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File based processing could be easier than you think

by Candice Russell | August 4, 2012 | No Comments

I recently attended a training class in which I was filmed in a variety of circumstances and then given personalized feedback on changes I could make to improve my executive presence. In the beginning the experience was completely demoralizing—I mean, who really wants to have their individual faults pointed out in a group setting? After getting over the initial embarrassment (horror) of being in this situation, what struck me is we each had relatively minor changes to make that could have a significant impact on both our business and social interactions.

What struck me more, however, is that when my faults were pointed out my peers in the room immediately nodded and confirmed “yes, Candice, that is exactly what you need to work on.” Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before? Maybe it is easier to point out flaws to a complete stranger than to a friend, especially if you are being paid to do it.

Does this describe your print and mail operations?

Since writing a blog is somewhat removed from the individual reader, I thought I could take the role of the external facilitator and point out a flaw that I often see in production print and mail facilities. That flaw is there is no file based processing. I’ve heard all of the excuses, from “This is how we have always done things” to “With today’s economy we are not in a position to make a change like that” and “Our documents do not require that type of security.” Normally I would nod and smile, adding non-committal comments like “I understand.” But since this is a blog I will say what I am really thinking, which is “Are you kidding me?”

File based processing is much simpler than it sounds, and maybe that is the crux of the problem. Maybe people assume it is a difficult process to implement, when actually it really is very simple.

How simple? You be the judge… 

  1. First, you make a list of pages you will produce.
  2. Second, you create a unique barcode for each page on your list and place it on the correct page prior to printing.
  3. And third, as you see each barcode/page during mail finishing, you check it off your list.

Now I admit that there is technology that goes behind this process … it does not automagically happen. You need software with the ability to intercept your print streams and make your list. This is often the same software that can generate the unique barcodes and place them on your documents prior to printing. And finally, you need an inserter with the right scanning technology and built-in tracking to report on each piece that it sees.

Quick wins in a file based processing environment

Beyond the initial pain of setting up file based processing—“This will only hurt for a moment”—the potential wins for your operations are enormous. Simple workflow issues such as being able to answer the question “Did we process everything we were expecting to process?” are an immediate win. You can eliminate the time currently spent manually reconciling jobs and making sure that everything happened as expected. You can add the ability to automatically remove any spoiled mailpieces from your mail finishing run, and if required, initiate an automated reprint process.

In addition to the initial quick wins, file based processing can open the door to capabilities that will help you add value to individual mailpieces. One example would be to add full color inline envelope printing for personalized information to the outside of each envelope. Another would be to add personalized QR codes to each document before printing. There are a lot of interesting options and the list keeps growing—for example, two years ago I had not even heard of a QR code. In the end you need a file based strategy in place to take advantage of many, if not most, of the new capabilities.

So what was my flaw that I learned about? I need to speak louder, simple as that. If your operation’s flaw is a lack of file based processing then I invite you to investigate what would be required to add this basic capability to your operation. Please let me know how it goes.

If you want to learn more, check out Joe Eremita’s quick video on barcodes and how they can add value to your print and mail operation.


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