Did Everything Get Mailed?

Print/mail service provider clients want to know they are getting everything they are paying for. Clients expect you to track every mailpiece as you process it through your shop. In today’s competitive marketplace, operations that can’t offer this level of accountability may lose business to another service provider-one that has invested in tracking technology.

Make no mistake. Mailpiece accountability is a big thing. Any client that invests in mailed communications today wants assurances their print/mail service provider created all their mail, put it into the mailstream, and the Postal Service delivered it. Companies aren’t interested in wasting time and money on mail campaigns that don’t yield the expected response rate. A mailpiece that never makes out of the document center has no chance of creating the desired result, thus dragging down the ROI of the campaign.

Incomplete Mailings Bad for Business

Poor performing campaigns don’t get repeated, so it is in the best interest of mail service providers to decrease waste and maximize mail effectiveness. That means making sure they account for every mailpiece entrusted to them. Clients will run more direct mail campaigns when they achieve outstanding results.

Missing mailpieces become even more impactful as mail volumes decline. Data selection is much more precise than in the old bulk mail days. Marketers do not send mail to every household in a zip code anymore. Easy access to consumer data allows marketers to limit their direct mail advertising efforts to only the best prospects. With lower mailing volumes, any document omitted from a mailing because it was lost or damaged during production represents a greater percentage of the overall campaign. The opportunity loss from a few missing mailpieces can affect the results.

Multi-Channel is the Norm

Marketers have made large investments in each name on their mailing lists. They have researched and filtered until their lists contain the best prospects, and they have enhanced the file by adding demographic data, email addresses, IP addresses, and cell phone numbers. Standalone direct mail is rare these days. Most likely, your clients will tie each mailpiece you produce to integrated messages delivered electronically to the recipients. Marketers time complementary email or text messages to arrive in households according to the expected mail delivery day. Obviously, corresponding electronic messages will have less of an impact if the related mailpiece does not arrive at the target household because it never made it out of the mail center.

Mail triggered by online activity is another case where a single missing mailpiece can have far-reaching consequences. Carefully developed multi-channel lead nurturing strategies are weakened if the print/mail service provider fails to enter every direct mail element of the automated workflow into the mailstream at the expected time.

Transactional Documents

When mailing transactional documents such as monthly statements, some clients insist on mailing audits. Vision-based document tracking and logging systems like iDataScan™ from Document Data Solutions allow clients to make such inquiries without disrupting operations. Audits that used to take days to complete can be handled in just a few hours. When a camera-based monitoring system is tracking the status of each mailpiece, service providers can also fulfill last-minute client requests efficiently, such as removing certain documents from a mailing.

Complex jobs need tight controls to avoid the negative effects of double-stuffed envelopes, duplicates, or missing pages. Mistakes can be devastating to document service providers. Operations that process applications like bills, statements, insurance claims, or mail-in ballots can’t operate safely without an automated tracking and mailpiece integrity system in place. (See our recent article on vote-by-mail for a discussion about this unique application).

Making sure all the mail went out is one of the most important aspects of processing a print and mail application. Archaic methods like batch balancing are not precise enough to do the job. They can’t prevent an error from occurring and they don’t always catch a mistake that happened during the run. Without vision-based tracking systems, correcting a mailing mistake that occurred during the job requires time-consuming and expensive manual efforts that may or may not reveal the errors.

Vision-based mailpiece integrity solutions are the only way print/mail service providers can furnish the level of accountability and quality their clients demand.

Tired of Click Charges?

 

Some popular digital print systems on the market come with an expensive feature – click charges! Having to pay to use equipment you’ve already bought annoys many print company executives.

When printers started adding digital print technologies to their operations, they encountered the practice of click charges – a new phenomenon for those in the offset world. Print company managers were accustomed to a print production environment where they purchased ink and consumables as required for upcoming jobs. Bundling maintenance and consumables into a per-image price didn’t match up with the established norms for how they produced print.

Attitudes about click charges may have softened over the years as digital printing has become more mainstream. But for some, the issue still rubs them the wrong way. DDS addressed click-charge distaste when we introduced the iDataPrint™ Freedom Series FS-1200 print system.

