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DPI Sees Value in Automation

Published on November 15, 2011

Susan Moore with DPI in Atlanta shares with Cary Sherburne the value of automation measured in both time and money saved.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi.  I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Susan Moore of DPI in Atlanta.  Great to see you. 

Susan Moore:  Hi, Cary.  Great to be here.

Cary Sherburne:  So you’ve implemented fairly recently some pretty significant automation tools in your business.  Maybe you could talk about what drove you to looking for something and then what impact that’s had on your business.

Susan Moore:  Well, I don’t know if you heard VJ’s speech about our future business coming from the Cloud, and a lot of our content is going to come from there in the future.  And we’ve seen that since at DPI we entered web-to-print in the ’98 through ’98, then 2002 and 2003 we pretty much saw the writing on the wall that we had to make a complete evolution on our thought process on how we do work.  And it’s not about doing one job of 100,000 pieces; it’s doing 100,000 unique jobs, shipping them all singly in a package.  And as you can imagine, the workflow for those two would be completely different.

Cary Sherburne:  Right.

Susan Moore:  So through the evolution of web-to-print, we also realized that no one web-to-print technology fits everything so we’ve evolved and we’ve had several under our roof.  And Bob Moore, who is my partner in the business, said that we have to figure out how to manufacture everything through some kind of automated tool that will allow us to feed from any tentacle; that it doesn’t have to restrict because you bought X you have to do it Y way, or because you bought Y you have to do it X way.  

So he embarked on automating our facility about two years ago and putting in tools that would, no matter what software we used on the front end, would receive an order, process an order the same way, be able to bypass certain departments in our company, be able to drive bar code or technology for job tickets automatically, be able to drive equipment through bar codes, and also be able to ship without human entry.  So, you know, it’s a long process to go through, an evolution in your company that’s a mindset.  So you not only have to retrain your people but you also have to help them figure out how to work with the technology and let the technology drive the process.  So I can finally say that we have completed that process successfully after a year-and-a-half, two years.

Cary Sherburne:  Congratulations.

Susan Moore:  And in the December timeframe was the first time that we were able to ship 3,000-4,000 packages a day without going through the front-end human touch point.  And so automation—to get to serving one you have to have automation regardless of what tool you use.  So from my perspective—we use PressWise—but, you know, from my perspective it’s all about the automation.

Cary Sherburne:  You know, it’s interesting, when we talked earlier you had indicated that prior to implementing the automation there was about a three-hour administrative time consumption with every order.

Susan Moore:  Correct, right.

Cary Sherburne:  So if you’re shipping, you know, a $30 business card order or a $5 whatever, that’s $105 bucks.

Susan Moore:  Exactly.  I think cumulatively if we did our online in the prior process, you look at—when we looked at the billing settlement, the shipping settlement, the prequalification at the beginning to make sure it all came in right; we were spending about three hours per order.  And it was pretty clear after we made the commitment to drive our business through portals that we had to change our complete mindset.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.  And there’s no way for 1,000 orders…

Susan Moore:  No way.

Cary Sherburne:  I mean like we say, you know, you could throw people at it but it’s not affordable.

Susan Moore:  No, it’s not affordable and you wouldn’t get the packages out on time.  It’s just—it’s not a business model.

Cary Sherburne:  Exactly.  Well, that’s really exciting because, you know, a lot of businesses I think that were in your—there’s a lot of businesses where you were before, and it’s kind of an overwhelming thing; you know, how do I get to here, and to hear a story about somebody that’s actually done it in a relatively short period of time I think will be encouraging for people.

Susan Moore:  Yeah.  I think we were ambitious.  We were hoping to do it in six months and it took us a year and a half.  So, you know, we don’t think that’s a short amount of time but there’s a lot of re-education that has to happen, and the paradigm and the mindset change was the hardest thing, you know.  To not actually pull a proof and look at everything is something that, you know, in our shop that mindset—overcoming that mindset and putting in the checks and balances to make sure that the process itself would take care of that; that you didn’t have to have a human being taking care of that.  So it was challenging but it’s something we had to do.

Cary Sherburne:  And from a customer perspective, did you find—were there any challenges with getting them to accept this, for example, not having a hard copy proof?

Susan Moore:  Right.  Not in our world because in our engagements when we set up templates they all sign off on standards for proofs, so once that’s done we don’t show the proofs any more.  So from a user experience, the only thing that has changed is we are on time much closer now than we were before.  Instead of being 90 percent on time we’re like 97 percent on time.  Our accuracy has gone up because there’s not a margin of error for the person typing in the shipping or exporting into the wrong area.  So we’ve just improved the experience of our customer.  So our customer, although, you know, we told the story and helped the customers understand what we were going through, they didn’t really experience any change except for they “aha” noticed afterwards what the change was, if that makes sense.

Cary Sherburne:  What the change was, yeah.  And most of your orders are shipped next day?

Susan Moore:  I would say depending on the storefront, we ship anywhere from next day to three days.  So we have some products that are die cut or have special coatings on them and we don’t ship those next day, we’ll ship those in two or three days.  I can, you know, I believe that over time as our capacity grows we will be in a 24-hour mode constantly, and that’s a growth we’re looking forward to.

Cary Sherburne:  And you referenced as your capacity grows that you’ve really built a scalable business.

Susan Moore:  And that’s the exciting thing is that the infrastructure that Bob has placed in to funnel all the work we can scale with and we don’t have to go reinvent this wheel again.  So that’s very exciting.

Cary Sherburne:  Congratulations.  It’s really quite an achievement.

Susan Moore:  Thank you, thank you.

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