographic services when it realized that outdated equipment and an understaffed copy center would force a substantial investment in technology and personnel in order to produce the thousands of forms, flyers, letters, agendas and other materials needed to conduct business with citizens every day. But such an investment would be questionable given the quickly changing technologies and the growing and differing needs of city customers.
Additionally, the city had no centralized approach to reprographic services. All departments had their own convenience copiers under contract with different vendors, which was not cost effective in terms of copier supplies or maintenance contracts. Also, various departments would contract jobs to outside vendors, so the city was not saving money through volume discounts.
And it was decided that staff time devoted to maintaining the copiers, ordering supplies, tracking maintenance contracts and actually making copies could be better spent on delivery of core services to customers.
After researching privatization and outsourcing, Rock Hill began pursuing that option, sending out an RFP in the hope that a private printer would be interested in taking over its print shop needs.
Unfortunately, the city soon learned that its annual volume was not sufficient to make it profitable for a private-sector printer to supply the updated equipment and personnel on either a part- or full-time basis.
Then, Rock Hill officials learned that Charlotte, N.C., was looking into outsourcing its print shop. The two cities agreed to issue a joint RFP, hoping that the combined volume of Charlotte’s 18 million copies per year, along with Rock Hill’s 2 million, would make them more attractive to vendors.
Consequently, in joining with Charlotte, Rock Hill was able to benefit from high-volume discounts, while freeing staff members to devote their time to core service delivery
Charlotte, Rock Hill and Phoenix-based-Ikon Office Solutions entered into a three-year contract. Rock Hill pays $80,754 per year for a full-time facilities manager, new convenience copiers, high-volume copiers, maintenance and all supplies, a figure that represents a $56,000 savings from 1995 to 1996.
For instance, the 25,000 monthly utility bill newsletters are projected to cost $6,300 per year, or $525 per month in 1996, compared with the $9,407 per year, or $784 per month, that the city paid for printing and paper in 1995.
A full-time facilities manager in Rock Hill’s print shop is responsible for processing and tracking all duplicating requests, stocking all necessary supplies and coordinating specialized print requests with equipment operators in Charlotte.
The city’s 32 convenience Canon copiers have allowed for centralization of all copier services under a standard maintenance contract, saving Rock Hill the cost of repairs and upgrades.
Charlotte also has benefited from receiving a higher volume to lower its costs and to further its goal of aggressive privatization. And the experience with the cost savings and improved service delivery in the reprographics area has led Rock Hill to look closely at other areas in which personal computer network services and records management could be improved by use of a private facilities manager.