How One In-plant Automates 86% of its Workflow
In a recent presentation, Blue Valley Schools shared the story of how it has been able to fully automate 86% of its orders and save the organization over $1.4 million in the last seven years.
The case for automating workflows is compelling; touches have a high cost. The Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends 2017 study, “U.S. Production Software Investment Outlook” projects that 79% of print shop volume will be automated by 2019. How will you reach this level of automation?
Session videos from the Blue Valley presentation are available now, but I thought it would be helpful to other in-plants if I shared some details and keys to how they’ve been able to achieve these remarkable results.
A growing K-12 school district in Overland Park, Kan., Blue Valley Schools was already a high performing in-plant, but wanted to do more with the staff it had to more closely align with the district’s “beyond expectations” focus. Jason Gillam, director of Business Operations, found that aligning with the district in its strategic planning was the catalyst to receive the support and the resources necessary to put some of the solutions in place. And implementing several of RSA’s solutions has put the in-plant on a path to automate that increases its efficiency every year.
“Web to print was a big part,” Gillam said. “But, it wasn’t just getting the orders in, it’s what we do with them once we got them in; how we get the work done. How do we get it back out to customers in a way that removes touches? How do we give the tools back to our teachers and staff so they can let go of the work and allow our centralized staff to produce the work and get it back as expected and much quicker than we ever have?”
10 Keys to Automating Workflow at Blue Valley Schools
In the presentation, Paul Ackerman, Printing Services coordinator, and Gillam shared these keys to achieving such a high automation rate, while supporting a 358% volume increase in the last eight years without adding staff:
- Strict PDF-only workflow
- Use Web to print to save teachers time and lower cost and ingrain printing services with staff
- Purchase reproduction rights to curriculum supplemental materials, and load items into the Web to print catalog for easy ordering
- Use the custom booklet assembly tool in their Web to print software to allow teachers to create custom class curriculum materials, reducing waste
- Promote preset buttons that allow users to re-order items that print without shop intervention using workflow automation rules
- Standardize on “smart” print controllers on all devices (enables use of standard paper catalogs)
- Seek equipment features that allow them to reach automation goals, such as paper drawer capacity, finishing options, stackers and print engines
- Automate output management, including custom workflow for two-up impositioning
- Implement rules-based workflow automation using Web to print software capabilities (WebCRD AutoFlow) to fully automate workflow (no operator touches until the job is picked up from the output tray)
- Actively pursue all software updates and use new features to increase automation.
Changing curriculum practices were negatively impacting the print center’s volume – and the district’s budget. This lead to a strategic and long-term focus on automating production, reducing time spent by teachers and staff to produce print work, reducing costs and increasing efficiencies. Blue Valley Printing Services has delivered over $1.4 million in savings in these ways:
- Increased efficiency and reduced waste: lowered production costs, centralized printing, print only what’s needed (i.e. use Book Assembly tool- #4 above)
- Changed curriculum procurement, purchasing reproduction rights: saved approximately $200, 000 annually in just two curriculum adoptions
- Savings don’t include 30-45 minutes/day of teacher planning time saved
Gillam stated, “When you find ways to show a win like this to your organization, they start listening to you when you ask for equipment and capital dollars. They want to make more investments when they see a return when you find opportunities like this.”
Continue to Advance Workflow and Use Data to Support Your Efforts
In closing the session, Gillam said, “We’re always looking for how we can increase the percentage of jobs that we AutoFlow. We have to continue to find that automation to give us capacity to add more work… In our district, we’re growing and we’re not going to be able to add more staff to our printing team.”
Continuing, he said, “No matter what workflow you have, I encourage you to ask yourself the questions, ‘what’s next, what else can we do?’ Are you looking at your data? Because, as in-plants, we have to be able to continue to do that to be effective.”
Elisha Kasinskas is Rochester Software Associates’ (RSA) award-winning marketing director. She is responsible for all marketing, public relations, social media and communications, and community building for the firm. Ms. Kasinskas joined RSA in 2010. She is a marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience in sales, product management and marketing in leading product and service business-to-business and business-to-consumer firms, including Pinnacle (Birds Eye) Foods, Level 3, HSBC, and a number of regional high-tech firms. She holds an RIT MBA and a BS, Marketing from Radford University. Kasinskas is a frequent moderator for industry speaking sessions, an in-plant blogger, and has received industry awards including the IPMA Outstanding Contributor award. She was an OutputLinks Women of Distinction class of ’15 inductee. Her marketing work with IPMA has secured multiple awards from the American Marketing Association (AMA).