Does the thought of automating your workflow, taking your business paperless and maintaining a secure environment, make you short of breath? Do you want to give up before you ever get started? If so, then first, you are not alone. Second, take a deep breath. Now, great marathon runners did not train overnight, nor are great workflow and automation processes that deliver optimal productivity.

The demand for modern business managers to evolve to secured digital documents and automate workflows is increasing, and it’s critical to remember that the process is more of a marathon, not a sprint.

There are four key stages of transitioning to automated workflows.

  1. Paper Processes: 
    • Today’s multifunctional devices are advanced and serve as output management tools as well as an on-ramp to digital workflows. A few features such as secure printing with badge swipe or password authentication help reduce and secure output. Advanced Capture and Data Extraction is a key piece to onboard with an Electronic Document Management (EDM), specifically converting paper files to electronic files by scanning. In some cases, these could be a timely and error prone process if these are manually keyed into the EDM solution. Advanced Capture software allows for organizations to automate the scanning process by eliminating manual indexing and extracting important information to be placed into your line-of-business applications. The right equipment and management strategies will ensure that you are reducing unnecessary output, controlling output access, and building a ramp to a digital document management system – all while improving security of document information.
  2. Electronic Document Management
    • Advanced cloud technologies have helped facilitate secure document management systems, making document information secure and accessible from anywhere at any time. As you transition from paper processes you will see this system develop. A way to automate the document management system is through the use of online forms. Accessible from anywhere at anytime, these forms automatically populate systems.
  3. Business Process Automation
    • Once you evolve by optimizing paper processes and setting up electronic document management, you can advance to automated, rules based workflows. Setting up rules to automatically route, track and distribute documents is a significant step to reaching the pinnacle of automation.
  4. Optimized Processes
    • The bad news is that the marathon doesn’t really end. On-going optimization of systems, made more attainable through metrics provided, is critical to ensuring you stay in the race and in front of what comes next.

What is every corporation’s fondest wish for their team members?  It has to be for each of them to be as productive and efficient as possible to create an atmosphere of success.  This is challenging, but I believe this is something corporate America must consciously strive for each day.

To help make this dream a reality we are finding that the well-defined workflow and automation within a company contributes greatly to the outcome and measurement of efficiency and productivity.  There are four contributors to workflow and automation that are technology based and have proven to advance each of these goals.


1. Enterprise Mobility

We see the team members using smartphones, tablets, and applications at an increased rate, and BYOD (bring your own device) has now become standard, to facilitate access to information from anywhere, at anytime. The degree of mobility that we have reached has hit a plateau of adoption, but also created a need for companies to develop a mobility strategy as well as a document and information management strategy.


2. Internet of Things

The internet of things has allowed workers to not only be connected but also look beyond their corporate software to find applications that have increased their ability to perform their duties.  Although at first glance this appears to be a positive impact on performance, it can also present a threat to security, requiring that companies adopt an information security strategy. For example, team members choosing to use an electronic document software application that falls outside the company’s network could put the organization at risk.


3. Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing permits more information to be stored and retrieved by team members from anywhere at anytime. The initial impact has increased the ability for team members to obtain vital information as well as collaborate on projects. These two factors alone have greatly improved the workflow process and helps bring projects to closure much faster.  The concern here is that with increased access to information that data must be secured and protected from intrusion and hacking.  Documents kept in free public storage drives could put your organization at risk. It’s a company’s responsibility to ensure information is secure.


4. Big Data

Big Data which is related to the vast amount of information that we are able to obtain and how we are able to use this data. With Big Data, companies are better equipped to perform their work in a streamlined manner.  Today we are exposed to detailed information that allow us to analyze, capture, search, share, store, and transfer that information at a click of a mouse.  Along with this enhancement to our workflow also comes great responsibility and need for security. For example, companies may monitor and manage all printer fleets by analyzing actual usage details from page counts, page coverage and color/black and white ink usage to ensure they are paying the most efficient amount for their printing.

These four contributors are making a profound impact on workflow efficiency and productivity, but as mentioned, with all these contributors comes risk and responsibility.

With tremendous buzz behind “web-to-print” software, many marketers are turning to these platforms as a means to streamline marketing workflows. It’s important to look at this automation strategy as more than just an e-storefront software that allows users to order customized printed collateral on demand. Rather, view this strategy as a provider based solution capable of automating management of several key program areas. 

Below are some areas of marketing management that you can automate with web to print solutions.

