“This is a letter of recommendation concerning Howie Fenton’s consulting and training services. Howie and I have known each other for over a decade. We first met when he was the editor of Pre magazine and he did a story about how Cabela’s was using a new prepress system for color retouching. After we talked about prepress technology, I started using Howie whenever we had a prepress issue. As a result, he has worked with us on both consulting and training assignments.
When we had color issues, he analyzed every piece of equipment and every process we used and identified our bottlenecks and problem areas. When we needed to know more about PDF files and, he came into our training room and taught our staff how to create, preflight, and repair files.
His most recent assignment was the most challenging and the one in which I think he did his best work for us. Right before Cabela’s went public with a small percentage of company shares, we agreed to bring consultants into all areas to demonstrate our commitment to continuous improvement. Howie had to not only deal with the prepress area but also the merchandising staff.
This is often a contentious relationship in which both merchandising and prepress feel they don’t get what they need. Howie’s objective, easy going yet professional approach helped him learn and understand the subtle problems in communication and rework and bottlenecks that resulted from that problem.
In addition, he was tireless in uncovering and analyzing our internal manufacturing costs and production capacity and projecting our outsourcing expenditures. It really shocked management when he acknowledged that millions of dollars could be saved doing more work internally.
Last but not least in every project we worked on together, I’ve been impressed by Howie’s willingness to go the extra mile. The PDF training he did was originally scheduled for one – two day session. After staff went through the first day of training, people started talking about the value of the training and soon we asked Howie to stay 2 more days and train more staff.”
– Jim Beardsly, (former) VP Catalog Production, Cabela’s
"I recommend Howie Fenton to any company that wants to improve the performance of its in-plant facility. We hired Howie to help us in the selection of our new printing and finishing equipment. Howie took the time to understand our mailing and printing needs and then educated our team on technology advances and new options available in the market.
He also helped guide us through the vendor review process. Howie’s expertise and guidance led to our selection of a full-color ink-jet solution that will replace our current process for printing black-and-white on preprinted forms. This new equipment will improve service levels, reduce manual touch points, increase flexibility and save money."
– Mark Nelson, Physicians Mutual, VP Direct Marketing Group
"It is my pleasure to recommend Howie Fenton's consulting services. Five years ago our inplant printing facility at the University of Michigan was struggling financially and our customers were rating us poorly in the area of cost for value added. Through an RFP process our administration hired NAPLs Howie Fenton for his consulting services.
Howie evaluated our business focusing on our strategic alignment, cost competitiveness, customer satisfaction, technology, and staffing. Howie concluded that while we did many things well, we were overstaffed and overcharging for most of our services.
When specifically asked by the administration what should be done, Howie assured them that he saw immense value in the core of the business and with some very specific changes it could be turned around. It was not easy or fast, but we were successful in reducing our costs by more than $430,000. By realigning the number of business units we had we were finally able to focus on our core competencies and what we could do to best serve the university community.
Since the day Howie and I started working together by rebranding our inplant as "Print, Copy, Mail", we have substantially cut the cost of our goods sold. We have been better able to serve our customers by finding and focusing on our strength, rather than trying to be everything to everyone. We have won an NAPL Gold RAVE award for Customer Satisfaction, and we have turned our inplant from a loss to a profit center due in part to almost a 150% increase in revenue to full time employee.
It's been just over five years since Howie and I first sat together. Whenever I need advice or just to want to bounce ideas off someone I call Howie. He always responds to my calls or e-mails and never hesitates to talk candidly and honestly to me about the trends in the industry. When I ask him to share the best practices he sees in other inplant facilities ... as I always do, he gladly takes the time to share his experiences with me.
I have to admit when we first learned that an outside consultant was going to evaluate us at the very time the economy was devastating so many printers, we were more than skeptical, we were fearful they would not put in the effort to dig deep enough to understand and find the value in our business we all knew existed. Looking back now, we were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Howie Fenton as he has greatly helped us to once again become respected and valued members of the university community."
