University print shops occupy a unique position within the education ecosystem in that they provide a myriad of essential services without notoriety or understanding from the public they serve. Students, staff, and faculty alike print and copy promotional materials, course materials, and the assignments to guide the curriculum. Many departments send major high-volume print projects to the shop, often with a short turnaround time. Print services teams around the country have started to expand their offerings to include advanced options such as digital design and services, promotional marketing collateral, and off-campus mailing. These tedious tasks are done by a beleaguered staff that often must rely on their own revenue efforts to fund their budget. The team accepts the enormous amount of work, knowing that every action they take must be timely and cost-efficient.

Automating tasks within a logistics platform represents one of the simplest ways to ease any operation's staff's workload. Service requests, print assignments, task management, and shipment confirmations can be fulfilled automatically by an intuitive platform with a personalized workflow that reflects your team members' unique needs and work patterns. If an automated system is applied correctly, there is an almost guaranteed likelihood that your staff will save valuable time and reallocate their efforts to more complex tasks. To engage in measures that save your workforce time, you must first discern which tasks within your facility should be automated.

Let's discuss a few options for automation.

Service Requests

Many print shop managers dread the ever-mounting number of print service requests that their team receives. Many of them have more than enough staff to handle a steady number of requests but may not have the capacity to monitor the influx of calls, paper requests, and in-person requests. It is for this reason that print service requests are an excellent candidate for automation. Printshop managers can utilize an in-building logistics platform to streamline all their incoming requests. Students and faculty alike simply log on to their centralized portal and fill out a print request form. The forms capture all necessary details, such as the number of printed pages, color, paper type, and binding options, and sends the request directly to the print shop manager(s), which reduces the need for paper forms, but it also reduces call volume and misprinted orders.

Print Assignments and Task Management

Print shops often receive a tsunami of print jobs and related tasks. Without a robust management system, staff may simply not be able to keep up. Every print shop manager tries to equally spread tasks among their team members to ensure that no one is overloaded, and all jobs are complete. An easy way to ensure work equity among staff is to automate incoming assignments within a task management system. Managers can configure their software to assign jobs only to available staff members and assign specialized projects to staff members uniquely fit to execute them. By utilizing an in-building logistics platform, print managers can oversee staff productivity and quickly identify any jobs behind schedule or incomplete. In addition to increasing visibility, using software to monitor each step of the fulfillment process ensures that your operation is 100% efficient.

Delivery and Shipment Confirmations

As mentioned above, nothing is more important in a print shop's operation than visibility and accountability in the services the staff provides. Many print shops don't have a way to ensure their print jobs were delivered, resulting in costly reprints. Using a logistics platform will allow for greater visibility, even at the final stage of the printing process — delivery and shipment. Managers can configure their software to track jobs that need to be delivered internally or prepped for shipment to another location. For internal deliveries, jobs are automatically routed to appropriate staff members' handheld devices. Upon delivery, automatic prompts can ensure that the operator collects a signature to close the accountability loop. For external shipments, a staff member packages the print job and sends an email notification to the recipient with the tracking information. Automation works hand-in-hand to complete each task and to confirm that each shipment is handled correctly.

Though print shops are critical to university operations, very few schools subsidize the budgets of these operations. Maintaining a budget that stays consistently in the black requires the careful assignment of staff time to ensure efficiency. Like every other facet of university administration, print shop departments need to operate as efficiently as possible to allocate their capacity to more extensive and more complicated tasks, such as promotion, public awareness, and marketing. With so many things on their plate already, print shop managers should look for opportunities to automate simple tasks and processes to provide their staff with a higher capacity to focus on revenue-generating operations.

As Vice President of Emerging Markets, Bruce E. Little is responsible for developing international business as well as managing channel partners. He has over 20 years of experience in the mail and package tracking industry. Bruce joined the SCLogic team in 1999 as the Vice President of Channels and has also held the titles of Vice President of Sales and General Manager before becoming the Vice President of Emerging Markets. Bruce has presented at many industry conferences such as NPF, MAILCOM, IFMA World Workplace, NACAS C3X, and NACUMS.

This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.