Truthfully, a good Web-to-print front end can take a huge administrative burden off of the marketing department, even while placing more of the administrative responsibility on the buyer. It also takes time and cost out of your business process by automating order entry, making catalogs of pre-defined materials available and, ultimately, delivery a recurring stream of business that translates into higher revenues and higher profits.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Charlie Corr, chief strategy officer for Mimeo.com, on the subject of improving employee efficiency. Although much of that discussion was around Mimeo's manufacturing efficiencies, which are increasingly moving to a cell manufacturing model rather than line manufacturing (more on that later), he points out that Mimeo processes more than a million orders per year, adding, "You have to be efficient at taking these orders in and working them through production, billing and shipping. You have to be vigilant throughout your organization, and it is relentless."
Mimeo constantly works to make its Web presence easier to use and more functional but, at the same time, keeps a sharp eye on customer support resources. If the solution is so easy to use that clients don't need to call with questions as often, the customer service metrics need to be balanced accordingly. This is another consideration that needs to be factored in to implementation of a Web-to-print front end.
As Corr points out, though, improving order efficiency is not enough. That can simply move bottlenecks somewhere else, which is why Mimeo.com and other successful firms in today's dynamic market are investing significant resources in ensure that the process works smoothly, and with as much automation as possible, from end to end.
To that end, Mimeo's cell manufacturing approach is an interesting twist on producing the actual product. To produce a photo book in the company's Newark, NJ, facility, for example, everything that comes after the press is done in one production flow by a dedicated "work cell." Books are taken in, bound, checked for quality and prepared for shipping with minimum movement of people and/or materials.