Printers in the Driver’s Seat
As digital printing technology has matured—becoming more reliable, easier to use and available at a range of price points—the advancements seem to have made it more practical for end users to bring the capability in-house. Lines of distinction continue to blur between graphic arts, transactional and corporate printing solutions.
When it comes to implementing variable data and/or a Web-to-print solution to support a dispersed user base, though, the reverse can actually happen. Even a corporation with an extensive in-plant operation may look to an outside supplier for the required expertise. Digital can open doors that are locked to offset services.
Roadway Express, a $3 billion transportation company, considered all the possibilities when it decided the time had come to revamp the entire process it used for sales collateral management and fulfillment. All of its materials were being conventionally printed and warehoused, with some limited capability for online ordering and inventory management.
Management wanted to create an easy to use Web-to-print solution that would allow the company’s sales representatives (1,000+ people) to order, track and manage their own collateral.
In keeping with its overall philosophy of treating each customer as if that person is its only customer, the company wanted its sales representatives to be able to customize the literature. The goal in adding customization went beyond the idea of including a few fields that would increase response rates, reports Mike Lyman, Roadway’s manager of online communications.
Getting Away from Offset
At the time, the transportation company was having all of its printing done by service providers on offset presses. Roadway wanted to revamp the process for printing and storing sales and marketing materials to reduce and keep better track of its production costs. Roadway also wanted to increase the effectiveness of its direct mail efforts by personalizing sales collateral on a prospect level and reducing the time required to print and receive the materials.
After completing an internal ROI study of potential solutions, the company issued a request for proposals. It reviewed the RFPs it received over a four-month period before selecting HKM Direct Market Communications in Cleveland. The transportation company reportedly chose HKM because it was clear that a canned solution would not fill the bill and HKM was ready, willing and able to develop a custom solution.
Dubbed the “Literature Center,” the Web-based solution HKM developed enables Roadway’s entire team of sales reps to customize and order a variety of sales literature and maps of shipping routes. It also includes tools for corporate staff to monitor and track orders along with the inventory of printed materials.
Personnel from the two companies participated in weekly conference calls and met monthly while developing the Literature Center. Initially, customizable templates were created from existing sales literature but, over time, new pieces have been developed specifically for this project. This work has been done using a combination of Meadows Publishing Solutions’ DesignMerge variable data application and QuarkXPress software.
The project team also developed and conducted online educational training programs to help Roadway Express staff learn how to use the system. In addition, it implemented an ongoing, thorough testing program—involving 30 to 50 individuals at a time—to make sure the system continues to work smoothly.
Four on the Floor
There are four components to the Literature Center:
Build Your Own—Web-to-print solution that enables users to customize various types of literature. User can view a low-res proof of completed documents on-screen and save the proof as a PDF file if they want to e-mail it to a prospect or use it for other electronic purposes. The proof is provided in low resolution to discourage users from printing their own literature from the proof.
Printed materials are delivered within 48 hours of an order being placed. Runs can range from 50 to 1,000 pieces and are output daily.
Map Builder—Web-to-print system specifically for creating transportation maps based on a customer’s needs. “The single most important literature piece for sales is our custom transportation map,” according to Roadway’s Lyman.
Using conventional processes, the company produced around 500 maps a year. By comparison, it produced more than 2,700 maps in the first nine months that Map Builder was available. Finished pieces can now be generated and delivered in no more than two days, whereas it used to take one to two weeks for a designer to produce a map.
Speeding Up Creative
Virtual Sales Center—Tool for creating, tracking and analyzing responses to personalized e-mails and electronic sales materials.
Fulfillment—Web-based finished inventory ordering and tracking system.
Roadway Express says reaction to the new Literature Center has been uniformly positive. Online ordering and tracking of orders for collateral have enabled the company to reduce its support staff by 20 percent and cut its literature warehousing requirements by 40 percent. Plus, the time to create and produce literature has been shortened dramatically.
The transportation company’s sales representatives value the high degree of customization they now can incorporate into collateral materials, along with the faster time to market.
Once the system was online, approximately 30 percent of Roadway’s printed material was switched to being produced on a variety of digital presses. It expects that percentage to grow by 5 to 10 percent over the first few years the system is in use.
HKM continues to do a portion of Roadway’s printing and says it expects to see continued growth in overall demand for its digital printing services. Output from its HP Indigo presses accounted for about 15 percent of the company’s business at the start of the year and HKM projects that portion to grow by another 10 percent in 2006. PI
This case study was derived from PODi’s annual Best Practices in Digital Print research, the largest collection ever assembled of successful digital printing projects. PODi is an industry initiative with hundreds of member companies including executive board members EFI, HP, IBM, Kodak, Pitney Bowes, Quark and Xerox. Membership in PODi is open to most organizations involved in digital printing. For more information on joining PODi or submitting your own case study, visit www.mypodi.org/pi1.