Best Practices: Software Ends Hand Sorting of Bills
It wasn’t too long ago that temporary employees would sit at round tables in the Oregon State Capitol, sorting and organizing stacks of pre-session legislative bills to be sent to various lobbyists and agencies.
This cumbersome process improved in 2009 when the state’s Publishing and Distribution department, which had been printing the bills, also took over the organizing and hand marrying of the bills, then delivered them to the capitol. Though this took a number of responsibilities out of the hands of the Legislative Publication and Bill Distribution office, there was still room for improvement.
In 2012, Russell Northrup, a print services technician with the State of Oregon’s Publishing and Distribution department, discovered that by using software, the bills could be subset and produced in order, ready to be delivered. Now, instead of spending the hours and additional manpower it took to put the bills in the correct order (and add the required two staples on the left side), they were coming off the Salem, OR, in-plant’s Ricoh Pro 1107EX printers in order and stitched inline.
“You’re printing all of them in sets, so you have no hand work to do,” Northrup explains. “When you’re done printing them, they’re ready to deliver. Before, we were printing each set separately to be hand married, and you couldn’t really hand marry them until they were all printed.”
Before this automated system was put in place, the entire sorting process could take more than 400 hours. Kevin Beck, manager of digital print, says it now takes 16 ½ hours to get the job done.
In addition to saving substantial time, Beck says with Northrup’s creative solution, the process became a one-person job. And best of all, once the files and machines are programmed properly, almost anyone can run the job.
“When Russ sets those files up and leaves them there, I can run the machines then,” Beck says. “If you know how to put paper in a machine and take paper out of a machine, you can run the job. He does the hard part.”
The workflow has also become more streamlined, Northrup says. Previously, bills were being printed as they came in. Now, he says he can wait until all of the bills have been received before he starts running them.
“This becomes a one-person show,” Northrup explains. “I basically wait for the bills, put them together, program it, and start running them on pretty small machines.”
Though the in-plant has used a variety of software to do the subsetting, Northrup says it now uses SmartBoard, an Adobe Acrobat plugin. While the software has reduced the amount of work for the customer and the in-plant, that is not where the benefits end. For one, Beck says the customer can make a change to a document until 4 p.m., and still have it delivered the next day. There is also a significant reduction in the potential for human error by reducing the hand work, Beck says.
“Before, you’d have bills missing,” he says. “When people were hand gathering them, they’d miss one. Now the sets are always complete and they’re always accurate. It just seems like [the customer] gets a faster and better product.”
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