“When we first started to do screen printing, we had shirts that we were doing for a global hockey festival that RIT had one year, which involved all the international campuses and everybody was streaming together. This was our first big screen printing order but we only had a little manual screen printing press at the time. It was a three color shirt with the RIT logo: it had things printed on both sides. We had to do 700 of those shirts; it was all hands on deck. Throughout the department, any time you had a free minute you were in the screen printing room doing it manually. All of us were back there, and how we ever got those done, I’m not sure. Then we got the order for the shirts for Imagine RIT that year. We still had this manual press and every minute of the day we had shirts all over the place: you have to fold them after you’re done printing them and you need them all laid out before you start printing them. We learned trial by fire with screen printing. Thankfully, now we have a big automated press. It has been a real fun area for us as far as growth: we had to all learn together to be able to do it. Any time there is an event on campus that is a big deal, that generally means that The HUB is going to have print work to do. Sometimes it is a scramble, but we are always proud after it is done.”
RIT has a lot of different academic departments, majors, clubs, organizations and events; all of which have large printing and postal needs. Luckily, we have a place right here on campus who can fulfill any of their needs. The HUB director, Mary Ellen Gauntlett, was able to sit down with Behind the Bricks to talk about the services and the projects that The HUB does.
If someone asked you what The HUB was, how would you describe it?
“I’d say that The HUB is the RIT printing and postal service. We take care of the entire campus. We have six departments that make up The HUB: print production and mail services here in Building 99, the two post offices (both in Global Village and NRH), The HUB Express in Monroe Hall (which is our student-centered facility) and the RIT Photo Store is currently part of The Hub.
Our goal is to provide really good service to faculty staff and students for printing needs, screen printing, and promotional items.”
The HUB has multiple rooms, each doing a different part of the printing process. There are about 80 student employees that work in all the different departments of The HUB, as well as full time employees. Some workers are getting files ready, some are printing, mounting, trimming, cutting, labeling, and some are focused on distributing and mail services. There are items that go out to the post office every day and there is incoming mail that they distribute every day, separate from all the student mail. The HUB does everything from the point they receive the work order to the moment the project goes out the door. For example, when you got accepted to RIT, you mostly likely received a folder or a packet full of admissions items and booklets. All of those materials most likely have been prepared, printed, and distributed by The HUB.
What is the difference between The HUB and The HUB Express?
“We do stuff for student groups here in Building 99. For individual students, generally they want to walk up to the counter, have their piece printed, and walk away with it: that is The HUB Express. Here in Building 99, we are more for bigger jobs and we work with a lot of clubs for projects, where they know it’s not going to be necessarily done the next day. We are not the on-demand part of the operation, that is for The HUB Express.”
What are the daily operations in The HUB like?
“For the production facility, we start with a morning meeting. We look over all the work we have to do in the department which is printing, mailing, bindery, and preparing files to beprinted. We do offset and digital printing, we do wide format printing for banners, signs, and posters, and we do screen printing for t-shirts. If you belong to a club and wanted a t-shirt printed for an event, we would actually print that right here in this department. We open several thousand work orders a year and within a month we do several hundred. Some of them are real simple and others become very complicated; they have a lot of steps to them, such as variable printing with personalized touches. We handle all standardized pieces of printing for RIT: all the business cards, the letterhead, and other material. So we got a lot going on.”
Are there any misconceptions about The HUB?
“A lot of people don’t think The HUB has a certain skillset, which we do. We have the qualification G7, which is a big deal in the printing world. It means we can consistently meet color standards and maintain appearance of color across a wide spectrum of materials and devices.
Also, I think there is a lack of understanding about the variety of our services at The HUB. For example, if you need to order pens, why don’t you talk to The HUB first because we can get the pens that do ten different things or the plain old stick pen. Are you looking for some ideas of things to give away for your organization? Tell us what your price point is and we can put together a little catalog. A lot of times, we don’t have the same minimums on a lot of things. If you go to other places you might need to order a certain number, then you have something you have to hang onto for a while.”
The manager of The HUB Express said almost the same thing: many students who come, don’t realize what they are capable of. The HUB Express can do anything a standard print shop can do. They are able to print up to 12×18”, can print wide format banners up to 26”, mugs, t-shirts, and more. Usually, whatever you need printed can be done instantly or within a few hours, depending on the project. Although you can use cash or credit at The HUB Express, you can also use Tiger Bucks, which is a major benefit. All you need is a flash drive or to email your files to The HUB Express, and you can get your work printed.
Do you do anything other than just printing?
“We do have graphic design students that work here and a couple people on staff with a graphic design background. So if you come to us with an idea but you don’t know exactly how to create that, we will definitely try to help you out and work with you on that and make sure it is both printable and to your taste.”
How do you think advances in technology will affect The HUB in the future?
“On the printing side there is new technology, and high-end production digital presses. We are already looking at what we could get next. One of the challenges at RIT is our orange color. When you are printing it on a digital device, it doesn’t always come out exactly right but there are new devices out that will get us that orange, like our other offset printing devices already can. We are also working on an online store right now for apparel, it will start with FMS. They can order the shirts that they are required to wear for their job. They can order it, come here to pick up their shirt, and it’s all taken care of. Eventually a club could also go on there and order their t-shirts, which will make things very convenient. It’s really exciting.”
What is the biggest benefit to using The HUB for students?
“We are very competitive with any outside source. We are price competitive: if someone says this is my budget, we will try to work with that budget. We are very RIT first; we have an interest in working with clubs and groups. We have other people that have said ‘we don’t want to go to The HUB because they can’t take care of us like other places’, but we have had many converts because they realize we can do the same thing as everyone else and our price is lower. We will deliver anywhere on campus, or even off of campus to help out and our turnaround times are generally pretty quick. You see a proof of what you want, you get to see what it is going to look like. For the most part, people find it pretty easy to work with us. Call us up, send us what you want, email us what you want, and we will work with you from there: it is that simple.”
“We really are here to support the students and the university: that’s our mission, thats our goal and that’s what we want to do.”