Over the past few decades, I have watched (and, in some cases, created) an ADF (Automated Document Factory) implementation. In many cases, I have also seen the implementation of an RDF (Reporting Document Factory), which has often fallen short of the organization’s expectations.

What is the difference? Many companies think they are implementing or have implemented an ADF only to realize what they really have is an RDF. The problem arises from the loose definition of what an ADF really is. It is interesting to note that if you ask 10 different people what an ADF is, you will probably get 10 different answers.

If we look at the word “automate,” the definition is to “convert [a process or facility] to a largely automatic operation.” Many of the ADFs today simply report on what has happened in each step. While this is important and powerful information, it does not address the need to “automate.”

When I do presentations or consultations relating to automating the document factory, I usually white board each step in the process and take out a stack of one dollar bills. For each manual step, I place a dollar bill next to it. It is amazing how quickly the stack of bills increases. This quickly reinforces the difference between automating and reporting.

Another myth regarding an ADF is the cost. Although not too long ago, ADFs carried a seven-figure investment, particularly if it was combined with a required purchase of hardware, that is generally not true now. In fact, purchasing hardware with the software is NOT a requirement today since workflow vendors are making workflows device-agnostic.

Your homework is to look at your process, pull out the dollar bills and see how you can migrate from an RDF to an ADF. I realize each process step might not be one dollar (some are more, some are less), but the facts remain: This is money your organization is wasting on a reporting system that could be enhanced to become an automated system with all the reporting of an RDF.

David Day, EDP brings over 39 years of experience in the document management and mail industry. As an active member of Xplor for over 20 years, David frequently presents at local and global Xplor meetings. He has also been a guest speaker at various company user and industry groups, including National Postal Forum, Graph Expo, and Mailcom. As Product Marketing Manager at CrawfordTech, David is responsible for Enterprise Output Management Products. He works with customers, prospects, sales, and product development to identify customer requirements, evaluate solutions, and make product recommendations.