Direct Mail Shop - Need better workflow due to growth

openletter

Active member
I run a small direct mail shop of 9 people. We have been growing pretty quickly over the past couple of years and need better automated workflows to offset the demand for more staff. One of the biggest bottlenecks for us is in pre-press. We have 1 person in that position and he is having difficulty keeping up with orders but we are not at the point where we need to hire someone else (I don't think I should ever need to either). I know there are better automated tools out there but I don't come from a print background so I'm looking for some guidance. Here is the process for our pre-press person:

1) All orders come to us via our website
2) A job ticket is manually created from the order form
3) The customers lead list is reviewed to ensure proper format and to break it out in case the customer wants us to send their mailers in multiple batches
4) The letter and envelope or the postcard proof is created from an existing template that we have on file (70%) or it is created from scratch (30%)
5) The proof is emailed to the customer for approval
6) If not approved, we edit the proof and email to the customer
7) If approved, their lead list is put into our postal software (AccuZip) for presorting and address validation
7) The exported lead list is merged into the letter and envelope or the postcard proof via InDesign (for letters & postcards) and Word (envelopes) to prep for printing
8) Letters or Postcards are imposed in InDesign
9) Letters or Postcards are sent to Xerox Versant 180
10) Envelopes are ready to be printed in Production
11) The customer receives a status email notifying them that their order is in Production

I know there are web-to-print software out there but I'm having difficulty buying one because 1) some are very expensive 2) I can't find one that will do everything that I need 3) we would have to redesign our whole store which we don't have the time for and what happens if we find out it can't do something we need 4) a lot of our customers are lazy and don't want to go through the proofing steps themselves.

Any help, advice or consulting would be appreciated.
 

printmore

Member
Consider PageDNA that will customize the workflow to your needs. You just may a monthly fee. Includes credit card merchant account and security. Any needed updates are done by PageDNA. You just manage the pricing to your clients and accept the orders. Go to PageDNA.com . They manage various large websites for web to print.
 

MailGuru

Well-known member
Hi openletter,

I've got a couple of questions:

1) On average, how many orders a day do you process?

2) What is the average quantity of an order?

3) You indicate that you currently do not have a web-to-print package (no biggie, we don't either), yet, your orders come in via website. Is that something you guys built yourself?
If so, what are the chances of modifying it to print your job ticket instead of manually having to create one from the information on your web site?

4) How long does it take to merge your data out to your V180 (I'm assuming you have an EFI Fiery front end)? While Indesign and Microsoft Word will merge data to your mail pieces, they are really not very fast or efficient at it. We use XMPie Server, but, that might be a little overkill for you. There are several commercially available software packages that do this function and some are even reasonably priced. I'm drawing a blank right now on their names (happens when you get older), but, I'm sure others on this forum will chime in.

5) You say Letters & Postcards are sent to the V180, but envelopes are sent to "production". What are you using to print the envelopes in "production"?

Anyway, I'll try to help you figure out faster ways to get things done, but, admittedly, I don't know very much about web to print except for a lot of horror stories I have heard. I know it's the wave of the future, but, I'm an old dinosaur.

-Best

MailGuru
 

openletter

Active member
MailGuru Here are the answers to your questions:

1) 130/month
2) about 3,000 pieces
3) We built it out on Woocommerce. Here's the website if you're interested in taking a look - openlettermarketing.com. I think we could do something with an XML export to Excel.
4) I'm not sure about this. My pre-press guy would know that. He has mentioned that it takes time to impose on his computer.
5) Envelopes are printed on a Pitney Bowes envelope printer

I'd be curious to know how many orders you are doing over a month and how you are managing without a web to print solution. To be honest, I really am nervous about going that route. Thank you for your help.
 

abc

Well-known member

SoggyWinter

Well-known member
My team uses Montax Imposter for addressing mail pieces and a lot of other pre-press work. It imposes addresses a lot faster than InDesign or Microsoft's products and costs around $500.
 

openletter

Active member
SoggyWinter I believe we were using that before, however we changed to use the EFI Fiery Imposition software so the processing is done on the Fiery controller instead of our computers. When the imposition was done on our computers, it was bogging them down a lot.
 

deckm00@yahoo.com

Well-known member
If you're using a Fiery controller on that Versant you might look into EFI's JobFlow product. It uses the power of Enfocus Pitstop and Fiery Hot Folders along with presets and templates to help automate prepress workflows.

Disclosure - I work for Ricoh and we sell EFI products but so does Xerox and everyone else.
 

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