– Rodger Meyers, Printing Supervisor, University of Michigan
"I am pleased to provide this letter of recommendation for the consulting services for Howie Fenton and the NAPL team, who helped us answer critical strategic questions in analyzing our print operations within our Premier business unit at School Specialty, Inc. This was a very challenging undertaking given the divergent internal views of continuing internal operations versus outsourcing overall production as well as the geographically dispersion of our multiple print partners and a wide array of reporting tools or lack there-of.
For several months the NAPL team of consultants visited our various plants and worked remotely with our staff. Howie performed the operational analysis and was the team leader responsible for all aspects of this project. Howie proved to be very adaptive to the demands of the project and the various personalities and underlying interests that were involved. Howie’s take-charge mindset and goal orientation really helped keep this project on track and on-time. The final report exceeded our expectations in the depth of its findings, the crispness of the recommendations and the ability with which to make an informed business decision. The real measure of its effectiveness was that even the nay-sayers were won over to the final recommendations after digesting the findings in the report.
I would highly recommend Howie and the consulting services of NAPL to help solve any print operation problem you face. We are a very satisfied client.”
– Robert E. Puissant, (former) Executive Vice President, School Specialty, Inc.
"We would highly recommend Howie to any company desiring to evaluate and be afforded the advice of an industry leader in in-plant consulting services. Howie is very knowledgeable and can evaluate how and where improvements can be achieved within a localized print environment. He is in-tune with current technology and has the ability to take that data and put into very user friendly solutions. He is direct, in a very articulate manner, and allows his customer to see things they might otherwise not have noticed and in doing so provides an unbiased analysis that can help you see what advantages can be obtained with forward thinking.
His technological expertise across all print disciplines is impressive and the way he can communicate with the tradesman and the management of the company is flawless. You would be well served by allowing Howie to evaluate your print operation and provide an overview that will make your decision on how to source future print production an easy choice. We were very impressed with his candor and demeanor in working with us and it made our interaction with him as a consultant a seamless process."
– Tony Nussman/Gene Cain, Food Lion Print Management Team
“I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Howie Fenton through his consulting endeavors with AARP. Howie is a consummate professional and is extremely knowledgeable in Printing. He is committed and thorough in completing his work. He outlines all results in a manner that covers all of the possibilities and all of the recommendations, and he does it using language that is easily understood by anyone. His work requires a great deal of research and the necessity to ask a lot of questions. One of the pleasant experiences of working with Howie is his ability to put you at ease while he gathers the information that he needs. I would welcome the opportunity to work with Howie again and I highly recommend him and his work to others.”
– Pat Peterson, Director Mail & Print Operations, AARP
"I wanted to take a moment to share some information about the value of NAPL, and in particular for Howie Fenton. We look to NAPL for guidance and best practice information in managing the Washington State Printer. As you know we participated in the NAPL management program and work with NAPL to improve our business practices by leveraging key information for in-plant printers. This was well received by the Governor’s office.
This past year when the State Auditor decided to audit the performance of the Washington State Printer and all the state agency in-plants I put forth the names of a handful of consultants who had the experience, knowledge and objectively to evaluate our facility and the 10 others in the state. I was pleased to hear that Howie had been selected as part of the team, because I knew that the evaluation would be done objectively despite potential agendas of other sources. This speaks highly of NAPL and your value in the in-plant industry.
Howie has a rare subject matter expertise that includes traditional offset printing, digital printing, production workflows and in-plant management experience. I can say with confidence that there is significant political pressure put on anyone evaluating our In-plant. There are not many organizations or consultants that I would trust to be fair and objective, but I trust Howie Fenton as a member of NAPL to be a trusted objective source. Too often we take this type of contribution for granted. We often forget to acknowledge the fine work so many individuals provide. You are most fortunate to have such a talented individual such as Howie Fenton as part of your team.”
– Jean-Luc Devis, Director at Washington State Dept of Printing
"Howie has amassed a wealth of knowledge and insight regarding printing technology as well as the printing industry as a whole. In this changing marketplace, he stays on top of all of the latest trends and technologies. One of the areas he shines brightest is his ability to communicate his knowledge in a large group setting or just one-on-one in a way that makes complex issues easy to understand. In either setting, the listener is sure to walk away with at least a dozen ideas that can be readily implemented and will have a positive effect on your bottom line."
