By Courtney Saba
Web to print (W2P) systems serve print environments from in-plant operations to commercial printers. Depending on an organization’s clientele and particular needs, print providers benefit from a variety of features offered by W2P solutions, including workflow optimization, streamlined ordering, and automation.
In addition to the advantages these systems offer, print organizations must understand the investment required to get W2P up and running—from the initial system setup to employee and client training.
Successful implementations provide insight to printers considering adding or upgrading W2P. Here we profile four print providers that have successfully implemented W2P either as a standalone offering or part of their overall production workflow. Each company offers a unique scenario and incorporates W2P for different reasons.
Michigan Farm Bureau
Based in Lansing, MI, Michigan Farm Bureau was founded in 1919 and is the state’s largest general farm organization. It supports a variety of commodity agricultural sectors and is committed to representing, protecting, and enhancing the business, economic, social, and educational interests of its farmer members.
Throughout 67 county farm bureaus and more than 450 agents across the state of MI, the organization employs a staff of over 200,000. Within its departmental services division, the organization serves all of MI and incorporates a range of communication services from design and printing to finishing and mailing.
“We meet all of the communication needs of our organization as well as our outside clients,” says Karen Meyers, business manager, Michigan Farms Bureau. Some of the services they offer include graphic design, dimensional printing, variable data printing, banners and signs, digital and offset printing, bindery, as well as finishing and mailing services.
In 2009, the bureau decided to support its production operations with W2P. It researched several different options with client ease of use as well as integration into its management information system (MIS) as leading priorities. Ultimately, Michigan Farm Bureau decided on Avanti’s eAccess solution, which complemented its existing MIS, Avanti MIS. eAccess is hosted on premise.
Once the decision to implement W2P was made, the deployment process began. According to Meyers, it was fairly smooth and the training was successful. She says the most tedious part was setting up all of the templates for variable print on demand items, which took a couple of months.
The W2P system was introduced to clients on a rolling basis. “We launched the website initially to our county offices, followed by our agent workforce, and then to some of our outside clients,” says Meyers.
Whenever introducing new products and systems, it is important to educate clients in order to get them to understand and utilize them. Michigan Farm Bureau provides continuous training sessions as well as documentation on how to place an order with eAccess. Both resources are available whenever necessary.
Through W2P, Michigan Farm Bureau was able to successfully address some of its biggest production challenges and reduce touch points. Meyers says the investment in W2P is a positive addition to the organization. “We have been able to automate our workflow and simplify the ordering process for our customers.”
The bureau calculates return on investment based on the savings in staff time required to set up customer files as well as through the increased business generated as a result of eAccess.
Michigan Farm Bureau plans to continue the growth and expansion of its W2P site, as it is always adding new products and are continuously marketing its services.
Freese and Nichols
Established in 1894, Freese and Nichols, Inc. currently houses 539 employees between 16 different locations spread across TX. The company most recently branched out to NC and OK. The organization’s core services include civil engineering, architecture, construction services, as well as environmental science and planning.
Though it’s a small in-plant operation; it provides printing resources to is clients, employees, and stake holders. David Smith, building services supervisor, Freese and Nichols, Inc., says it is sometimes unaware of the outside resources available and learned about W2P after attending a conference hosted by the In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association.
Once the possibilities of W2P were realized, Smith says the opportunity was a must to grow the business.
Before selecting a W2P provider, it looked at a few other solutions and was drawn to the customization abilities of Rochester Software Associates (RSA) WebCRD W2P solution. “It became a multi-faceted solution for us,” explains Smith. “RSA’s partnership throughout the entire process was instrumental and they built a high level of trust and confidence from the first time that we met them,” adds Smith.
The implementation process took about six months, mostly due to Freese and Nichols’ customization requirements. A side-by-side training procedure was imposed and employees were encouraged to ask questions whenever they arose. The system resides on a virtual server inside the corporate network.
Adapting to a new solution is always a challenge, especially for customers. Smith explains how Freese and Nichols found it helpful to gather a few small groups of main customers for a training session where they learned the ins and outs of the system and could also provide feedback for possible changes. These customers became comfortable with the new system and then helped others learn it. Smith says one-on-one training is always offered for anyone that needs it.
For Freese and Nichols, RSA’s WebCRD system helped eliminate one of its biggest business challenges—a faulty ordering process. Prior to WebCRD, most orders were placed via email, but whether the order was fulfilled or not often depended on who was in the shop at the time since not every employee would receive the order email. “W2P allows us to see all orders at any given time and know what status the job is in. The customer can login and access all of their orders, which allows for reordering prints with just a few clicks. W2P is definitely worthwhile,” says Smith.
