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Richard Taylor’s Reflections on Three Decades in the Graphic Arts

December 16, 2012

Editor’s Note: Richard Taylor spent 32 years observing and managing printing plants. After retiring, he wrote “Inside Business Management: A Perspective for Students.” Richard provided us with this summary of his career. We enjoyed it and hope you will, too.

I got interested in the printing business as my uncle in Seaford, DE, had a printing plant. As a young boy I would visit his home in the summer each year for a couple of weeks. I would travel there by train from our home outside of Philadelphia.

I went to work for a printing company, Interboro News, after high school. At some point the foreman gave me two tickets to the first Printing Convention, after the second  World War. He did not know that I had an uncle who lived in the Chicago area.

I decided to go there to the convention and asked for time off to make the trip. The owner of the company said he would give me the time off, but could not pay. I said that was OK.

FIVE DAYS IN CHICAGO

I took the train from Philadelphia to Chicago. I spent five days at the show. Among the materials I gathered was information on schools that taught Graphic Arts. West Virginia Tech was one. Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh also had a course, but financially the tuition was beyond what I could handle.

After submitting my high school grades to Tech, I was accepted and headed to West Virginia.

My father passed away my second year in college. That reduced my financial support from home. I wrote to five printing companies in the Philadelphia area and asked if they offered scholarships. My school buddies told me it was a wasted effort. I told them it just took a little time and a $.03 cent stamp per letter.

WESTERN PRINTING SENDS $300

All five of the companies wrote back and told me they did not offer scholarships. However, one wrote back and told me that Western Printing and Lithograph Co., in Racine, WI,  did offer scholarships. I wrote to them and they sent me an application to fill out.

 On the application I had to explain what my costs at school were and how much I could earn by working in the summer and at Tech part time. A few weeks later I received a check for $300 dollars, which was the cost of one semester at school. They renewed my scholarship for my following years at Tech. In the summers I worked for the Pennsylvania Highway Department in their drafting department.

THE IBM WAY

My senior year, IBM Corp. came to the college and interviewed us. I was later told to go their plant in Washington, D.C. for an interview. I was hired and started with them upon graduation.

In the Washington plant we had about 50 presses producing IBM cards at 1,000 a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We produced all of the Treasury Checks for the government, all the savings Bonds, and postal money order cards. We also produced payroll and company checks for many large companies such as Standard Oil, Texaco, etc.

The guards in the plant wore 45mm pistols. We all, and visitors had to sign in and out when we went into the areas producing negotiable documents.

GETTING SCHOOLED IN INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING

After working there for a period of time, IBM sent me and others from similar plants back to school, we took classes in Industrial Engineering, which included Work Simplification. I was assigned as the Industrial Engineer for the plant. At a later date I transferred to the IBM plant in Dayton, NJ (near Princeton) as the manager of a new production operation being installed for the production of MICR encoded checks as part of the product line.

A TWO-MONTH PLANT START UP

At a later date, I was given the assignment to install a plant in Rochester, NY for IBM. I had less than two months to take the building under construction to a plant with all equipment in and running. The owner of the building remarked to me, ‘Youse guys got a problem!”

My engineer and I met the target date. In fact my manager at the Dayton plant became the  plant manager in Rochester.

About a year later, I was promoted to middle management in the plant here in Greencastle, IN, where we started to produce IBM Optical Scanning forms and Continuous Paper Forms. Eventually we brought in Computer Ribbon production. As optics replaced punch cards we took over the production of floppy disks, etc.

‘EMPLOYEES TOOK MORE EFFORT THAN EQUIPMENT’

When I started with IBM I thought the most problems would be keeping the equipment in running order.  However, once I got into management, I realized, managing the employees took more effort than the equipment.

At that time, we were given continued education on people management. One of the main efforts were directed at “respect for the individual employee.” In the Greencastle Plant we had 985 employees. We eventually brought into the plant ribbon manufacturing, floppy disk manufacturing, etc ., to maintain employment as magnetics replaced card products.

FOR MORE ON INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING

The H.B. Maynard Co. [now part of Accenture] is an excellent resource for those interested in Industrial Engineering and related fields. The Institute of Industrial Engineering is another useful site.

SOME SAYINGS…

Over the years, I would write on IBM cards sayings I developed or heard from other people. I had a stack of the cards about two inches high, by the time I retired. Here are a few of these “Thought Provokers”:

  • Seize the mind; seize the man!
  • To install new ideas, first neutralize the old.
  • All for one, all for no one.
  • New name for a lie: inadvertent error.
  • My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts.
  • It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money.
  • A problem solver is one who takes the difference between what they’ve got and what they want and brings the two together.

Richard Taylor, a 32-year veteran of the graphic arts, spent 26 years managing printing plants. He majored in Graphic Arts and Printing at West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery, West Virginia. Contact him at rtaylor@tds.net" target="_blank">rtaylor@tds.net.

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