Document Production Too Complicated? Automate!
Here’s how many in-house or outsource service providers pull off repetitive high-volume document production:
- Customers deliver data to document operations. The information might arrive as email attachments or sent as FTP transmissions. Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with magnetic tapes and punched cards anymore!
- Employees perform necessary data manipulation or reformatting tasks, including postal processing. It may take several data manipulation processes before files are ready to generate documents.
- Employees choose the correct document composition routines or templates, match them to corresponding data files, and execute the jobs. Watch out! Choose the wrong data files here and you’ll end up rerunning the job and eating the cost.
- Employees route jobs to printing devices based on job requirements such as color, duplex, and paper tray calls. Print operators perform quality control procedures by visually spot-checking the printed output before sending it along for further processing. They can’t catch everything.
- Employees transport printed materials, envelopes, and inserts to offline finishing devices. Sometimes this step requires an elevator ride.
- Mailed documents are folded and inserted into envelopes. High page count documents may be handled separately as flats or parcels-often a manual operation. Quality control really declines at this step if relying on manual balancing. QC by clipboard doesn’t cut it anymore.
- Damaged documents are reprinted and mailed separately, usually as part of a manual reprint process-and frequently entirely untracked!
- Job jackets that include samples, operator instructions, and balance totals accompany the work as it proceeds through the facility. Receipt of a job jacket notifies employees they have work to perform. If the job jacket gets misplaced, entire jobs can grind to a halt (or go un-billed)!
Modern document production operations take advantage of automation, but connecting all phases of document production is a challenge for many in-house and outsource document service providers. Some steps are only partially automated.
Document production is frequently a collection of point solutions supplied by multiple vendors. The modules may or may not communicate with each other and success still relies heavily on human monitoring and intervention-which means multiple opportunities to make mistakes. The competitive marketplace demands something more.
To achieve objectives like lower cost, speedier processing, greater functionality, and near-perfect document integrity, document operations managers need tools that bring the entire workflow under centralized control. Work must pass from one stage to the next with minimal manual intervention. Automated systems should notice when something is wrong and halt production or notify key employees so they may take corrective action.
Remember when grocery clerks had to call a manager to authorize a payment by check? Customers in line had to wait while nothing was happening, and many times busy managers initialed the check without even looking up to compare the furnished ID to your face. You could be an entirely different person and still pass this inspection! Manual quality control in document production centers suffers the same fate. Jobs don’t progress to the next step while awaiting sign-offs and after a while, the process becomes a non-thinking task that does nothing to ensure quality or accuracy. You need a better system!
The document production and distribution landscape has never been more complicated than it is today. Besides being responsible for the mechanics of printing and mailing paper documents, document centers must also manage electronic messaging, channel preference management, and strict regulatory controls. Traditional document production workflow methods can’t address these requirements.
Typical Functions of Document Process Automation Solutions
Monitoring production status and tracking items through the workflow are a necessary aspect of document production that can’t be ignored. Clients expect this kind of control from their document service providers. Targeted and personalized documents created on digital print devices are frequently part of a multi-channel campaign which means a system must account for every item. Tight delivery deadlines require an automated method of notifying operations managers immediately when circumstances put jobs in jeopardy of missing service level agreements.
Print service providers must often change the look and layout of composed documents to achieve the personalization, segmentation, batching, and combining necessary to create and distribute highly personalized communications. Document re-engineering is particularly useful in high-speed roll-fed print environments where service providers must standardize and combine documents to achieve productivity targets. Source data should be sent through the re-engineering software without human involvement to connect all data sources and generate the revised documents.
What used to be a post-production process has moved to a near real-time requirement. Online access expectations force document producers to include the archiving step in an automated document production workflow.
Effective Document Management
The value of efficient operations can’t be over-emphasized. Document operations managers must be able to see what jobs are in printing or finishing steps, which ones are waiting, and which devices are idle during the production period. Advanced workflow automation provides production status information and allows managers to re-route print, split among multiple printers or finishing lines, or initiate reprints on demand. Over time, production statistics generated by an automated document factory aid in identifying employee training issues, productivity bonus administration, equipment upgrade decisions, and more.
Racami’s Alchem-e Flow™ and Alchem-e Dashboard™ allow document operations to design complete automated workflows and then execute them. Racami products include all the monitoring and reporting necessary to support today’s demanding document production environments. Document operations managers need to retire their manual production workflow methods to handle increasingly complex jobs with high accuracy while meeting client requirements for functionality and speed.