Think you've squeezed every penny of cost savings out of your document operations workflow? You're probably wrong. I've been visiting document centers for decades and have yet to encounter one that didn’t overlook cost-saving opportunities because they were too close to the work.

A small workflow alteration can make a big difference in annual costs. Changes that shave a few pennies in individual document cost or improves throughput by only a second or two can have a big impact.

Two Examples

I recall one case where we recommended format changes that would reduce the average page count per document by just half a page. The client savings were estimated at over $600,000 per year with no negative impact on document content or clarity. We simply took advantage of white space on the document, possibly reserved for text and graphics the organization eliminated long ago. The company never reclaimed the vacant space.

Another company mounted a campaign to encourage customers to pay their bills by direct debit. As they converted customers, the company continued to send remittance envelopes to all, regardless of their payment methods. Besides appearing wasteful and environmentally reckless to their customers, the company spent money unnecessarily for materials and processing. A simple change in the mailing machine barcode could selectively suppress remittance envelope insertion. Though the per-piece savings were modest, the change would cut costs by tens of thousands of dollars per year. The mailer also gained space in the outbound mailpiece for informational or regulated content. The number of pieces in special mailings normally used to distribute this required information could be reduced.

Hidden Inefficiency

Unnoticed gradual changes are not the only situations that result in unnecessary expense. Sometimes division of labor or ignorance of document processing capabilities can create inefficient applications from the beginning. At one company, Marketing and Human Resources teamed up to design an application that required a huge manual effort. They spent a great deal of time to hand-match personalized letters, response cards, and two sets of mailing labels, all printed on departmental desktop printers.

The non-production individuals never considered asking the corporate document center to print the personalized letters and response stubs on perforated legal-size stock. They didn’t think about using window envelopes on both outbound and return mail to eliminate labels. The dollar savings realized from the redesigned documents were difficult to compute, but we eliminated a month of weekend volunteer work that had been necessary to assemble the documents as originally designed. The change also cut the risk of mismatched materials to zero and took advantage of excess capacity in the corporate mail center.

In even the most automated and efficient document operations, opportunities to streamline the workflow exist. Some changes eliminate duplicate processes, improve quality, or find better solutions for document production. Recognizing improvement opportunities is difficult though, especially for staff members who work in the environment every day. Bringing in someone else to ask questions can uncover savings opportunities almost always present but frequently invisible.

Mike Porter helps print/mail organizations improve operations and develop strategies for growth. Contact Mike at or follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @PMCmike to learn more.