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 3 - Rob Cass, AccuDoc
In Part 3 of this 4-Part Plain Paper Factory Series, Rob Cass, President of AccuDoc Solutions in Raleigh, North Carolina describes how his
company implemented and benefits from a PPF2.0 enabled by Bell and Howell Inveloper technology.
AccuDoc specializes communication in solutions for the healthcare industry, including revenue cycle management, optimizing cash recovery, and enhancing patient satisfaction.
“When we started the company in 2005 we were 100% print and mail. Today that is split between about 80% print and mail and about 20% digital delivery. The digital side includes e-statements, mobile solutions, patient portals, and payment portals,” explains Mr. Cass.
By 2013 AccuDoc was outgrowing its facility due to the addition of cut-sheet printing systems, inserters, and employees. Keeping up with demand required a second shift, then a partial third shift. Hunting for efficiency, Mr. Cass and his team went to Graph Expo 2014, where they examined roll-to-roll inkjet printers and were introduced to Bell and Howell Inveloper technology. “That was the beginning a journey from using cut-sheet pre-printed stock to a plain paper factory,” says Mr. Cass. “And for the next 18 months, that's what we did.”
Prior to implementing a roll-to-roll press and the Bell and Howell Inveloper AccuDoc used pre-printed cut-sheet shells on various stocks for about 80% of the company’s jobs, with the rest being done on a small full-color press. Continuous feed inkjet printing started in December 2015, and the company began using the Bell and Howell Inveloper in July 2016. “About 90% of our customers don't even know we made an equipment change,” says Mr. Cass. “A few had some unique needs, and Bell and Howell was fantastic in helping us find solutions.”
“We now use the same type of paper in two different sizes,” relates Mr. Cass. “We use an 18-inch roll for printing the hospital statements and patient communications, and a 9.5-inch roll for the envelopes that bear our security permit and postal indicia. All the paper is the same stock, other than some business reply envelopes that are needed for some applications. Plus, the envelopes coming out of the Inveloper have a better look and feel than the ones we used before.”
Shifting to a single stock has also yielded labor savings, notes Mr. Cass. “We use used to spend a lot of time managing inventory, but now it is completely streamlined. Unless our volumes change, our supply is pre-ordered for the next year. We know when different jobs are showing up, so for us, the PPF2.0 is simply plain paper coming in with printed material going out.”
Getting up to Speed
“We had a little bit of an advantage because Bell and Howell's world headquarters is eleven miles from our office,” admits Mr. Cass. “They set up our machine at their facility, and we gave them material to test. That helped ensure they already had solutions for us when we installed the new machines.”
Still, after ten years of running inserters, one of AccuDoc’s biggest challenges was training its staff as operators for the Bell and Howell Inveloper. “After running inserters, they operated individually, they had to learn how to work on a team with other people. They have to be thinkers and problem-solvers because they were suddenly faced with different issues.”
In retrospect, Mr. Cass thinks 60 days of training would have been better than the 30 days his staff had. “But extra time is the only thing I would change. Bell and Howell was always there for us and worked right beside us. For the first 30 days, the Bell and Howell technicians helped us all run the machines. They were the primary ones that we looked to because our guys knew what to do, but they didn't know how to solve any issues that came up. That part of the learning curve was our biggest challenge.”
Internally, Mr. Cass says employee morale at AccuDoc has significantly improved. “We've gone from two and a half shifts working 22 hours a day to one shift working 10 hours a day. Our employees work four 10 hour shifts and get the fifth day off. Then every seventh week they get a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off. We're a small company with just 20 employees. There were 26 before we moved to a PPF, so we did lose some positions, but our people all work as teams that take their breaks and eat lunch together. It's created a family atmosphere that we enjoy and love.”
“Looking ahead I picture possibilities,” says Mr. Cass. “We work with hospitals to communicate with their patients.”
Hospitals’ marketing departments typically work separately and independently from the patient and accounting sides of healthcare. Now, though, inkjet printing and Bell and Howell Inveloper technology can leverage marketing, accounting, and patient information in new ways. “Marketing departments from some of the big healthcare systems we work with are asking if this is something we can do. We haven't worked on it yet, but it’s a line of business we've identified that we couldn’t do before we had the Bell and Howell Inveloper.”
Because the system has only been fully operational since July of 2016, Mr. Cass plans to complete what he calls ‘Phase one’ before taking anything else on. That includes, “getting everything to a normal state, and working exactly as required. Beyond that, we know we're not going outside of healthcare,” he says. “Even though inkjet and the Inveloper offer a lot of opportunity, healthcare will stay our focus.”
While Mr. Cass urges others to make the change, he also warns, “Don’t underestimate it. We were very methodical, took a long time to make our decision, and planned it all out. Take the time and think of everything, even the small stuff.”
When Mr. Cass and his team came back from Graph Expo, they wondered if the equipment needed, and the changes required were affordable. “Twelve months later, we concluded, that we couldn’t afford not to do it. When you look at all the different pieces of it, the ROI isn't three months out, but it is certainly less than three years. So, it's a short period of time when you look at the capabilities, what you can do, and the opportunities you have.”
According to Mr. Cass, AccuDoc is experiencing 85–90% uptime on its Bell and Howell Inveloper. He says there is much less downtime than he experienced with inserters. “You still have preventative maintenance and certain things you have to do, but when you are down the nice thing is that this machine is fast. We run ours at 25,000 an hour, so getting back in sequence is not hard if you're down for an extra hour or so. You can recover very quickly.”
“Moving to a plain paper factory has been a fantastic move for us. It has streamlined our operation, our personnel, and given us the ability to move our business into the next phase. We feel like we have the opportunity to quadruple in size with the equipment that we have, just by adding some more personnel as well as any consumables that we use on a market basis.”