– Pete Larson, Chief Sales Officer, Bethany Press International
"I just wanted to let you know how pleased we have been with the technical services audit your performed at EBSCO Media in February. We found your report to be concise, to the point, providing a great deal of insight into our workflow problems here. I’m sure in your work most clients adopt some of your recommendations. But you should be pleased to know that we have adopted almost all of your recommendations. We’re having a great year and want to thank you for your help in straightening out the kinks in our workflow."
– Carol Sosnin, (former) Information Services Manager, EBSCO Media
“I highly recommend Howie Fenton to anyone looking for a true printing industry expert who will take the time to understand the challenges of your business as well as your goals; who will collaborate with you to determine the best way to approach addressing those challenges; and will deliver a final product that meets your needs. We selected Howie in 2008 to evaluate the print spend at Michigan State University and the value of continuing to operate an internal printing operation.
We selected him in large part due to his reputation in the printing industry and extensive experience consulting with a diverse array of printing companies all over the U.S. Howie not only brings this experience to the table, he brings valuable insight into the future of printing to the table. In a world where ink on paper is just one of many ways of communicating messages, Howie’s research and writing on new media give him a perspective that is unique in the business and invaluable to his customers.
Reputation, experience and knowledge are only part of the consulting equation. We found Howie to be a person of high integrity who patiently and flexibly works with his clients to find straight-forward ways to solve complex business problems. From determining project requirements to defining the approach to the engagement to modifying the requirements to delivering the final report, Howie was more than willing to adapt and adjust during the project.
Quite simply, Howie is one of the best consultants I’ve worked with. He is honest, responsive and will go the extra mile to make sure you get what you expect from his work.”
– Carmen E. Crist, Director of Printing Services, Michigan State University
"After interviewing several industry consultants, the University of St Thomas chose to work with Howie Fenton for a review of our in-plant printing department. The goal was to analyze the operation and recommend strategies to help the university achieve their business objectives including: improve financially and operationally and achieve high marks in customer satisfaction. Our choice was a prudent one.
Howie’s work was accurate, timely, unbiased, thoughtful, on-budget and immensely helpful to our institution. During his site visits, as well as in all of our telephone communications, one thing stood out- he listened, observed and asked questions. Howie has a huge wealth of knowledge in this industry, but he wouldn’t offer any direction until he learned as much as he could about our business.
The end result was a report and series of recommendations that are detailed, to-the-point, specific and achievable. Our operation will succeed on its merits, and thankfully, we have more tools at our disposal, and management has more information to make the best choices. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Howie Fenton to others who seek this kind of expertise."
– John Barron, Director, Printing and Mailing Services, University of St Thomas
"I am pleased to offer this letter of recommendation for Howie Fenton’s consulting services. Howie worked with us at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Printing Services for about one-and-a-half years on three assignments.
The first was an assessment of our in-plant printing facility, identifying what we did well and where we needed to improve. Howie showed us a month-by-month analysis of our volumes and pointed out in his report that there were a few months that were indicators of our financial struggles. The goal of this analysis was to understand our strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to make the operation successful over on full year. Howie outlined all our options, the pros and cons of each, as well as the risks and likelihood of success. As a result we decided to try to turn the operation around over the next twelve months, which led to the second assignment.
Howie, along with our management team, outlined exactly what needed to be done and we created an action plan. This included changes in staffing, enhancements in software automation, and greater emphasis on new sales development. He visited every month to review the action plan and make corrections.
Unfortunately, even though we made the staff changes, we struggled with our vendor to implement the automation and our staff did not aggressively pursue new sales. As a result, when we hit those slow months again and did not increase our sales we decided to search for another company to manage the in-plant. That resulted in the third assignment, which was the preparation of an RFP for another company to manage the department.
In all three assignments, Howie was always professional despite some difficult circumstances here―his first visit was during a layoff and his last was while we were negotiating with the vendors. Throughout each assignment, he remained objective and his conclusions were based on data and experience. Most importantly to me, was that I knew I could call him and always get candid and professional advice regardless of the subject."