RSA’s WebCRD offers the shop the ability to enable different ordering homepages for various users, which is important to its expansion plans. For example, Freese and Nichols is traditionally an in-house print shop, serving only employees and clients. However, over the past four years its slowly been building external customers and plans to add an external ordering solution in the next few months.
Established in 1971, Astro-Dynamic Print & Graphic Services is a family owned and operated print provider. Located in Warminster, PA, it has 17 employees and a 10,000 square foot solar-powered facility.
Serving Bucks and Montgomery counties as well as Philadelphia, PA, its core services include print on demand production, digital and variable data printing, offset printing, design and prepress, full bindery services, precision die cutting, foil stamping and embossing, as well as mailing services, promotional items, and CD and DVD duplication.
A few years back, the shop was looking to replace manual processes used for a number of its print products as well as balance out their costs and capabilities. To achieve this, it looked at a number of W2P providers. Narrowing down the options, Brian V. White, director of digital services, Astro-Dynamic, says RedTie was the ideal fit and provided the right combination of cost and functionality to suit the shop’s unique needs. The solution was introduced to the business in July 2011.
To kick start the implementation, Astro-Dynamic chose a test client that it felt best fit with the W2P model. “We communicated our intentions to them and they were very receptive,” says White. The rollout was pretty quick after an initial training. In the end, White says it was a win-win for both Astro-Dynamic and the client. “They got to order and preview their products immediately and we received the orders along with print-ready files,” he recalls.
Astro-Dynamic’s goals for W2P included streamlining its processes, as well as improving automation and client convenience. RedTie’s W2P system successfully addressed each factor. “It was definitely a worthwhile investment. We compared the pre and post profitability of the clients involved and there is a significant impact,” says White.
When it comes to educating customers and encouraging them to utilize its W2P system, White says it involves just a simple training procedure. If he recognizes a client that would fit the W2P model, he contacts them, sets up an account, and lets them take a test drive.
A long-term goal for Astro-Dynamic and its W2P system is integration with the shop’s MIS. “That will take a significant investment. We will move when the time is right,” concludes White.
Mount Street Printers
Established in 1981, Mount Street Printers is an upscale family-owned stationary and printing business located in London. It operates out of a 4,000 square foot shop and staffs 26 employees.
The shop prides itself on being a one-stop resource for its customers, offering a versatile list of services ranging from digital printing, foiling, die stamping, die cutting, and letterpress to luxury stationary and business and greeting cards. While well-known in its area, it regularly provides services for a worldwide clientele.
One reason the shop is able to maintain such a wide client reach is its Web-based ordering system. It decided to implement W2P based on requests from trade customers who were looking for online access to their work. With W2P, customers with access are able to use it for individual jobs and repeat orders to help streamline the workflow on both ends.
The company uses EFI’s Digital StoreFront W2P system. Alex Cain, director of sales, Mount Street Printers, says this system has been deployed for about a year. While there are many W2P offerings available, Cain says it selected EFI in part because of the salesman. “He was great at educating us about the product,” he explains.
Since the initial launch of its W2P system, Mount Street Printers’ volume and frequency of orders has significantly increased. “Customers are now able to log in to a dedicated area and edit or upload artwork and then place the orders at the click of a button. The system automatically sends approved print files directly to the press without any delay or human error—day or night,” says Cain.
The ability to accept and streamline non-complex orders is a major draw of W2P. As a savvy print provider, Mount Street Printers capitalizes on its location by establishing an ongoing relationship with local restaurants and hotels. It offers a free delivery service for these businesses that fall within a two-mile radius of its location.
Local restaurants have taken advantage of the services offered by Mount Street Printers, and are able to streamline their orders through EFI Digital StoreFront.
Cain says that generally, restaurants decide on their daily menus or specialties the night before. With online ordering capabilities, local eateries can create and order menus that are printed and delivered without hassle.
Several of the clients it works with daily have moved away from in-house printing. “It is actually cheaper and more efficient in the long run to let us take care of the whole process using the online portal,” explains Cain.
Manufacturing its own papers, as well as offering design and printing in house allows Mount Street Printers to provide an authentic, same-day service without compromising on quality.
In terms of future goals, the shop would like to see its W2P system integrate with its other production processes. Cain says the plan is to keep growing and innovating. “We see technology very much as a tool to develop the business,” he concludes.
W2P solutions continue to positively affect the print providers and clients utilizing them. Four genuinely different print providers share their success stories in order to convey what W2P has done for their businesses and how one can benefit from such a system—through workflow optimization, streamlined ordering, and replacing manual processes.
Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.
Jan2016, Digital Output