The current economic situation has forced document production organizations, both in-house and for-profit service providers, to reevaluate the costs of their production workflow. For reference, production workflow includes the design, composition, printing, finishing and mailing (postal) of all of an organization's enterprise customer communication documents.

Many organizations are now realizing that the investments in production workflow systems that they have put off would now really pay off. Specifically, production workflow systems provide the control, piece-level integrity, compliance and management data that organizations require to run their operations more efficiently and reduce their production costs.

In the past, production workflow systems have been expensive and daunting to implement. But the industry vendors have responded to market conditions with vast array of new products that allow users to get into the world of automated production workflow without making an immediate leap from their current state to that of what we have previously referred to as the gold standard, the automated document factory (ADF).

It is now possible to migrate toward an automated production workflow utilizing a phased approach with off-the-shelf solutions that are both modular and cost-effective. BÖWE BELL + HOWELL, GMC, InfoPrint Solutions Company, ISIS Papyrus, Océ North America, Pitney Bowes, Sefas Innovation and Solimar, among others, offer viable, modular solutions that can support a phased in process of migration to an automated production workflow.

Further, the emergence of highly sophisticated data analytics, personalized and integrated campaign management solutions, improved collaborative design and composition solutions, new color printing technology and engines have all come together at this critical time to create an environment that will support the convergence of transactional and direct mail documents into personalized TransPromo documents. Concurrently, production workflow systems have expanded their control capabilities. Several modular solutions now have the ability to control, monitor and report on the production process from data receipt through collaborative document design, composition on through the traditional production processes (print, finish, mail).

The ability to control, monitor and report on the entire production workflow while combining traditional transactional documents with marketing direct mailpieces or print-on-demand pieces provides the sophisticated mailer with the tools necessary to go after the savings demanded in today's severe economic times while providing added value to the enterprise's bottom line. Combine that with a phased-in automation solution offering savings at each step in the program, and the current production workflow solutions look like a solution for the tough economic times.

Steve Watters [] works with Madison Advisors and specializes in production workflow, best practice analysis and TransPromo workflow solutions. Visit for more information.