March 2, 2022

Production Mail Workflows

Adam Armstrong | Product Marketing Manager

Are legacy processes holding your workflow back from pure nirvana?

Is your workflow, legacy software, and old equipment affecting your employees?

As 2022 is now upon us, challenges have continued to pile up for managers that are already dealing with “The New Normal”. Currently, we are less worried about people being out sick and more worried that they are just not going to show up and have joined the “great resignation train”.

In many organizations, employees are the greatest asset. People are the difference between success and failure for nearly every production department in the world.

In this article, we will review 5 things that you can do to engage with your team and a different way to present or explain roles that could better connect with a younger workforce.

Many HR consultants are willing to conduct surveys and research on why employees are leaving and what it takes to retain your production staff, however, let’s review a few small questions in detail and do some self-evaluation.

  1. Are you supporting your employees as much as they support you?
  2. Do you understand your employees’ challenges?
  3. Are you able to address things that they need or want?
  4. Have you focused on a strategy to keep them engaged?
  5. Do they agree with the company focus “Why are we doing this, what do we accomplish?”

As someone who has spent much time in the production mailing industry, I know the manufacturing of critical communications and customer correspondence is very labor-intensive.  Also,  in many instances, if an issue arises it is “Production’s fault” or when a deadline is missed it is “Production’s fault,” but is it really?

How do you support your production staff?  Do you give them the tools and the systems they need to ensure that they know what to do … or do you rely on tribal knowledge and other employees to guide and train staff?

This is an area where automated workflow can help.  Too many production jobs require operators and staff to make a change to a setup, turn the paper 180 degrees and upside down or even select an envelope or paper stock that is rarely used and often forgotten about.

Solution: If you find that one of the jobs and its associated tribal knowledge requirements are causing issues – consider adding a workflow tool that enables you to eliminate the “one-offs”. Use software to rotate the paper, migrate one of the pre-printed stocks to full-color print and eliminate issues but, most importantly make sure you document the challenges and then ensure that the management team owns the issue and is seen to be resolving it to help the employee.

  • Learn more about converting the tribal knowledge requirement for setup info to software – View John Slaney talking about his workflow (here)

Over the years I have spoken to hundreds of production staff, some of whom have been in place for decades, others that are brand new, and one thing that many employees know is what could be done better.  I remember a tour of a Ford plant from a while ago, longer than I want to discuss. They talked about listening to staff about changes and improving the manufacturing process through worker feedback.

This is always interesting because as an industry professional I feel like I know a lot, but I can guarantee that the person who has been doing this every day knows more about the process than I do. One easy question that takes very little effort is to ask each of your staff, “What is the one thing you would like us to look at changing?” The answer may amaze you. It could be the old piece of equipment; it could be a paperwork process or it could be other staff requesting updates from them too often.

It takes very little time to listen, and sometimes it can make a huge difference to production efficiency and can make a bigger contribution to improving morale.

Equipment can be acquired or decommissioned, paperwork steps can be easily automated using an Automated Document Factory (ADF) or workflow software tool, but many times you may not be aware of the issue without asking.

Two of the newest challenges to the production workforce are establishing engagement and verifying accomplishment. These issues are rather new to managers of many production operations. As technology has evolved it seems that people’s attention spans have decreased.

Instead of teenagers watching a 30-minute TV show, millennials are now skimming 30-second TikTok Videos, or if they are really committed, maybe a 8-10 minute YouTube vlog.  How do you maintain a production operation that requires constant attention to detail with employees that year over year have a decreasing attention span? The answer is automation and alerts, text alerts, email alerts, and a production workflow solution that can take islands of technology and stitch them together into a harmonious, fully automated workflow with graphical dashboards that will keep any employee engaged.

Accomplishment is, perhaps, a different story... Many people want to be part of something larger than themselves.  They want to believe and care about what they do, and all too often, production print and mail is not considered sexy and valuable.  I have found that it is important to explain why critical communication is valuable and how it helps inform, deliver, and enrich people’s lives. All too often we think a letter is just a letter.  However, receiving your Green Card in the mail is an amazing feeling. So is getting your first home loan or college acceptance. It means that you are working towards something, and many times mail is the mechanism that can get people to the next stage in their lives.

So, sit down with your staff, explain what they are part of and ensure they understand that they are making people’s lives better every day.

2022 is a year to ensure that you align your production operation with the interests of your organization and most importantly your employees. So, take the time to look at what software and hardware could empower your staff to be more productive. Use technology to reduce errors and focus on your staff to ensure they care about what they do.