Most organizations receive and send documents in order to communicate with their internal and external customers. In this context, documents can be any and all pieces of formal information sent through any media. It can be traditional paper, email, SMS messages, or an XML file. All these types of documents are created within a business process by employees or information systems. The final delivery of the physical documents is usually done through the mailroom of an organization. Before the mailroom there is the print production center. Here all the documents of the organization are printed, inserted in envelopes and sent by regular postal services. Over the past years, there has been a lot of effort to optimize the internal business process through Business Process Redesign and all sorts of other techniques. The print and mailrooms are being optimized with all sorts of software packages to improve manual document handling. The combination of document handling and production and the process of publishing has nearly been found. This lack of integration still leads to extreme waste in the process (Lean), errors in the final delivery of the document (Six Sigma), and issues within the closed-loop processes.
Lean Six Sigma techniques are frequently used to optimize internal business processes. The usage of Lean Six Sigma to optimize the production processes in a print and mailroom are not yet so common. This creates a gap between the optimized internal business process which could lead to potential issue (i.e. in the print and mailroom different documents need to be merged into a single mail piece.) Due to fragmented delivery of the documents, a lot of additional work needs to be done to create a faultless process within the print and mailroom. The internal process and the print and mailroom might be optimized at an individual level; however, since the processes are not aligned with each other, an undefined amount of time is lost to bridge the separate processes. Until both processes are examined in an integrated Lean Six Sigma approach, there will only be sub-optimization.
At a large global life insurance company, the integrated optimization using Lean Six Sigma techniques brought remarkable results. The initial concern from the insurance company was reducing the average publishing (printing) window of the policies from 12 hours to 8 hours. This was based on the issue that the policy distribution process took too long during peak moments. After further investigation of the entire process, it became clear that a policy took up to 15 days due to multiple points in the authorization processes. By redesigning the publishing process, the authorization process could be done in parallel steps based on electronic information. The final result was that the average business process from request to policy delivery was reduced from 15 days to 3 days.
The following recommendations are a summary of the activities which need to be done in order to enable the optimization of an integrated document business and publishing process.
- Map the business process with the (IT) applications used. Not from a task perspective, but from a document perspective.
- Do a Root Cause Analysis of the Print and Mailroom inefficiencies.
- Describe the full document structure with the delivery applications. For example, which applications create which piece of the final document? Is it an insurance policy, training manual, etc?
- Optimize the print and mailroom processes.
- Work-up and optimize the business processes and the applications used to create the documents.
Oscar Dubbeldam has more than 20 years of experience in the document processing industry. As project manager, he architected several multi-million euro projects with significant savings in the business process and document production facility. He worked for 12 years at Unisys, 12 years at Xerox and, since 2007, has been a partner of a European strategy advice and consultancy organization for Output Management.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org