April 17, 2012

The Power of Automation: The Reprint Process With & Without an ADF

The operation of a print and mailing environment can be very complex; that complexity can be amplified when operational processes are manual. To illustrate this let’s take a look at Don’s daily operations.

As an Operation Manager, Don’s responsibility is to oversee the receipt of print files from various systems, scheduling all of the work to ensure delivery times are met, managing the printing process, coordinating the inserting system and overseeing the mail delivery procedures. This means if a customer complains to the customer service department because they have not received their bill, it is Don’s job to figure out what happened to it

An easy task, right? In this case maybe not, especially without automation…

Many times this situation involves the reprint process; a process whereby the printer or inserter damages a document intended to be sent to a customer. When this happens, the document (a statement, policy, bill, etc.) has to go through a reprint process. For many organizations this process is still a manual task handled by production floor staff. The alternative approach involves an Automated Document Factory that tracks documents at the piece level and handles the reprint process automatically with full tracking and reporting. More on that later.

Back to Don and his print and mail operation. For Don, his company is responsible for delivering monthly bills to customers. If those bills aren’t delivered it means that the revenue stream of the company is impacted and customer satisfaction issues are created, which in turn increases call center volumes. The goal for Don and his team on the print production floor is to make sure that all customer communications get printed and mailed on time. This is important so his team and company can meet their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and so customers get their documents on time.

Don does have a challenge though, and it is their manual reprint process that causes him the most pain. When a Customer Service Representative (CSR) calls him, he can’t easily tell if a bill was printed or mailed. Moreover he can’t tell if the bill was delivered. His process goes something like this…

After getting the customer details from the CSR, Don has to check the print logs which are kept in file folders where they are created and stored after the print production run. In this case, Don discovers that the customer’s document was part of a batch that did complete the print process. It should have gone to the inserter and mailing fulfillment, but he knows the customer didn’t receive it.

A quick call to Jim, his inserter operator for that batch, reveals that there were jams and a reprint for certain documents was requested. Since Jim has to account for everything on paper and clipboard, this meant another deep dive into the printed logs, hand-written reports and spreadsheets. Once Don finds the reprint report he is then able to call the CSR back and tell them that the customer’s bill did go out a day late and should arrive in today’s mail.

For Don this process can be frustrating; an operations manager has a lot more to do than just chase around reprints. But what would help?

In doing his research over the years, and Don has been in this business for more than two decades, he knows that the cost of an automated system with tracking from the origin of the data to the doorstep and back again is possible—something industry analysts Gartner dubbed an Automated Document Factory or ADF. What is also clear is that the times are changing and there are organizations that are offering scalable solutions that don’t require millions in capital expenditure and a long implementation cycle.

More importantly with an ADF he could automated the reprint process. The automation would allow him to track each customer’s individual printed communication from the origin of the data, through the printing process to the inserters and out to the mailing system. Then upon delivery he could receive confirmation back to the ADF system through USPS IMb reporting.

Don recently read about a flexible, scalable and affordable solution called PRO Production Manager from Crawford Technologies. With over 16 years of experience they are known in the industry for their modular approach, ability to integrate with equipment already in place backed up by their expert professional service and support team. It might just be time for him to visit their website and contact them for more information.

Does this story sound familiar? If it does, you aren’t alone. Many companies are still handling their print and mail workflow using a manual process or a hybrid solution. We invite you to find out how you can gain efficiency, reduce compliance risks, increase production capabilities and drive ROI with PRO Production Manager from Crawford Technologies.

[Image courtesy of mpclemens]