The First Steps: Documents and Forms (Part 2)

By Colin Thompson

This is the first in a series by Colin Thompson on the importance of a 'Print Management Service Program. Due to the length of the articles, some may, like this one, run in two parts. To catch up, read Part 1, which ran on November 6, 2007. --ODJ

Document/Form Identification

There are two primary ways to identify a document/form, by its title or by its document/form number. There are many different ways to assign document/form numbers, but keep in mind that a the number is just an identifier --not a code. The way the Print Management program works on identification is a master control number in sequential order followed by a family number which is the department, by a function number which is the numbered document/form being used in that department and the date the document/form was initiated for use.

Document/Form numbers and titles are the two most useful ways of identifying a document/form. Generally the number is most useful to the people who control the Print Management program, while the title is most useful to the document/form users. All documents/forms have titles. The title should be brief but descriptive. It is also best to place the subject first and the action second. For example, 'Employment Application' instead of 'Application for Employment'. An alphabetical catalogue will list the subject first and avoid many 'requests for', 'notice of', 'application form', and 'listings'.

After the document/form has been in use and is revised for any reason, it must be given a revision date so that the records can be updated accordingly. This must be entered on all data appertaining to this particular document/form.

Indexes and Files

Once a document/form has a number and a title, it can be entered into a database or word processor system with sorting capability. Creating an index by document/form number, alphabetically by title, and alphabetically by sponsoring department. Remember that users often use a document/form title of function, but not the document/form number. Having an index by title or department can be a lifesaver.

There are three types of files for document/form control-the master control, the family control and functional control. The master control file contains everything you need to know about a document/form history, such as the document/form initiation request, proof approvals, specifications and copy of each for revision, production notes and comments, artwork and so forth. Artwork may be filed separately or there may be nothing in the master file but the artwork and current samples and the original request document/form. The other types of files used in the document/form control are the family and function files.

The goal of the family and functional file is to improve productivity by reducing clerical effort. The family file is an indicator for the department for which the document/form is being used and the functional file reveals and brings together all related documents/forms within each department. One sample of each document/form is filed by the function it serves, not by the department name or subsidiary name. Print Management specialists always file by master, family and functional records.

The functional file is beneficial because you can spot document/form duplications, overlapping documents/forms and good candidates for document/form consolidations. This is an extremely useful file, but one that requires know-how to start and considerable time to maintain. Very few companies have functional files, yet to conduct Print Management correctly, a functional file is highly recommended.

Document/Form Tests

Another document/form control function is testing the proposed document/form to see if it works in the real environment. Based on the test results, the design, the layout, wording, and so forth can be modified and then re-tested. Document/form testing is especially needed when diverse groups within a company need to use such documents/forms as check requests, purchase, use the document/form requisitions, expense statements.

Testing is a must if a document/form is received by (and if it must be interpreted by) the general public. Two good examples are tax documents/forms and telephone bills. Testing is also necessary if the document/form is completed by the public-for example applications for social security or employment.

Testing is needed when diverse groups within a company need to use common documents/forms.

Document/Form Identification

Another document/form control function is the obsolescence study. Departments rarely notify the Print Management group when a document/form is no longer in use. It is up to the Print Management staff to initiate an obsolescence study.

Why find out if a document/form is obsolete? In part, cutting out obsolete documents/forms helps reduce record keeping and file space. Warehousing costs can be reduced by decreasing the number of documents/forms stored, and the amount of space used. Finally, if the total number of documents/forms never shows a decrease, management will question what is being done to manage the documents/forms and to keep them under control.

How does one perform an obsolescence study? That depends on several factors. How easy is it to review the order history' manual or automated'? That depends on several factors. How much clerical support is available to pull samples, check the order history, and check on replacement sponsors? Are filing and warehousing space at a premium?

After the sponsor has returned the enquiries, there is still much work to do. If the document/form is active, find out why it has not been ordered for so long. Are the users photocopying the document/form or have they arranged for printing on their own?

If the document/form is cancelled, what is replacing it? If the replacement document/form does not have a document/form number, there is more follow up work to do. When a document/form is cancelled, it must be removed from active to cancelled status and all records purged. For instance, the document/form index, from history file, from artwork file, etc all must be closed down. The artwork and history files are moved to an inactive file or records storage area.

Under no circumstances should ordering of paper or pre-printed forms be done by any department: for full control it must all be ordered through the Print Management team.

The results on all obsolescence studies should be reported to management. Include the number of enquiries sent the responses received the cancellations processed and the square footage free in the warehouse. Other interesting findings should be reported as well.