– Susan J Anderson, (former) Director Printing Services, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
“It is a pleasure to recommend Howie Fenton as a consultant. We have been working with Howie for a decade now and we still value his advice as much today as the very first day he worked with us. The first things Howie worked on with us were dot gain compensation curves on our RIPs. Since then—that was in 1996—he’s been out here a number of times to help us improve our workflow.
The second project was a preflighting workshop at our facility, which was attended not just by prepress operators but also ad designers. We had the designers take the workshop to learn how to examine files and preflight them to reduce press time and plate remakes.
One of Howie’s valuable characteristics is his ability to quickly assess what’s going on in the operation and make useful recommendations. He’s helped us with stochastic screening, archiving strategies, creating and fixing PDF files as well as a whole range of things, including the steps we needed to take to try to get correct files from our customers.
Howie is pretty quick to understand what we were trying to accomplish, and over the years he’s really gotten to know us and make doable recommendations. Every couple of years we like to have him come in and poke around and see what issues we’re having, and hear what he recommends. We use him to help us stay up to speed.”
–Bill Quillen, Trade a Plane Publishing, Production Coordinator
" Howie is the guy you want on your team! He is not only one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry but one of the smartest business people I've met in print. He gets it. Howie has an uncanny ability to see forward and leverage technology into profit opportunities. He can also articulate (in English) the value proposition and the "why you should do it now". He is a rare find and if you have any opportunity to work with Howie - do It!"
– Jon Leinen, General Manager, Document Services/Scanning Services at Data Recognition Corporation
"I’m writing today to bring you up to date on our continuous improvement progress and efforts, which are rooted in what we learned from you and discovered about ourselves in the sessions you taught in-house in October and December. As you know, throughout the October session, I kept notes from the discussions that our group had with you. At the end of that session – from those note – we complied an action plan of steps, we wanted to take, to improve our processes.
By December, we had reshaped the action plan into our Business Plan in each of the three divisions. We review our progress in the business plan in our monthly staff meetings. Each improvement issue had an assigned accountability (one person, who would report on the progress, but who worked with a committee he/she selected), and a specified measurement. The result has been that in six months, we have increased capacity, increased productivity, improved quality and increased profitability and – the real bonus – we have happier customers and more satisfied employees.
I am happy to report this development to you, and to thank you for your expertise and talents that engendered such a turnabout. The story is, of course, much more complex and would take a much longer letter to describe. But the results have been outstanding and people are feeling a sense of mission and accomplishment that they haven’t had since we started with electronics."
– Sharon Mitzell, Vice President Human Resources, York Graphic Services
"Based on Howie’s recommendations, I requested several follow up visits. The first was designed to provide training for our sales and customer service personnel. The most recent was targeted at our top and middle management.
After discussing some possibilities, we agreed that a customized version of the Workflow Management workshop I attended last year would be of value. An improvement in our teamwork was evident even before the workshop concluded and it resulted in an “Action Plan” to address specific production issues.
Since we began working together, Howie has focused on our needs, and has made sure that we are satisfied customers. The following anecdote illustrates his commitment. Not long after we began working together, Howie recommended other GATF services.
One of these services did not work out, and we expressed our dissatisfaction to GATF. Months later, during a follow-up phone call, Howie sensed that we were not totally satisfied with the value we had received from that service. He said to me, “This is completely unacceptable and we (GATF) need to correct this situation. He took it upon himself to work out an agreement that we were totally delighted with.
One final note, although Howie’s schedule and customer’s demands keep him quite busy, he manages to make me feel that our needs are his top priority. It may be his fast response to phone calls, his intuitive problem solving skills, or his commitment to our total satisfaction, but whatever it is, I’d like to bottle it and sell it. I’d retire soon and wealthy."
– Edward Lackman, (former) Director of Total Quality and Human Resources, Page Imaging
To schedule an appointment with Mr. Fenton, or find out more about the services he offers, please call 720-872-6339 or send him an email.
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Howie Fenton Consulting is always looking for qualified professionals to partner with. If you would like to find out more, please call 720-872-6339 or email Mr. Fenton at Howie@HowieFentonConsulting.com