Online Approach Pays Off for Western & Southern
At Western & Southern Financial Group, Print & Mail Production strives to be indispensable to its business partners.
“We treat our customers as though we are competing for their business, by producing a quality product that is competitively priced within the time frame required by the customer,” stresses John Bartik, manager of Print & Mail Production. “You must always be aware of the potential consequences of losing just one order.”
And losing that order is something Bartik does not want to let happen. To that end, the Cincinnati-based in-plant introduced Web-based ordering to Western & Southern Life’s 160+ field offices last year, and has been actively marketing it to other subsidiary companies. Customers, he says, love online ordering because it is simple for them to do, and it puts everything they want to order into one place.
“Anything that they need to print for marketing or promotional or client lists is now loaded in one -storefront,” he notes. “If they wanted a promotional item before, they had to print off a hard copy [order form], fill it out, write a check and mail it. Now it is all done online, shipped within two days, and paid for immediately by credit card.”
By streamlining the ordering and printing process, he says, Web-to-print has made it easier for customers to do business with the in-plant, while increasing the value that Print & Mail Production provides to the company.
A Financial Giant
Founded in 1888 as The Western and Southern Life Insurance Co., Western & Southern Financial Group has grown into a diverse family of financial services companies. As of June 2015, the Fortune 500 company boasted assets owned ($43 billion) and managed ($26 billion) of $69 billion. Through its member companies, it provides millions of individuals and institutions with life and health insurance, annuities, mutual funds and real estate and investment management services.
Print & Mail Production operates with 23 associates working one shift per day in a 23,000-square-foot facility. It has an expense and chargeback budget of $8.7 million annually.
“We provide a variety of print to our marketing partners, utilizing a combination of offset and digital equipment to produce this work in the most cost efficient manner,” says Bartik.
When the in-plant debuted its online storefront last year, it made personalized corporate marketing materials available to Western & Southern Life agents.
“We have since opened a second [Lafayette Life storefront] and are scheduled to add two more storefronts later this year,” Bartik explains. “Our partnership with Xerox, XMPie, Rochester Software Associates and Sterling Payment Technologies has allowed us to begin the transition to a computer-integrated manufacturing facility. In addition, our storefront allows us to take credit cards for payment of print, promotional items and other specialty items.
“Our greatest success to date has been a variety of [USPS] Every Door Direct mailers that contain agent contact information as well as their photographs at an extremely competitive price point,” he adds.
Bartik recalls meeting with Rochester Software Associates at trade shows even before talking to Xerox about coming up with a Web-based ordering solution. He liked the functionality of RSA’s WebCRD product and found it to be very simple to use.
“It is user friendly, and they offered numerous storefront options,” Bartik observes. “The reporting that you can generate is incredible. And the estimating module, even though we are not using it currently—but we will eventually—was a highlight to me.”
Personalized Marketing Material
The XMPie software powers variable data printing capabilities, giving the shop a simple way of producing personalized documents with photos for agents’ marketing materials.
“Previously, personalization really wasn’t available to the degree it is today,” Bartik notes. “The quantities were too low, and it took a lot to process the orders one at a time. This solution really opened the door to new work for us.”
Bartik kicked off online ordering at two district offices, and then slowly expanded before rolling it out to the entire field. He sent out email blasts and visited offices to promote the rollout and to give instructions. He also used his visits as a way to troubleshoot the system to make sure there were no problems.
Print & Mail Production is part of Western & Southern’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications department where it acts as an integral part of the marketing team, which services multiple business units. It provides expertise in brand management and creative to support initiatives throughout the growing company.
The in-plant also prints materials for the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, as well as programs surrounding its spokesperson, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth.
Bartik contends that Print & Mail Production’s associates are extremely important to the shop’s success.
“Their willingness to tackle challenges with the can-do approach maintains a positive, problem-solving environment needed to sustain the pressures of servicing every customer,” Bartik maintains. “We avoid and reject any mention of what can’t be done. They are dedicated to quality and service with a willingness to work overtime whenever the situation dictates.”
The shop’s current color digital work is produced on a Xerox iGen4 with a C.P. Bourg booklet maker. The in-plant will soon add a Xerox Versant 2100 with a Plockmatic booklet maker to the digital printing mix.
Newly purchased finishing equipment has also complimented the digital operation, including an MBM Aerocut G2 and Morgana DigiFold Pro.
“They are now an indispensable asset, and we have experienced a rather swift ROI on both pieces of equipment,” Bartik says. “The Aerocut is used for business cards, and has been a good addition. That has had the best payout of anything we added over the past few years.”
The in-plant also uses offset presses to handle larger sheet sizes and longer run jobs, including Western & Southern’s annual report, which requires 12-14,000 copies. The shop recently finished an offset job of 230,000 post cards and a large-scale direct mail campaign. The pressroom is home to a pair of Heidelberg Speedmaster 74s and a Printmaster 46.
“We will estimate what is the cheaper way to go, offset or digital,” Bartik says. “Often it will be very close because run lengths are getting lower.”
Additional in-house capabilities include die cutting, large-format printing, mounting, film lamination, CD replication and personalized printing. The in-plant’s mailing division consists of dual Pitney Bowes 12-pocket inserters. The company inserts and mails nearly nine million pieces of mail per year.
Running it Like a Business
With a commercial printing background, Bartik manages Print & Mail Production as though it was a stand-alone business. By charging back business units, he says, the in-plant can provide a true end-of-month report that compares sales figures against its expense budget. This allows the shop to track its break-even cost-recovery plan with great accuracy.
“Benchmarking is an absolute must for an in-plant operation,” Bartik contends. “Without it, you become disconnected from the competitive commercial print world. Our local affiliate, PIA of Ohio/Northern Kentucky, has made great efforts at providing support for in-plant members with its wage and benefit survey and ratio studies.” The association recently formed an in-plant peer group to let managers compare operations and exchange strategies.
Looking to the future, Bartik is eyeing a possible relocation of the operation, adding additional storefronts and color digital equipment, significantly expanding wide-format printing and increasing the number of items available for print-on-demand.