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Dec. 1 2009 11:18 AM

 I don't know about the rest of you data processors, but I have come to the conclusion that I need a checklist for all my checklists. There is just no cookie cutter setup for all customers' list needs. It varies by customer, and it varies by job. Adding to the fact that every job is unique, is that technology and the USPS' effort to make service more efficient have made list prep, design and quality control much more complex.

Perhaps the one list that I cannot do without is my Outlook Task List. From it I plan my day. It will be reviewed and updated throughout the day to make sure I'm getting the jobs done that I need to get done. I need it to keep me organized.

There are so many areas where job quality and accuracy need to be checked that at any point, something could be overlooked when processing lists and setting up mail jobs. Here is the short' list of my checklists:

1) File Setup - proper planning saves time
a) Correct list (s)
b) All necessary fields
c) Mailer owner/permit owner information
d) Mailer ID
e) Nonprofit authorization #

2) Postal processing - all information is not always available when we begin a job but it cannot be overlooked
a) Move Update method - NCOA/ASE/other
b) Current signed PAF form
c) Customer instruction for non-standardized addresses
d) Mail foreign
e) Drop ship

3) Label Format/Data - the job can be prepared properly but the list export must also be sent correctly as well
a) USPS required information
b) Fields long enough
c) Customer required fields present
d) IMB or Postnet
e) IMB elements correct
f) Correct IMB output for inkjet/printer

4) Variable Data - merging data to documents adds to the complexity of the file export
a) All variable fields present
b) Variable fields positioned correctly
c) Text flow
d) Addresses - window placement or mail match order
e) Letter position on letterhead
f) File export format
g) Customer final approval

These are just a few of the highlights of what I need to keep in mind. I'm sure you're probably adding your own as you are reading. It's reasonable to assume that I have left out at least as many as I have included. If in this sometimes frenzied mailing industry we allow ourselves to rush through a job to please a customer and a mistake happens, there are two possible scenarios - one, errors are caught and the job needs to be re-run. Or two, errors are not caught and it mails incorrectly. Neither of these scenarios are acceptable.

The nature of this job means that we could be interrupted at any point. I get interrupted to help with computer problems, email and software issues, design questions and postage estimates on jobs being quoted, just to name a few. Interruptions need to be limited, but I cannot ignore all interruptions because they may very well be needed to provide critical information for a job I am working on at the time. But I also cannot allow outside pressures to make me lose my focus. I have found that my checklists are necessary in making every effort to get the job right. They have also become so lengthy that one distraction could cause me to omit one of the steps, or even one of the lists. So I believe for the sake of the job - and my own sanity - I will need to create a checklist to verify that I've completed all my other checklists!

Melinda Bozak is the Mailing Lists Manager at Printing Concepts, Inc.