Automated Document Checking and Conversion in High-Volume Production Printing
Excerpt: Allied Printing’s digital print needed to accept pre-formatted documents in addition to those that come into the shop as raw data. The company decided to eliminate format restrictions and add new revenue streams to its services portfolio, by investing in DocBridge® Mill Plus from Compart.
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It’s a cliché to suggest that the only constant in business is change. Yet the truth of that statement is so pervasive that it can’t be denied. The sands are always shifting beneath one’s feet, conditions are always changing and the need to stay nimble and move swiftly ahead of the pace of change is the driver behind many important business decisions.
Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the print business. Printing as a service has been in constant flux for over fifty years now: new technologies complement and replace older technology, offset is joined by digital, color is added, quality is enhanced, finishing options are added, capabilities expand, prices decrease, volumes fluctuate, workflows gain complexity, and so on… The need to grow, to add new capabilities, to enter into new business verticals and offer new services is a driver of much innovation, investment and competency.
A case in point is Allied Printing Services, a family-owned business established in 1949 that has been growing in size and stature for generations, from its beginning in a 150-square foot building to its current 30-acre campus, serving the needs of clients in the financial, education, healthcare, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, automotive, biotechnology, travel & leisure and retail sectors.
Allied Printing could have continued with the same print work that feeds its impressive array of machinery – but the company is never satisfied and always eager to take on the next technology. For example, it has made an enormous investment in green energy: an eagle-eye view of the campus reveals a farm of solar panels on the roof of the building.
Installed in June 2015, this is one of the largest rooftop arrays in Connecticut: 4,540 solar panels. The 1.4 megawatt system provides about 14% of their total electricity use, replacing traditional electric power from the utility grid with clean onsite renewable energy generated by the sun.
The environmental benefits of this system are equivalent to powering 145 typical homes per year; planting over 27,000 acres of trees and taking 222 cars off the road annually.
Quality Assurance and Document Conversion
Wind power accounts for about 58% of the energy required by Allied Printing; the company uses 9 million clean kilowatts every year, eliminating 1,116,000 pounds of CO2.
The state of Connecticut recognized the contribution of Allied Printing when the company was named by the Connecticut Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection as a role model for clean energy, economics & environmental sustainability. Clearly this is a company that embraces the new and has made a commitment to finding new ways to do business better.
Smart Business Requires Change
But it is not only in its environmental practice that the company excels. Allied Printing has been adding an impressive line-up of transactional print clients in the financial and healthcare industries to its portfolio.
Effective data management and document services are complicated in any industry—with speed-to-market and customer service pressures at every turn. But the needs of industries such as consumer banking, retirement, healthcare, insurance, utilities and communications come with a special set of challenges. Allied Printing calls these challenges “opportunities.”
This meant adding new capabilities and competencies to enhance operational efficiency and productivity to meet the needs of these new customers — and the company proved to be up to the task. Digital printers, mail finishing systems and new software packages were added to the already impressive inventory of state-of-the-industry, best-of-breed capabilities.
For example, Allied Printing’s digital print needed to accept pre-formatted documents in addition to those that come into the shop as raw data. [pdf-embedder url=”https://www.pdfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Customer-Story-Allied-Printing_EN.pdf” title=”Customer-Story-Allied Printing_EN”] The company decided to eliminate format restrictions and add new revenue streams to its services portfolio, by investing in DocBridge Mill Plus from Compart.
Some new clients were demanding crisp color output, variable data personalization and multi-channel delivery — and they demand these capabilities using highly competitive Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and tight deadlines.
Allied Printing knew it had to adapt to these changes. The company looked at success factors and knew that they had to:
- Enable the use of their new high-speed variable data printers to increase transactional document work
- Increase productivity by dramatically reducing bottlenecks created when variable length document jobs await specialty software that affixes barcodes
- Enable load balancing and production floor efficiency by logically breaking large jobs to be rendered across multiple printers to meet/exceed production SLAs
- Ensure that the correct barcodes on documents were in place in the correct location
- Ensure that columns make good visual sense
- Ensure that address block information is correct, including zip codes, states, etc.
- Minimize the need for reprints
- Eliminate the possibility of mailing flawed documents that require reprinting and re-mailing
Efficiency demanded that they find one software solution for all of these capabilities, and their team decided on DocBridge® Mill Plus. Compart has 26 years of experience with transforming data streams and documents. But what might have been the best part was that the two companies share many of the same values: small environmental footprint, work/life balance and getting the job done well.
Allied also knew it had to offer its new transactional clients’ a quality assurance tool for document output. The company has long made a commitment to continuous improvement and offers proof-reading services at no charge to their clients. But the complexity of some of the variable data digital print jobs they were now taking in meant that QA needed to be automated and fast to keep up with the constant demand.
Allied found the solution in DocBridge® Delta, which allows them to automate quality assurance in order to reduce analysis time and thoroughly compare files down to the pixel level including embedded workflows, variables, regression tests, and to confirm visual and content level perfection before the job was printed.
DocBridge® Delta is designed to have a high degree of usability, supporting the requirements of both the development team and the business users who rely on it. It provides highly accurate and thorough results very quickly. In fact, DocBridge® Delta has been credited by users for cutting cycle time from weeks to mere minutes.
New Rules: New Capabilities
The search for an automated QA solution led to further discussions about the ramifications of various laws and new capabilities that would become necessary if Allied was to expand its offering. For example, having the ability to offer PDF/UA for universal accessibility was an imperative. Archiving with PDF/A was another.
DocBridge® Mill Plus has been integrated into many applications; efficiencies have been quickly realized. Allied Printing has been able to take on work that it never could accept before. Customers can now send in PDF files instead of raw data. The PDF files are then integrated into the Mill Plus processes (IMB, mail cleansing, etc).
For example, having the ability to extract data on postage for tax reporting purposes was important in some locales but not others. The software sorts by Zip Code, extracts the data and creates a file for use by administrators and accounting. The software solution is like a Swiss Army knife, with plenty of options, features and benefits.
In other words, the more things change, the greater the value for Allied Printing. And change is the only constant in business.