There's a wealth of opportunity within vertical markets for Web to print solutions and one market that offers resellers of production printers, MFPs, and workflow software more than a few nuggets of opportunity is education.
It wasn't that long ago—2013 to be specific—when the Tacoma, WA school district's K-12 in-plant launched a Web to print solution. That solution enabled it to reduce costs and drive volume to its centralized print center. After a few years of success, budgetary issues impacting the district presented an independent office technology dealer in the Pacific Northwest with an opportunity to help the district reduce costs even more. This resulted in initiatives to reduce print "leakage" at MFPs— and the development of a print governance policy— all with the help of one of the district's production equipment dealers and Rochester Software Associates (RSA), their workflow solutions provider.
The district has long had two technology vendors for MFPs and production equipment. The in-plant has changed vendors over time, operating in a mixed vendor environment with production printers from two different OEMs (purchased from two different dealers) with one of the two dealers providing MFPs. Fortunately, that wasn't an issue for WebCRD, its Web to print solution, which was designed for mixed vendor shops.
As luck would have it, one of the two dealers serving this district happened to be in the right place at the right time and had the good fortune to partner with RSA who had the right solutions to help the district achieve its goals. RSA has dedicated professional services to help with the solution and handle the customer support.
What specifically did this dealer do to meet the needs of this important client? No big deal, just this:
- Reduce costs and drive volume to the print center via additional Web to print modules
- Meet user needs and increase efficiencies for the print center and its customers
- Automate common manual tasks with prepress software
- Provide a hard copy workflow on-ramp to the print center to control MFP copy volume and costs
The secret to accomplishing these goals was not just the workflow software, but a heavy emphasis on user training, driven by the client.
Tacoma has undergone four phases of evolution in the development of its job management software. The initial phase—the pre-Web to print phase—encompassed more of a manual approach. This was followed by the Web to print phase, then optimizing the workflow and perfecting the system, adding modules and additional software. A big part of the new software was the addition of hard copy workflow and the creation of a print governance program. The print governance program is still a work in progress and the biggest cost reductions around the MFPs aren't expected until later this year.
Managing client expectations are a critical element of every implementation. Fortunately, everyone is on the same page and understands that it's not one and done and that changing processes takes time. With different jobs, equipment, and processes in the mix, it's not unusual for workflow to change as the implementation progresses. These changes are enabling the dealer to market new modules. As the implementation moves forward, the client will have additional opportunities to automate processes that weren't in the original plan to become even more efficient.
Throughout the implementation, the dealer has relied on the resources and expertise of the software provider when needed. That knowledge helps the dealer better understand a client's workflow needs as well as provide deeper insights into output management, prepress, Web to print, and automation. RSA was also instrumental in helping the dealer and in-plant develop the print governance program and providing additional customer support.
Rules of the workflow game
Money talks and adding workflow rules in the program—WebCRD—is reducing the number of touches and saving the client money even when the dealer is not adding new modules to the implementation. The software's reporting capabilities allow the client to track the number of touches and add rules to automate processes. By switching from a manual process to Web to print, those savings represented a healthy $44,000 annually. Another $50,000 per year in savings have resulted from a reduction in labor costs from automation, which is growing each quarter.
With a print governance program in pilot and expanding workflow automation within the print center which is not only reducing costs but driving more volume to the central print center from the MFPs, the district is saving money and narrowing the budget gap.
The Tacoma school district is ecstatic because it has achieved most of its goals. And the dealer, besides having a satisfied customer, has a partner he could count on even in situations where the dealership hasn't sold hardware. That sale may come later as the relationship with the client expands and the district needs to upgrade its hardware.
It's been the perfect storm to date. With all that's been accomplished so far, the dealer looks good, the software provider looks good, and the school district has a solution that is driving efficiencies and saving money. This is a model for other districts to emulate whether it's adding to an existing RSA solution or implementing a workflow solution for the first time and then building out from there as they become more familiar with the solution and gain a better understanding of its benefits.