One feature our customers really like about the FS-1200 is the lack of click charges. Printers feel this aspect makes it easier to integrate the device into their operations, which is great because the unit is so versatile.

The iDataPrint™ FS-1200’s selectable drop size and print resolution (DPI) capabilities impress DDS customers. Printers are controlling ink costs while still retaining the ability to increase the image density when necessary. Plus, they can choose from a variety of dye, pigment, latex, or UV curable inks as well as print bar widths from 1.7 to 27 inches when purchasing a system.

The iDataPrint™ FS-1200 from DDS is ready to handle any size job. With almost instant start and stop, up to 1300 feet per minute speeds, and automated splice avoidance, these print modules are improving productivity everywhere we’ve installed them. They even clean themselves!

By adding these units to their existing production lines, print companies are extending the useful life of their existing web presses and finishing equipment, many of which are fully depreciated.

Some FS-1200 buyers retrofit their existing inkjet towers, saving them even more time and money. We can handle the installation and repurposing of existing components for you. Or, if you prefer to perform the modifications yourself, DDS provides technical recommendations and an FS-1200 Web Tower Print Module Rail Assembly.

Print companies can add digital print capabilities while saving money by leveraging their investments in existing web presses and finishing equipment. Buyers of the print module love the low cost and flexibility the unit offers. Unlike competing print systems, the FS-1200 printheads never need refurbishing, saving even more money over time.

Commercial printers are expanding into packaging, point-of-sale graphics, signage, and garment decoration. Scalable print width and controllable drop size functionality coincides with the convergence trends in the print industry. Commercial printers are investing in equipment, allowing them to produce larger images and new product offerings. The unique design of the FS-1200 makes it easy to do that.

Your print business needs to add digital printing, but perhaps you’re not ready to make a huge investment in a new digital press. Maybe the mandatory service contracts and click charges that often come with digital print technologies don’t fit your business model. If so, the FS-1200 may be the best solution. Contact us to arrange for a demonstration of the print bar’s performance. You’ll see the possibilities right away.

Processing Vote-by-Mail Ballots

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we think about a lot of things. Going forward, working from home, distance learning, telemedicine, and virtual conferences are all likely to be more prevalent now that social distancing has forced us to revise some of our traditional habits. The latest public health hazard might also permanently affect the way we run elections.

Plenty of states and counties in the US are actively looking into vote-by-mail as a safer way to allow citizens to cast their votes. These entities are interested in logistics, costs, and economies of holding at least some of their elections via paper ballots transported through the mail.

As mail-in ballot use rises, most jurisdictions won’t want to handle vote-by-mail ballot distribution in-house. They will use outsource print and mail service providers to create the ballots and get these critical documents into the hands of voters according to deadlines prescribed by election laws.

Absentee Ballots

Public health concerns are triggering a surge in absentee ballot requests. In response, some states have relaxed their rules requiring voters to meet certain conditions to qualify for absentee ballots, or are encouraging citizens to request ballots for upcoming elections. Some states, such as New York, considered proactively sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. More voters are likely to cast absentee ballots in coming elections than ever.

We expect that once voters experience the convenience of casting their votes from their kitchen tables, many of them will continue the practice-whether or not a public health emergency exists. That represents an opportunity for providers of print and mail services.

Mailpiece Integrity Required

Ballot mailings, however, are not the same as run-of-the-mill direct mail projects. Mailpiece integrity, tracking, and reprints are features a company must offer for elections officials to consider them a qualified vendor for vote-by-mail support. The application requires mail service vendors to insert ballots selectively, print personalized envelopes, and match them to the ballots as they are inserted. Every piece must be tracked to be sure each voter receives the correct ballot. Damaged pieces must be reprinted, tracked, and sent within timeframes often mandated by statute.

Attempting such work without the necessary hardware, software, and integrity processes in place would be foolish. Mailing mistakes always have negative consequences for print/mail service providers, but ballot mailing is an exceptionally high-profile application. Inserting errors or distribution delays are likely to be reported by the press and could spawn government investigations. The fallout from such mistakes could damage a service provider’s business beyond repair, so we don’t recommend entering the ballot mailing business until you’ve upgraded your operation.