Management Reports

A Print Management Service Program, whether in-house or vendor supplied, must continually justify its existence. Management wants pertinent statistics, the number of new, revised, cancelled and reprinted documents/forms as well as total number of documents/forms. To continue justifying being part of the team information on document/form improvement should also be provided.

Document/Form improvement boils down to three goals, fewer documents/forms, better documents/forms and more economical documents/forms. Show management these three issues every time you file a Print Management report.

To achieve fewer documents/forms, you must eliminate unused documents/forms, consolidate existing documents/forms, and merge new document/form requests with existing documents/forms, file existing documents/forms to serve new requests without modification.

Better documents/forms means creating more clerically efficient documents/forms-enabling increased worker productivity and reducing human error. Remember, documents/forms are designed differently based on whether they will be completed by hand, machine or by computer. For instance, one needs to take into account correct spacing, carriage returns, and hand entry; make sure strike out boxes are aligned properly, ensure that there is design consistency, and take care to see that file holes are pre-punched so that employees do not have to punch each document/form as it is used. Think ahead and save clerical money!

Most economical documents/forms means they are designed to reduce printing costs as well as storage and distribution costs. To keep costs low, use standard paper sizes, standard paper color sequences, and standard ink colors. Do not get caught in the trap of making recommendations to save manufacturing dollars if clerical processing time will be increased. This is a false saving. Remember that the clerical cost of processing a document/form has been calculated to cost at 20 times the cost of printing a document/form.

An easy way to report documents/forms improvements to management is to provide a simple list of the document/form numbers and a brief description of the improvements by category 'consolidation', improved clerical efficiency, reduces manufacturing costs'. Include in the value example hard dollar savings of each of these improvements as well.

The statistical and description reporting should be done on a monthly basis. But there are many other opportunities, such as special projects or displays, to let management know what the Print Management program has done for the organization recently.

Warehousing and Distribution Considerations

There are several options for the Print Management team to determine how to keep the company supplied with documents/forms. One option is to use electronic documents/forms and have no-printed documents/forms, but this is not a viable option for most companies. Another choice is to print documents/forms on demand. This works well for low volume cut sheets or pre-collated carbonless sets. However, it is not cost effective for specialty items such as custom continuous documents/forms, unit sets with special features, tags, labels or special envelopes. As a result, most companies require some sort of storage for the documents/forms which are used in large volumes or which are printed in advance using specialized equipment.

Companies can obtain warehousing and distribution fairly easily. A manual in-house operated stock room or automated warehouses are possible choices. Most Print Management companies manage the total flow of documents/forms, whereby you do not need the cost of warehousing and distribution.

Well-managed warehousing and distribution is important to the Print Management program. Why? Because knowing when stocks are reaching their depletion point allows time to review the situation. For instance, documents/forms can be reviewed prior to reprinting; and the review can be used for additional analysis-and possibly the analysis will lead to additional document/form considerations. Adequate lead times also eliminate rush printing charges-allowing the Print Management team to get the right item to the right people, at the right time and at the lowest cost.

Correct Data Entry

The maximum' garbage in, garbage out' (meaning, you will get inaccurate statistics and reports if your input data is incorrect) was never truer than in this instance. Accurate information regarding usage, ordering and reordering are totally dependent on quality control of data input. All of these reports affect the ability of the Print Management program to ensure that documents/forms are available when needed and that documents/forms pricing is not subject to emergency charges. Of course, no data entry is ever going to be 100% accurate, cross verification from other sources can be useful and a physical inventory should be carried out at least once every six months to double check the report inventories.

There are a number of reports from the warehouse that are useful to the team-quantity on hand, reorder notices, monthly order history and end usage information.

  • Quantity On Hand details the current inventory of each document/form. It can also include such items as unit of issue, value of each item and last reorder date and quantity. The value of each document/form details how much the inventory is worth. This is useful for budgeting and insurance purposes.
  • Reorder reports shows which documents/forms are at a depletion point. The documents/forms on the reorder report can be cross-referenced to a document/form list sorted by size to help determine combination orders.
  • Monthly order history gives trend information. It helps with documents/forms that are used seasonally. It is also useful when trying to predict accurately when a document/form must be reordered.


The ideas in these articles are a good place to start if considering the implementation of a 'Print Management Service Program' or while evaluating an existing program. Remember, when run properly a 'Print Management Service Program' positively affects the companies 'bottom-line' in a very positive way, you save an enormous amount of money and become more efficient and effective in operating your business. This is a 'win-win' solution for both organizations print providers and their customers.

Print Documents/Forms are a part of every companies business whether provided in-house or from a vendor or by a combination of the two. A 'Print Management Service Program' should be an essential part of every companies business as the third dimension of control for your company.