Bell and Howell recently gathered representatives from three leading companies to discuss their progress in developing efficient, cost-effective document printing and finishing processes with Bell and Howell’s Plain Paper Factory 2.0 (PPF2.0) technologies.
- Bill Gaddy, Senior Director at Broadridge Financial Solutions
- Rob Cass, President of AccuDoc Solutions
- Dave Fox, Executive Vice President of Operations at ValPak
In this Article Series, the panelists share the automation initiatives they employed to successfully meet their companies’ productivity and customer engagement objectives.
Part 2 - Dave Fox, Valpak
In Part 2 of this 4-Part Plain Paper Factory Series, we learn how Dave Fox, Executive Vice President of Operations at ValPak integrated Bell and Howell Inveloper technology to streamline operations and significantly improve throughput. With responsibilities spanning manufacturing, supply chain, content and design, and client services, Mr. Fox was a key project director in planning, design, construction, and systems integration in the ValPak manufacturing center.
Improving to Meet Demand
ValPak is known best for its blue envelopes—each containing 30–40 coupons—that reach some 40 million homes each month. Using Bell and Howell Inveloper technology, ValPak has combined digital printing and processing to increase its success as a direct marketer
“In about 2000 we were reaching our capacity,” relates Mr. Fox. “We had about 80 swing-arm inserting machines, five or six presses, and were outsourcing a fair amount of work. We needed something different.”
A thorough evaluation showed Mr. Fox and his team that the best approach was a completely new solution. “We became an early adopter of the Bell and Howell Inveloper, what we have come to call the ‘Bell Improvement.’ We went from 80 swing-arm inserters to 10, and all our collation lines now include a Bell and Howell Inveloper.”
Combined with moving to a different digital press, the Bell and Howell Invelopers let ValPak reduce the number of employees involved in mail production from more than a thousand employees to a little over 300 today. As the company looks to the future, Mr. Fox says, “We have basically the same volume of mail but with the room and capacity to grow.”
Faster time to market
A significant benefit was reduced cycle time. Time to market is critical in direct marketing, and ValPak has to be sure its customers’ offers are in the mail and reaching consumers as quickly as possible. “It used to be a 12-day cycle, and we took three days out of that,” says Mr. Fox. “That's additional selling time for our advertisers and franchisees, and it gives them the ability to reach the market faster and sell more.”
The transition to a PPF2.0 involved construction, buying and installing equipment, employee training, and implementation from 2004 to 2007. “It was a major undertaking,” says Mr. Fox, “We weren't initially looking to build a plain paper factory. We wanted to simplify our operation and optimize our labor. Now, though, the plain paper factory has added unexpected value.”
The Bell and Howell Inveloper has let ValPak shift to a true PPF2.0 in which the envelopes are printed and wrapped around the coupons in house. “We used to outsource that, but now we are using white paper for our coupons and our envelopes, printing and finishing it all in house, and sending straight to people's homes.”
“Bringing the envelope printing in-house was a one-year payback and gave us a more efficient, controlled process,” explains, Mr. Fox. “That opened up new sales opportunities because we’re now able to sell the envelope.” For example, using a PPF2.0 every ValPak envelope could bear a different outside image that could act as billboard space for the company’s advertisers. “The more we can control our processes, our supply chain, our brand, and our messages by bringing them in-house the more beneficial it is for us.”
Mr. Fox and his team found additional opportunities in quality improvements, increased automation, and new capabilities for targeting customers. For example, in a given market area some 10,000 people receive the same envelope and contents. But now, using the way the Bell and Howell Inveloper tracks and manages the mail, ValPak can target specific homes inside of that 10,000. They could deliver a different message to a home that is a Verizon customer than a neighbor that is an AT&T customer. “We're partnering with some of our advertisers who do those types of things,” says Mr. Fox. “It wouldn't be possible if we didn't have the Bell and Howell Inveloper.”
Challenges: Glue and inkjet
One of the last steps the Inveloper performs when wrapping a mailer is applying the glue that ensures a proper closure. But because of the interaction between glue and the substrate no one type of glue can be used for every application.
“We went through a lot of iterations in finding the right glue,” says Mr. Fox. “Some glues sealed too well while others were opening up at the post office. It took some time to fine tune that, with the help of Bell and Howell.”
Another challenge was adapting to the use of an inkjet press. “We inkjet the address on the envelope and have to make sure it doesn't smear and that the barcode is readable after being handled by the Inveloper.”
Don't underestimate the change!
Mr. Fox says not to underestimate what this transition is going to take, both regarding the equipment required and time for your staff learning to use it. “The technology is different, and there are a lot of things at work. Bell and Howell lived in Florida with us for a long period and worked with us throughout the whole process.”
Mr. Fox also encourages Inveloper adopters to incorporate as much automation as possible throughout an operation. “I know that can be hard and more expensive, but the more you do in your operation and the further you go out in your supply chain by bringing more in-house, the greater the benefits, the more control you have, and the more opportunities you create for your company.”
The next installment of this 4-Part Plain Paper Factory Series will show how AccuDoc Solutions, a specialist in healthcare revenue cycle management, is using Bell and Howell Plain Paper Factory technology to optimize cash recoveries while enhancing patient satisfaction.