Short-run, three dimensional direct mail pieces starting as low as $0.70? A few years ago, this would have been unheard of, but is now a reality thanks to the automated workflows developed by Apago for Red Paper Plane.

“Our challenge had always been the prepress time required to process orders,” comments Ken Stokes, Vice President eCommerce for Red Paper Plane, a division of Structural Graphics, a dimensional direct mail company. “It was so manually-intensive there was just no way we could do short-run work at reasonable prices.” All that was about to change.

A Cost-Effective DIY Digital Storefront

In 2012, Ken Stokes was charged to create Red Paper Plane’s e-commerce store for short-run printed pieces. Stokes knew that in order for it to be successful, he needed a back-end production system that was as efficient and automated as possible. The company retained Apago to help select, integrate, and automate the components for the initiative.

Apago designed an automated workflow utilizing Enfocus Switch and Pitstop Server, HP SmartStream Designer, and Apago PDF Constructor. This automated workflow performs five critical functions: it pulls new orders from the storefront, generates high quality PDFs, builds job tickets and customized impositions, creates VDP mailing labels, and lastly, sends jobs to the HP Indigo Digital Production queue.

“These efficiencies are helping us to win new business by cutting redundant tasks and creating press ready files without human interaction, and without errors,” comments Stokes. “Customers can upload and preview their design in 3D, then order their project. The files can be sent to press without any human intervention.”

Stokes comments, “A lot of the costs associated with producing a more complex piece, especially something that gets die cut, is all in the set up and prepress. By standardizing and automating most of the tasks that were normally done manually, we are able to drive down costs and streamline the process. Our turnaround time has dropped to days instead of weeks for most projects,” adds Stokes.

”We’ve been very fruitful with our web-to-print initiative. We can produce quantities as little as 10 pieces, which was once unheard of.” Stokes adds, “In the last 6 months, the initiative has been so successful that we extended the program to handle large orders, with just slight modifications to accommodate the volume.”

“Apago played a pivotal role in the success of our web-to-print system,” comments Stokes. “The Apago team continues to provide support on an on-going basis, and because of the success of the programs, we turn to them for new client projects that were once outside our scope, which we can now easily facilitate.”

A Workflow to Keep Winning New Business

Structural Graphics has also leveraged Apago to create very custom workflows to streamline document creation for other clients. When a world class hotel chain wanted to send its newest members a personalized welcome kit, it needed a partner like Structural Graphics that could quickly deliver. For Structural Graphics, it’s a dream client: a steady stream of membership kits that get distributed worldwide, on a weekly basis. The kits include member cards, brochures and letters that are personalized in multiple languages. Because of the workflow that Apago created, Structural Graphics was able to offer a turnaround time and price point that helped it to win this new account.

How it Works

The hotel chain sends a data file containing all of the new members’ information to Structural Graphics Switch workflow where it is processed according to specific business rules. Final  personalized documents are generated and sent to press without any human interaction. “If you could imagine putting these types of files through a traditional prepress department, it would take take days,” Stokes comments. “With the Apago workflow, we’re getting press-ready files in less than an hour. It’s a huge time saver and it runs like clockwork.”

In addition to the hotel chain, Structural Graphics has been able to win business in the insurance industry and is putting together other programs for membership organizations. “Apago helped us setup a workflow to win new business because of the efficiency we were able to gain with the workflow that they put together,” comments Stokes.

Automation Means Reliability

“You don’t have to worry about mistakes because the workflow is automatically creating documents based on rules. There’s no proofing. As long as the data is going in right, it’s coming out right every time. We are saving a tremendous amount of time and reducing errors,” comments Stokes. “We’ve had very positive feedback from our staff and customers. We are growing quickly and everyone loves it.”

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