Workflow Solution Brings Volume Surge in Michigan
From design and printing, to finishing touches and mailing, Michigan Farm Bureau Centralized Print and Mail Services meets all the communication needs of the state’s largest general farm organization, whose mission is to represent, protect and enhance the business, economic, social and educational interests of its farmer members. The in-plant’s services include graphic design, digital and offset printing, wide-format printing, bindery and mail.
In 2014, Print and Mail Services produced 1.3 million pieces of mail, 4.2 million black-and-white impressions (both digital and offset) and just over 2 million digital color impressions. The in-plant produces all of this with seven full-time employees and one temp, with access to a pool of five designers.
To appreciate all that has been achieved to date, one must look back to the early 2000s, when the shop had an MIS system that was incapable of meeting the demands of the department’s growth.
“We needed a workflow solution that would give us the ability to track jobs better,” explains Business Manager Karen Meyers. “Our service offering and volume were growing, and we didn’t have a strong enough system in place to support the workload or provide proper reporting.”
The group wanted to get to a point where it could offer a Web-to-print storefront for customers. Part of its service offering included a significant amount of work for county offices, supporting many events.
“We literally had one person over a four-week period just developing postcards,” declares Meyers. “We needed to automate the workflow and simplify the ordering process for our customers.”
It took nearly a year from the initial investigation to the ultimate decision to purchase Avanti’s Graphic Arts Management System. “We needed a modular solution that would grow with us,” says Meyers. “One of the key features was Avanti’s integration with the Great Plains accounting package. We were able to integrate it from day one.”
Once Avanti was implemented, the in-plant was finally able to change its workflow processes. This enabled it to, among other things, print business cards in-house instead of outsourcing.
“There used to be so much work involved, between setup, print, etc.,” says Meyers. “With Avanti, we could offer products for the insurance agents to order. This has significantly increased revenue opportunities.”
In 2009 the in-plant achieved one of its goals and implemented Avanti’s eAccess, Web-to-print storefront, which has significantly increased the shop’s ability to assist other departments, as well as add outside clients via this online portal. Today, more than 450 agents and 67 county offices can order directly through eAccess. This is in addition to the more than 800 people in the Michigan Farm Bureau building.
Ten years later, Centralized Print and Mail Services is still growing. In January of 2015, the Farm News Media Team, which offers video, print and advertising services, partnered with Meyers’ operation.
“I can’t see how this partnership would have been possible without Avanti,” says Meyers. “Combined, we can offer more services and more solutions to so many more people. This is in direct alignment with our goals to increase our workload through external customers.”
“Simply put, Avanti is my life,” praises Meyers. “I have it open all day, every day. I can’t even imagine my life without it. It’s the backbone of our department. It has become our lifeline.”
The in-plant has added new services because of the ability to take in more work through Avanti and the Web storefront. In the last year, the group experienced a double-digit percent volume increase. Part of this is attributed to the ease of access to information and the ability to generate regular, detailed reports including daily production reports, monthly production team reports and activity reports for the Michigan Farm Bureau’s board of directors.
Meyers and her team continuously look for ways to improve the workflow. Little changes, such as a new cart to put jobs on, or how jobs are labeled, have resulted in significant impacts.
“We have streamlined the overall job processing based on how Avanti tracks jobs,” explains Meyers. “Because the system is very user-friendly, it has empowered the production staff to do more in the system. This, in turn, takes the burden off of front-office staff in areas such as material entry and inventory management.”
In 2010, Michigan Farm Bureau Print and Mail Services joined Avanti’s Strategic Partner Group alongside other Avanti customers and industry leaders. This has enabled the in-plant to provide valuable input into the development of Avanti Slingshot, Avanti’s next-generation, browser-based Print MIS.
What’s up next for Meyers and her team? “Mailing is growing and it’s becoming an issue,” she says. “There’s still a lot of manual work involved with processing and tracking mailings. Plus, we know that the future is in the cloud. We’re seriously contemplating our upgrade and migration options to Avanti Slingshot. It’s simply a matter of time.”
At the end of 2015, the in-plant was able to beef up its bindery capabilities by adding a new Duplo booklet maker, a Morgana creaser and a Pitney Bowes inserter. This has helped the shop keep pace with an ever-increasing workload.
“Our volumes continue to grow,” says Meyers, “and in February all of our numbers were off the charts."
Related story: Building a Smarter In-plant