General Electric In-Plant Bags Technical Excellence Award
Press release from the issuing company
(*International Publishing Management Association) January 21, 2002 - Portland General Electric's (PGE) in-plant may soon run out of space to display its many awards. In 2001, Dr. Wes Friesen, the utility company's manager of Billing and Remittance Operations, was presented on behalf of his team the 2001 Technical Excellence Award, co-sponsored by MailCom and Mail Systems Management Association.
An electric utility, serving over 730,000 customers in Oregon, PGE was also named Mailer of the Year by the Greater Portland Postal Customer Council, garnering a cover story in Mail Magazine.
"All of the recognition, earned as a team, reflects our ongoing efforts to better meet the needs of our parent organization," Friesen believes.
During the past two years, this one-stop shop for printing and automated mailings slashed printing costs in half by bringing color in-house for the first time. Services were also expanded to include scanning, CD burning, electronic interfacing with printers and an on-line business card ordering system.
PGE's in-plant also converted from narrow box-feed printers to wider, roll-feed printers, to produce wider bills with highlight color, as well as other support and marketing materials.
The conversion positioned them as one of only two IBM-based shops on the West Coast that prints duplex and adds highlight color. PGE also doubled the number of insert stations from six to 12, while adding a stamp affixer and ink jet addresser -all to better meet the needs of the company.
"We have also instituted Mark Sense technology, rarely used in the utility industry, to improve communications with the customer and support retail services." He explains, "It's an ingenious method that enables us to electronically capture customer address changes, comments and requests off the back of the bill remittance stubs."
The shop also consolidated Automated Mail Services and Printing Services from two locations using 13,000 square feet to a single 6,000 square foot area increasing the in-plant's operational efficiency.
Vowing never to be caught off guard by equipment breakdowns, the operation has formalized two reciprocal emergency back-up agreements with other remittance operations in town, one for remittance processing and one for mail opening. A similar agreement for bill production is underway.
These achievements and an outstanding track record in performing day-to-day operations has won them accolades. "We never waiver from our stated mission to be a world class provider of printing and mailing products and services," says Friesen. "Our desire is to be recognized as a premier service provider that is comparable to any operation of similar size anywhere in the country."
To achieve this mission, Friesen follows the concept of continuous improvement and learning. "I believe in being leading edge, but not bleeding edge, when it comes to keeping up with all of the changes in technology."
And they are a leading edge in-plant. Last year the Printing & Automated Mail Services section, staffed by nine operators/technicians under the supervision of Eric Houger, produced 21 million pages of documents and mailed 12 million pieces.
"Customer bills and notices are by far our biggest output, printing, inserting and mailing about 10 million just last year," Friesen notes. The department utilizes a variety of equipment including a Xerox 8830 for large documents, a Xerox DocuColor 2045 and Savin 410E for color, a DocuTech 6135 for high speed copy/printing and finishing, an IBM 3160 for mainframe printing and two IBM 4000s and a 4005 Highlight Color printer for continuous feeds.
Mailing operations are supported by two Bell and Howell Inserters (MailStar 500 and System 3000) along with a variety of labeling, tabbing and folding equipment.
The in-plant's other arm, Cash Remittance Services, headed by Barbara Navarra and her staff of 10 (three of which are part-time), tallied up some equally impressive numbers last year, opening, processing and depositing approximately six million customer payments totaling $840 million.
"In the utility business, cash flow is king," says Friesen. "To ensure payments are returned as quickly as possible, we make every effort to print, insert and mail 98% to 99% of our customer bills the same day." To maximize float value, payments are also opened, processed and deposited the same day as received. In fact, 2001 marked the second consecutive year that 100% of clean transactions were processed and deposited the same day.
It's little wonder why a major outsourcing study, conducted in 1999, demonstrated that the cost of maintaining an internal in-plant operation was far lower than any external vendor could provide. Friesen explains, "By maximizing the automation and sortation postal discounts, we save the company over $1 million annually, and by performing intelligent/selective inserting, keeping our bills within one ounce, we save PGE another $2 million annually!"
But he and his team will never be comfortable with status quo. "We will always be looking for ways to improve in areas that I call the three Ps:"
1. Physical assets and technology
2. People, our most valuable resource
Based on his successes, he advises others to develop a positive vision of where you would like to be and then work as a team towards achieving that vision. And he adds with a smile, "As you proceed along the pathway of success, don't forget to periodically stop and celebrate the successes that you have already achieved!"
*Reprinted with permission. IPMA is the leading association, exclusively dedicated to the in-house professionals who provide graphic design, page layout, copy, print, mail and distribution services to their enterprise. IPMA exists to provide the in-house professional the resources to attain greater productivity and cost effectiveness. Visit their web site at http://www.ipma.org
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