Automation Improves Job Flow at Pflugerville School District
There was a time at Pflugerville Independent School District (ISD) when teachers submitted hard copy jobs to the copy center through campus mail. It would often take a week for them to receive their printed materials. Meanwhile, in the in-plant, billing would take two full days each month to process.
“We knew the stone tablet method would no longer work, so we looked into automation products,” explains Tricia Gilbert, director of Auxiliary Services.
That search led the in-plant to WebCRD from Rochester Software Associates, and nothing has been the same since.
“With WebCRD we now turn jobs around in two days, and the billing takes me one hour per month versus two days,” Gilbert says.
This was a great change for the 25,400-student district, located just outside Austin, Texas, and helped inspire teachers to send their materials to the in-plant instead of spending their time in front of the department copiers.
“Our role in the organization is to get teachers their materials so they don’t have to take time doing things themselves,” explains Lauren Tarbet, Copy Center supervisor. “Many of the schools have machines like ours, but we know it’s better and easier to just rely on the copy center. Teachers can focus on other parts of their job and leave the copying and printing to us.”
To produce work for the district’s six high schools, six middle schools and 21 elementary schools, the nine-employee
in-plant relies on its 10 production printers — eight Ricoh Pro 8220 black-and-white machines and two Ricoh Pro C7100 color devices. They produce classroom materials, booklets, business cards, football programs and more.
Even More Automation
WebCRD offered Pflugerville ISD a good initial path to automating workflows, but it didn’t stop there. After attending an RSA webinar, Pflugerville learned how Blue Valley School District was using the product’s automation capabilities by adding AutoFlow rules to send jobs directly to its printers. Pflugerville’s in-plant realized it could do the same and increase utilization of its multiple printers, so it added the AutoFlow module.
“For many jobs, the operators never see them or touch them until they’re coming off the machine,” says Gilbert.
Then in 2016 Pflugerville added QDirect, RSA’s output management software. This allowed the in-plant to add printer management and the ability to auto-route jobs to available printers with the specific stocks and finishing options needed for a job. The district was then able to take advantage of some of QDirect’s unique additional features such as job filtering, releasing jobs in batches to target printers and prioritizing production by due date; jobs due on the same day have a higher priority than jobs with due dates further in the future. This prioritization allows the copy center to better manage production and improve their ability to meet due dates.
“QDirect and WebCRD have been a godsend,” says Tarbet. “We have two shifts, so these machines should be able to do 2.5 million impressions a month. We weren’t pushing as well as we could because without automation, we were spending too much time between jobs. Now we can just turn a printer on and a steady stream of jobs will just keep coming. It was an adjustment at first. People weren’t used to how much work we could handle. Now when we’re slow it’s really surprising.”
Customers and Staff Both Benefit
The copy center and its customers both benefit from greater efficiency and specific features of WebCRD and QDirect.
“I like the ability to move orders through pre-production, production, post-production,” explains Tarbet. “I love the makeready option when there are additional things that need to be done to the order and it can stay in preproduction without getting in the way of the orders that are print ready.”
Customers love being able to see exactly what products will look like with the preview feature. Many systems don’t show you what the job will look like on pink with hole punch, for example. And of course, customers appreciate the quick turnaround time and the email notices when their jobs are being shipped. They don’t have to leave their desks to submit a job request or stand in long lines waiting for a copier.
Finally, campus and department administrators now have a way to verify jobs and account codes before they are sent to the copy center. And they receive detailed reports each month including chargeback information.
The Proof of Improvement
Before the in-plant had access to WebCRD’s production dashboard reports, it could see that more orders were being done and turnaround had accelerated after automating operations, but it couldn’t measure the improvement. Now it can.
“The production dashboards are great,” says Tarbet. “I was able to plug in an entire school years’ worth of numbers and unlock a significant amount of information about our productivity.”
Automation has improved service so much at Pflugerville’s in-plant that Gilbert doesn’t think teachers could live without it any more.
“If they took away the copy center right now, you’d have a mutiny of teachers, because they’ve gotten very used to sitting at their desk and submitting everything without having to stand in line and fix paper jams at copiers,” she says.
Related story: Web-to-print: Doing It Wrong Can Hurt Your In-plant