As you probably know, Document Data Solutions is in the business of making sure our customers can produce accurate and timely mailings. We’ve been developing and implementing mailpiece integrity systems for twenty years. Companies using our hardware and software vision-based systems process sensitive documents like bank statements, medical lab results, insurance claim and voter forms every day. DDS solutions like iDataVerifyTM are what companies need to take part in the growing ballot mailing market.

If your company doesn’t have the integrity software, and control systems ballot mailing requires, you may need to invest in an upgrade. DDS currently offers ballot integrity systems to integrate with your existing equipment, so you won’t have to spend money on new inserting machines. Just add the DDS components to make your old machines a lot smarter.

Beyond Election Jobs

Your investment in integrity equipment will provide ongoing benefits long after this years elections end. Mailers and marketers are demanding integrity, tracking, and auditing capabilities for all their mailing projects, especially as they are processed on digital presses that personalize every mailpiece. Upgrading your workflow to incorporate mailpiece integrity and tracking is an intelligent way to prepare for the future.

No one knows exactly how the corona virus outbreak will change the way we work, socialize, and handle many aspects of our lives. It’s a good bet, however, that increased interest in vote-by-mail will influence elections in the USA for a long time.

Foolproof Mail Tray Loading

In most shops, separating outbound mail into trays and pallets is a manual process. Machine operators are given sheets of tray tags and other information to which they must refer in order to split the job among the necessary containers as prescribed by the presort software.

When our customers talked with us about their frustration with manually managing mail tray loading and the unreliability of sorting equipment they’ve tried, we went to work designing and building a better solution. The result is iDataSort, a data-driven module that takes makes it easy for operators to see the tray breaks, load the mail trays, and keep up with a fast-moving production line.

With iDataSort, distribution mistakes caused by operator error can be eliminated. Postcards coming off an inkjet production line, for instance, can be separated using various methods. The machine jogs side-to-side and adjusts belt speeds as it stacks to indicate the exact location of the tray breaks.

“All the other machines on the market break the groups by changing the belt speed. Sometimes the material slips, making it hard to see the gaps. iDataSort offsets side-to-side. This is much better

Roger Higdon

GLS / Next Precision Marketing

 

 

 iDataSort separates groups of printed material so operators can easily load the mail trays. The unit receives sort signals from attached equipment or separates according to a fixed count. A moving belt shifts left or right to create the desired break points. The stacker can also dynamically adjust the speed of the belt, creating a second method to separate batches of materials. Both methods can be invoked in a single job.

After installing iDataSort, DDS customers report they can fill mail trays twice as fast as before. Keeping up with equipment running at over 40,000 pieces per hour is not a problem for this unit.

Click here to see the iDataSort in action!

Besides filling mail trays, print production operations are using iDataSort to prepare material for packaging and for handling other unique finishing and distribution requirements. You can attach the unit to any print production or mailing machinery in your shop or run it as a standalone operation. iDataSort can even control unintelligent feeders, allowing you to add automation to your workflow without investing in totally new production equipment.

To maintain efficiency, many print service providers are combining small jobs into larger print runs. With varied finishing requirements, multiple mail drops, segmentation, and shipping destinations, the jobs must be accurately separated as they exit the print line. Manual distribution errors are embarrassing and costly. Automated stacking has raised production quality and improved efficiency, allowing your company to service customers-even those with tight deadlines.

                     

Give Your Salespeople Something New to Sell

To be competitive in today’s volatile print services business means you must embrace change. The equipment and methods used for generations are still in demand, but are viewed by customers as a commodity. To prospective customers one print provider often seems as good as the next. Your salespeople need to offer capabilities that distinguish them from the competition. That means variable data printing.

The traditional presses on your production floor represent a significant investment. You’ve got an established workflow and finishing equipment to handle the printed output. There’s no reason to abandon those assets and adopt a completely new digital printing platform unless you’ve got the business to support such a move. Why not keep those reliable presses and just add variable data printing to your existing operation?

