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THE TRENCHES

10 REASONS YOUR MAIL PRODUCTION NUMBERS CAN SLIP BY MIKE PORTER

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ll kinds of things can affect the productivity in a mail center, including equipment, materials, procedures, and schedules. Managers will notice if productivity drops, but they won’t always be aware of the root causes. Hectic days spent trying to get the work done can prevent you from digging into your document production workflow to uncover what’s really preventing your operation from reaching optimal performance. Here are a few things to consider should your print and mail facility’s numbers begin to decline. 1. Equipment Failures – Let’s start with the obvious. If your machines break down, the work won’t get done. If you experience repeated problems with certain equipment, it’s time to step away from the immediate goal of just getting the machines back in operation. Analyze the operation and find out why the machines are failing. Issues could include excessive duty, insufficient periodic maintenance, or low-quality repairs or replacement parts. 2. Materials – Jams and misfeeds always impact production. Time spent clearing those mishaps is time you’re not running a machine. But it’s not always the equipment’s fault. Take a close look at the material. Make sure your paper, inserts, and envelopes meet the equipment manufacturer’s specifications for paper weight, grain, smoothness, rigidity, etc. 3. Job Change-Over – Idle time between jobs can be a productivity-killer. With high-speed equipment, every extra

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minute spent logging totals, staging material, loading and unloading material, and adjusting the machine affects your daily output totals. These add up over the course of a month. Find ways to improve scheduling, streamline endof-job tasks, or combine jobs to reduce the number of changeovers and the time each one takes to complete. 4. Load Balancing – Running a large job on one machine while others sit idle limits how much you can produce. Consider splitting jobs among multiple machines, but use piece-tracking software to ensure you don’t miss a batch or accidentally process the same batch twice. 5. Excess Pages – Generating more pages than necessary adds time in printing operations, folding, and inserting. It also consumes more material, which affects supply inventory and staging. Look for ways to reduce document page counts without compromising quality. Slight adjustments like fonts, line spacing, or margin modifications can make a difference. 6. Insert Stations – As organizations move to white paper workflows, the need for pre-printed inserts has dwindled. Do you really need those 12-station inserters anymore? Paper must move down the track past all those unused insert feeders, which means extra time on the inserter for every mail piece. Consider shortening the travel distance by removing some of the insert feeders. 7. Operator Duties – I’ve been in shops where printer or inserter operators

retrieved materials from the warehouse, moved pallets around their work area, or transported empty boxes to recycling bins. In my experience, these activities tend to segue into smoke breaks, snacking, chatting with co-workers, or checking phones for social network activity. A machine operator’s time is most valuable when they are running the machine. If possible, limit the non-production duties of these valuable resources. 8. Postage Application – In many cases, the postage meter is the slowest component of a mail inserting process. The speed at which envelopes pass under the print heads is limited. Changing to permit imprint for postage payment may allow you to run your inserting machines faster. 9. Stock Shortages – Running out of material means pulling a job off a machine until the supply is replenished. White paper workflows have reduced this problem, but insufficient supplies of pre-printed inserts can still cause issues. Get customers to agree in advance about what to do if you run out of inserts for their job. Verify the quantity of inserts on hand before you schedule the job so more inserts can be ordered if necessary. 10. Cutoff Times – Some shops cease production in the afternoon and concentrate on preparing mail for the US Postal Service or a presort vendor. Use automation to shorten the time required for day-end activities so you can run later in the day and include more mail pieces in daily shipments. Every print/mail operation is different. A remedy for improving productivity in one instance won’t have an effect in another. It’s important, though, to take a highlevel view of your production operation periodically. Job mix changes over time. So does hardware and software. Search for activities in your shop that prevent equipment from running at full speed and then adjust.  Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at mporter@printmailconsultants.com.

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