It's in the Technology

ADF technology has come a long way in the past few years, and production mailers are able to not only enhance, personalize and track jobs and items, but also monitor, manage and measure the efficiency and cost of doing business. Advanced and connected technologies can gather relevant data on machines, applications, operators, processes, created items and the costs of materials and postage and even go as far as modeling the missed opportunities that are caused by using a particular system or workflow.

A key point that companies need to consider when they are evaluating technology is whether they are acquiring and implementing point technologies or connected technologies. The difference being that point technologies will address a particular issue or provide a certain metric, but without connectivity into upstream and downstream processes and other technologies, the metric will only be a point in time and not provide a historical audit trail of a complete production cycle. However, a connected solution that collects and streams meta and operational data across applications, production equipment and postal delivery into a centralized and normalized repository with dynamic reporting and the openness to integrate with other CRM and reporting systems is what will help a company analyze and manage those parts of their business that can help them grow and increase profitability.

There are many ways to demonstrate ROI using technology, including gained operational efficiency caused by identifying and reducing underperforming activities and processes, better response rates and lowered costs from enhancing and optimizing documents and postal discounts, automating what used to be done manually and getting more out of existing personnel and equipment, reducing waste from early detection and control of quality and integrity issues and many others. ROIs and process metrics are not something a team of employees should be asked to provide without equipping them with the right tools — connected technologies that can provide the information and intelligence necessary for driving positive and measurable business changes.

Mike Maselli is the executive director of business development for BÖWE BELL + HOWELL.

Optimize before Automation

Prior to starting a new document management initiative, organizations must define the level of direct or indirect value provided to the customer for the initiative to qualify as a success. In addition, the organization must establish a baseline for the current operations against which to measure progress.

Process improvement programs, such as LEAN and Six Sigma, help guide an organization through the implementation process and help organizations determine appropriate metrics. Metrics refer to objective and quantitative process attributes that the organization can measure and control. Case studies and industry standards also provide benchmarks for determining success.

Process improvement programs, specifically LEAN, identify areas of waste within a process, such as over-production, waiting time and movement, which organizations can address without implementing new technology. A metric guides an organization to make changes for process improvement. By using root cause analysis to determine why a metric was not achieved, an organization gains insight into the process.

Successful initiatives rarely result in defect-free environments. The objective is to minimize defects through the application of statistical process improvement. By recording quality levels throughout the implementation process, an organization determines the success of the new initiative. Technology provides tools for process automation, but oftentimes processes need to be optimized prior to automation.

Richard Huff is a principal analyst with Madison Advisors. Mr. Huff assists clients with enterprise document strategies, product selection and market development initiatives.


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