Similar to many print service providers across the country, American Litho faced the challenge of how to implement variable data printing. They worked with Document Data Solutions to integrate inkjet print heads, high-volume ink reservoirs, software, and controllers to solve this problem. They preserved their core production practices and continued to utilize their existing presses. American Litho is now applying full-color variable data information and images to campaign runs from 100 pieces up to millions with the hybrid system. Read about their experience here.

A tailor-made hybrid printing solution expands the portfolio of products your sales force can promote while preserving your investment in traditional equipment. It’s the best of both worlds.

Advantages of Hybrid Printing

  • Inkjet made simple – Print heads start up and shut down in less than 5 minutes. Hybrid systems enable high uptime and productivity. You can begin production quicker.
  • Extends equipment life – Leverage your current investments in web presses and finishing technology by integrating hybrid print technology.
  • Retains offset strengths – Continue printing integrated cards, perforated coupons, foils, metallic or fluorescent colors, UV coating, heavier weight stocks, etc.
  • Low cost – Hybrid is the most cost effective method of printing large jobs containing both static and variable information
  • Minimal touch points – Paper moves through the press to VDP inkjet to in-line finishing equipment, and into USPS mail trays

With help from DDS, American Litho extended the life of their equipment and set themselves apart from the competition. They improved productivity (and therefore profit margins) while simultaneously giving their sales force a tool they are using to retain existing customers and attract new business. To talk about how your company can enjoy a similar result, contact us here at DDS. We’ll be happy to discuss your unique configuration and suggest options for improvements.

3 Things Direct Mailers Should Know About Document Integrity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Direct mail is changing. Marketers may still occasionally create campaigns to send the exact offer to an entire list, but they are keenly interested in personalized pieces. Marketing people know that personalized approaches create better results. With personalized campaigns, they invest more money in data analysis, creative design, and integrated channels to achieve the ROI that makes direct mail worthwhile.

For mailers, processing personalized direct mail demands a greater emphasis on document integrity, a new area for some mailers. Clients expect their service providers to account for every mail piece in the job. Discarding damaged documents may have been acceptable in the “spray and pray” days, but that’s no longer the case. Greater up-front data costs, triggered multi-channel messaging, and smaller list sizes force mail service providers into the world of item tracking and reprints.

Here’s three ways personalized direct mail will change the way mail service providers handle jobs in their shops:

Matching
Multiple elements in a direct mail packet may be personalized. They must be matched perfectly. Mailers must check the identity of each element before adding it to the package. You can match with 2D barcodes, OCR characters, or even images, but it must be done. Spot-checking isn’t good enough. Sending mismatched elements to a mail recipient not only defeats the purpose of personalization, it discourages customers from responding to the offer.

Reprints
Documents will get damaged during production. Pieces get jammed in machinery or have defects like ink dropouts, smudges, and smears. Tossing damaged pieces in the trash isn’t acceptable. Unmailed marketing pieces lower the campaign’s ROI, which could discourage marketers from further investments in direct mail advertising. Integrated multi-channel campaigns may feature triggers such as USPS mailpiece scans to issue email or text messages timed to coincide with mail delivery. Your clients will know if a mailpiece didn’t go out.

Duplicates or Missing Pieces
Every mailpiece in a personalized campaign is important. Clients expect mail service providers to catch errors such as duplicate batches or missed mailpieces as they process the job. Learning the service provider mailed such mistakes not only results in client demands for refunds, they could very well cause a client to stop doing business with your company. Cameras mounted on mailing equipment capture item identification numbers as mail is processed and compares the information to data files of expected items. Any duplication, missing, or out of sequence condition will stop the machine and alert the operator.

You may have been in the direct mail business for a long time and never concerned yourself with the issues described above. To be competitive, document integrity must be part of the service you offer to your direct mail clients. If not, clients will find someone that can provide the levels of quality and accountability they demand.

Document Data Solutions has been manufacturing vision-based verification equipment and software for twenty years. We understand exactly what our customers must do to meet client expectations and regularly adapt our solutions to meet their unique needs and equipment configurations. To learn more about what document integrity means to your business, contact us today.