January 11, 2017

Preventing Document Disasters

pile of messy documents

There is nothing you can do to stop a hurricane or a flood from striking your business. Events like these call for disaster preparedness, not prevention. With some advance notice you may have time to ring your building with sandbags or board the windows, but you cannot stop the storm from coming.

Document operations disasters however can be prevented. And, just like some of those natural catastrophes, warning signs exist. Close calls often precede document security issues and privacy breaches that do the most damage. Ignoring the significance of these minor errors sets the stage for bigger problems that pop up later.

Mistakes Are Waiting to Happen

Any document center, whether an outsource service provider or an in-house facility, has the potential to harm their customer relationships by making errors that accidentally reveal private information. This can happen in several ways:

• Mixing pages from multiple account documents in a single envelope.

• Jams or page overflow problems that result in data from two accounts printed on the same page.

• Duplexing that gets out of sync.

• Matching that goes bad.

• Folding errors, resulting in data such as social security numbers becoming visible through envelope windows.

• Print formatting mistakes, resulting in printing the wrong data fields on documents.

• Software conversions that introduce data manipulation errors affecting the documents.

These are not the only vulnerabilities. Every document operation has a unique set of hardware, software, applications, and procedures presenting numerous opportunities to make mistakes.

Your Reputation is at Risk

If your organization inadvertently compromises the privacy of individual recipients you will likely re-do the work for free, mail apology letters, and pay for credit monitoring. You may suffer from negative publicity in the marketplace or when newspaper or television reporters cover the story. Your print/mail service company can damage its ability to attract new customers or retain current ones because of these high-profile mistakes. Offending print and mail providers can even be fined or sued.

When these events happen, operations managers often discover warning signs were present, but disregarded. Do any of these sound familiar?

• Something seems wrong to a veteran machine operator and they stop a run to investigate and fix it. Luckily, a rookie wasn’t running the job. They never would have noticed.

• You discover operations personnel are marking quality control steps as completed, but not always performing them. Errors such as double-stuffed envelopes can slip through undetected.

• In a stroke of luck, a print operator stopped a job only because they ran out of pre-printed forms. The staff never recognized the warehouseman pulled the wrong stock from the warehouse. Had the job gone out, two important customers would have been enraged. Untangling the mess would have been an expensive undertaking.

How to Prevent Mistakes

If you have observed near misses like these in your document operation, it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes. You can’t stop the river that floods the building during record rainfall, but you can prevent document security disasters caused by the machines and humans under your control.

• Install mailpiece integrity hardware and software. This includes cameras and databases that track documents as they proceed through the operations workflow. They halt production when pages or documents are missing or out of order.

• Add 2D barcodes to control mail insertion equipment and enable high-speed scanning of material. The status of every document at each step, keyed by the barcodes, is logged in the piece-tracking database.

• Automate end-of-job balancing procedures, alerting supervisors when errors are detected.

• Match mailpiece components with cameras mounted on insert stations, replacing random spot-checks with positive matching for every piece.

• Eliminate errors and inventory problems with pre-printed forms by printing form elements inline with variable data (a white paper factory).

• Use document re-engineering software to move sensitive data away from locations where it could be visible through envelope windows.

• Automate document quality assurance measures. Migrating to new software products, or even version upgrades, can cause document integrity issues like mixing data from multiple customers. Mistakes in large transactional document jobs are difficult to spot with human verifiers.

Crawford Technologies has been helping companies lower their exposure to privacy disasters for decades. Our flexible tools will help prevent the data security and privacy mistakes that can cause so much grief for in-plant and outsource print and mail service operations. Contact us today to see how our tried and tested solutions can benefit your organization.