Latest Case Studies 0n Workflow Automation based on (X)JDF and PrintTalk

Here are recent examples of print providers success in using CIP4 technologies such as (X)JDF and PrintTalk to drive workflow automation in their businesses and achieve significant benefits. The equipment and software they have installed are from CIP4 member manufacturers.

The case studies have been prepared by CIP4 members in consultation with all parties involved. We would appreciate it if you could suggest possible candidates for similar case studies among your customers. Please contact CIP4 Marketing & Education.

You can also find these case studies on our website under What is (X)JDF in the Success Stories tab, along with many previous examples.


Efficient workflow automation in a small transactional print & mail facility, featuring Solimar Systems, Fiery, Riso, and Pitney Bowes technology

Since its inception, CIP4 has provided case-studies over the years which were typically focused upon large facilities with large press operations, and a critical need for workflow automation. In this study, we  look at a well-implemented example at the smaller end of the spectrum: the in-plant print & mail facility of Intact Insurance Specialty Solutions. This enterprise is a successful example of how a well-thought-out automation plan allowed the company to rethink how they produce mail for customers.  As a result, they eliminated the outsourcing of print/mail operations by bringing those roles back "inside", while reducing costs and providing greater internal control for fault-tolerant roles without a dependence upon external suppliers.

The Specialty Solutions group is a USA subsidiary of Canadian multinational Intact Insurance. This firm provides business insurance, surety bonds, and more. There is a great deal of communication with customers, ranging from welcoming the new customers, invoicing, claims management, cancelations, and similar customer-support roles.  Traditionally all communication had been mailed.  Reduction in print volumes first began in 2010, as the company changed its focus from "general" to specialty insurance (which doesn't include home or auto), followed by further initiatives toward E-billing and "paperless" transactions. The combination has dramatically reduced transactional mail volumes, which provided the incentive to rethink and re-engineer their mail-handling processes.

Identifying the Opportunity

CIP4 spoke with Robert Agusto, the Operations Print & Mail Manager in their Canton, Massachusetts office complex. Robert noted a problem: As their mail volume had declined, the cost per piece mailed had substantially increased. This was a result of the external supplier changing their internal production methods. Their supplier changed from a high-speed print & insert line, to a highly-manual process for the shorter runs, with slipsheets between sets being removed before handfeeding inserters (for example). Robert began exploring options ranging from finding a different supplier, to possibly eliminating the outside supplier completely and bringing production "in-house” to the insurance company. After their review of several outsourcing proposals, and assembling costs for inside production, the decision was made to construct a compact, automated mailing facility in-house, with a duplicate remote configuration for disaster-recovery purposes. In Robert’s words, "Converting to PDF and commanding through JDF just made the most practical sense."

The content to be printed is received as a variable AFP DataStream generated by their data center, which would now be converted to a PDF workflow.  As with most well-constructed workflows, it was a group of solutions that made the implementation swift, and successful. Robert had previous beneficial experience with Pitney Bowes mail solutions in a larger financial mailing environment, and was attracted to their smaller inserters for the Intact Insurance mailing application.  Pitney Bowes suggested considering Riso inkjet printers with the EFI Fiery option for its small footprint & reliability, and also suggested several candidate software products for conversion of AFP to PDF and the selective automated "re-engineering" of documents for printing. One of them was the Solimar Systems "Chemistry" platform, which was the same suite of products that both outsourcing proposals said they were using.  After thorough evaluation Robert chose a combination of Solimar Systems, Riso, and Pitney Bowes technology for the new in-plant print and mail facility.  JDF and JMF are two key elements of a complex workflow, with Solimar's 'Chemistry' platform assembling content, providing production oversight, generating JDF job tickets and using JMF messaging to manage printers.


In more detail, let's look at the "moving parts" of the software automation in this installation:

The Solimar Systems Chemistry platform and modules provide oversight and management of the production status in a “dashboard” format.  There are 80+ combinations of mailed documents, and each initially required a custom-scripted workflow to be created.  After initial training, all configuration and scripts were created in-house, with support from Solimar if needed. A script can automatically add-to, delete, reformat (re-engineer) AFP sourced content, as well as inserting letterhead, graphics or banners within individual pages.  The output is a single PDF document for a large batch mailing, inclusive of added MRDF (Mail Run Data Format) tracking bar codes, and a generated JDF job ticket.  The JDF ticket specifies job components, paper catalog selections and their correct tray placement.  The MRDF index coding tracks each recipient's data record and the specific printed sheets (or inserts) to ensure the inserters get every specified sheet of paper into the correct envelope with high integrity.

Each JDF job ticket and PDF file appears as a job in the Riso system’s Fiery queue.  Once in that queue, the Fiery reads the JDF job ticket and confirms which media catalog selection should be loaded in each tray for the job to be run.  Solimar's “Solitrack” software module provides a dashboard status of all jobs in process, from receipt of the AFP file (in a hot folder from the company's data center), through  Solimar's 'Rubica' module (scripted re-engineering, indexing, distilling final PDF), print, and insertion into envelopes, with constant Solimar JMF bi-directional communication with the printer and MRDF communication with the inserter.  The dashboard also reports media requirements for jobs in-queue as well as inventory consumption.  For a smaller installation like this, the Solimar software acts as the MIS (Management Information System), but it may report to another MIS in a larger commercial print environment, offering a collaborative and scalable solution by using JDF technology.

Resulting success

Intact Insurance Specialty Solutions required reliability and redundancy, and they now have both.  A secondary "mirror site", located in an Intact Solutions Connecticut office, 116 miles or 186km away (a two hour drive) has a duplicate printer configuration, with inventory.  It is run once per month to confirm everything is disaster-ready, and fault-tolerant.  The company's data center already had redundancy built-in.  As Robert said: "If the building were 'leveled', I could immediately re-point production to our alternate site and start producing there with no lost time or missed schedule."  Mail production can begin with remote location staff until the Canton staff arrives.

Robert describes this automation project as "a great success and a successful transition", and we agree:

  • It went "live" on schedule
  • Meets & exceeds SLA (service level agreements)
  • Eliminated a cumbersome manual process
  • Costs were significantly reduced, even with the addition of one person

The ability to self-edit workflow scripts make for quick changes at minimal cost when marketing alters design or graphics

Historically, many people have had the mindset that ‘Workflow Automation’ and ‘MIS integration’ were the realm of large, multi-site, full-scale integration facilities. As MIS systems and printing device capabilities have evolved, there have been expanded capabilities for the mid-sized and even localized enterprises. It is common for many facilities to be unaware of how much of their workflow could be automated, with MIS-centric planning applied to a great deal more of their work-stages. JDF/XJDF and PrintTalk specifications were developed to benefit every size organization, and as a result, many more automation implementations benefits are possible. The experience of Intact Insurance Specialty Solutions is a prime example of how to implement JDF technology to bring together distant, external and uncontrollable parts into an efficient custom workflow.

View of Baiersbronn in the Black Forest

JDF Workflow Automation at colordruck Baiersbronn

When you think of the Black Forest in southern Germany, you probably think of vast fir forests with lots of hiking trails, idyllic villages with half-timbered houses and the obligatory cuckoo clocks. You certainly don't expect to find a state-of-the-art packaging print shop there.

But that's exactly what the highly-automated colordruck print shop in Baiersbronn is. The enterprise was founded there almost 70 years ago and is still family-owned, in its 3rd generation.

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