  1. Brand Compliance: Protect and build brand equity by providing access to approved marketing materials and pre-approved customization options. Reduce the need to create un-approved “local” marketing collateral.
  2. Promotional Products Distribution: E-storefronts with web-to-print solutions may also be used as a portal to manage fulfillment of pre-approved, branded promotional products and apparel. Expand your web-to-print system to streamline all marketing orders into one portal. 
  3. Business Forms & Tools: Think beyond marketing to include training and financial products on the web-to-print portal.
  4. Budget Management: One demand and up-to-date reports are available to track expenses, leverage the tools to control spending by user or region and reduce manual labor for this task.
  5. Activity Tracking: Product usage reports provide a great platform to gauge activity levels of users and regions for specific programs.

These are key areas that you can automate through expanding your definition of web-to-print. With that, it is also important to evaluate the strategy as a solution and not a product and thus scrutinize the provider as such. See below for steps to how the RJ Young “Web-to-Print & Promotional Products” solution works. Click here to download.

The main objectives for a company today are to increase productivity while reducing expenses.  These demands are why most businesses are looking at ways to automate their workflow processes, as automation is a key strategy to meet these demands. These same strategy of automating should be applied to maintaining a company’s desktop printer fleet with a data collection agent— an often overlooked opportunity to make strides in meeting increased productivity and profitability demands of modern businesses.

Undeniably, desktop printers are an important part of a company’s network, but are often not given enough attention to ensure optimal efficiency. In fact, most organizations underestimate their total printing costs by 30-40%. Furthermore, a large number of company’s don’t even track what they are spending on printing, which eats up as much as 15% of annual business spending, when equipment, supplies and maintenance across an organization are added up.

The first step to reigning in expenses associated with managing a fleet of printers is to gain visibility into the fleet activity and costs. Installing a data collection software tool will facilitate the ability to monitor and maintain the printer fleet by providing accurate and timely statistics as well as automated maintenance alerts.

For example, one of the biggest recurring printing costs is replenishing toner.  The data collection software gives you visibility of the toner levels, and allows a company to order toner as needed instead of having capital tied up in keeping a stocked supplies inventory.  The same data collection software can facilitate the auto-replenishment of toners in many instances, replacing the need for a manager to manually order toner.

Next, there are software tools that provide reporting on printer usage and help direct usage to printers with the best total cost of ownership.  For example, higher-volume printers are typically less expensive to operate than smaller desktop printers.  For this reason, it is in a company’s best interest to maximize these models when present.

It isn’t effective to have high-volume printers located where they aren’t being used properly, nor to have a low-end printer in a location where it will be overloaded.  Software can automatically generate statistics, and reports, about printer usage, allowing a company to accurately and swiftly make informed decisions about how to best utilize printer resources.  

The last benefit of installing a data collection software tool that I would like to mention is that it can help discourage the misuse of color printing.  Color printers, and their toner, are much more expensive than monochrome.  Users should be encouraged to only print in color when it is necessary, and they should only be able to print to the printers that are cost-effective.  The same reports can provide data to facilitate optimum placement of printers.     

There are many demands on your business, leveraging simple software tools to manage the placement of printers and replenishment of supplies can help automate reporting to gain visibility of total print cost for your organization, provide guidance for optimizing printer fleets and also auto replenish supplies to reduce costs.

RJ Young, one of the largest independent office technology dealers in the United States, today announced the acquisition of Advantage Business Solutions, Inc. (ABS) to expand its printing, promotional products and end-to-end marketing fulfillment services to help businesses improve management of their marketing collateral and workflow.

ABS, based in Nashville, is a leading supplier of print and promotional products, servicing clients nationwide. The acquisition strengthens RJ Young’s end-to-end printing and marketing fulfillment capabilities by adding ABS’s experienced team, expanding RJ Young’s nationwide account base and facilitating access to key vertical markets.

“This acquisition demonstrates our commitment to aggressive growth through investing in key solutions that integrate with our current business, and further illustrates RJ Young’s commitment to customers by investing in services that they need in order to succeed,” said Chip Crunk, president and chief executive officer of RJ Young.

Crunk added, “ABS’s experienced team will add value for RJ Young customers choosing to outsource the management of printing, promotional products and fulfillment, and our in-house information technology, web-to-print and document solutions will enhance the value for current ABS customers.”

RJ Young plans to assume management of ABS accounts, estimated at $3.5 million annually, and transition ABS’s 13 employees, by the end of this month. ABS operated for 16 years from their headquarters at 6213 Charlotte Pike in Nashville.