From design and printing, to finishing touches and mailing, Michigan Farm Bureau Centralized Print department meets all the communication needs of the state’s largest general farm organization, whose mission is to represent, protect, and enhance the business, economic, social and educational interests of their farmer members. Services offered by the Print and Mail Services division include: Graphic Design; Dimensional printing; Personalized Direct Marketing; Banners and Signs; Digital and Offset printing; Bindery; Finishing; and Mailing Services.
In 2014, the Michigan Farm Bureau’s Centralized Print and Mail Services division produced 1.3 million pieces of mail, 4.2 million black and white impressions (both digital and offset), and just over 2 million color digital impressions.
The division produces all of this with seven full-time employees and one temp, with access to a pool of five designers.
To appreciate all that has been achieved to date, we need to go back to the early 2000s. Back to when the division had an MIS system that was simply incapable of meeting the demands of the department’s growth. According to Karen Meyers, Business Manager for the Michigan Farm Bureau Print and Mail Services division, “We needed a workflow solution that would give us the ability to track jobs better. Our service offering and volume were growing, and we didn’t have a strong enough system in place to support the workload or provide proper reporting.”
The group was looking towards the future and knew that they wanted to get to a point where they could offer a web-to-print storefront for their customers. Part of their service offering included a significant amount of work for county offices, supporting many events throughout the year. “We literally had one person over a four-week period just developing postcards,” declared Meyers. “We needed to automate the workflow and simplify the ordering process for our customers.”
It took nearly a year from the initial investigation for a solution, to the ultimate decision to purchase Avanti. “We needed a modular solution that would grow with us,” stated Meyers. “One of the key features was Avanti’s integration with the Great Plains accounting package. We were able to integrate it from day one!”
Avanti had come highly recommended, with a reputation as a company easy to work with, and willing to go the distance to get the job done and meet the needs of the Michigan Farm Bureau Print and Mail Services division. Once Avanti was implemented, the division was finally able to change their workflow processes. This enabled them to, amongst other things, print business cards in-house vs. outsourcing.
“There used to be so much work involved, between setup, print, etc.,” stated Meyers. “With Avanti, we could offer products for the insurance agents to order. This has significantly increased revenue opportunities.”
In 2009 the company achieved one of their goals and implemented Avanti’s eAccess, web-to-print storefront, which has significantly increased the company’s ability to assist other departments, as well as add outside clients via this online portal. Today, more than 450 agents, and 67 county offices, can order directly through eAccess. This is in addition to the more than 800 people in the Michigan Farm Bureau building.
Ten years later, the Print and Mail Services division is still growing, thanks to Avanti. In January of 2015, the Farm News Media Team, which offers video, print, and advertising services, officially partnered with the Print and Mail Services division. “I can’t see how this partnership would have been possible without Avanti,” says Meyers. “They already have a lot of outside clients. Now, combined, we can offer more services and more solutions to so many more people! This is in direct alignment with our goals to increase our workload through external customers.”
“Simply put, Avanti is my life,” says Meyers. “I have it open all day, every day. I can’t even imagine my life without it. It’s the backbone of our department. It has become our lifeline.”
The division has added new services because of the ability to take in more work through Avanti and the web storefront. In the last year, the group experienced a double-digit percent volume increase. Part of this is attributed to the ease of access to information and the ability to generate regular, detailed reports including: daily production reports; monthly production team reports; and activity reports for the Board of Directors.
Karen and her team continuously look for ways to improve the workflow. Little changes, such as a new cart to put jobs on, or how jobs are labelled, have resulted in significant impacts. “We have streamlined the overall job processing based on how Avanti tracks jobs,” explains Meyers. “Because the system is very user-friendly, it has empowered the production staff to do more in the system. This, in turn, takes the burden off of front-office staff in areas such as material entry and inventory management.”
And if the group ever runs into any troubles? “The whole Avanti team has been excellent,” claims Meyers. We can call support and be confident that our issue will be resolved quickly.” The experience has been very positive. “It’s nice to feel like we matter to Avanti. From the sales reps, to staff in the office, to support, we’re comfortable calling anyone up.”
In 2010 The Michigan Farm Bureau Print and Mail Services division joined Avanti’s Strategic Partner Group alongside other Avanti customers and industry leaders. This has enabled them to provide valuable input into the development of Avanti Slingshot, Avanti’s next-generation, browser-based Print MIS platform.
After attending her 2nd Avanti User’s Group Conference, Meyers joined the committee. “Understanding what goes on behind the scenes is exciting,” declares Meyers. “It’s great to know the positive direction of the company, and reinforces the decision made a decade ago to move to the Avanti platform.”
“Getting involved in the User’s Group has been great for the success of the department,” continues Meyers. “Even little things picked up at the conference have been huge time-savers!”
What’s up next for Karen and her team? “Mailing is growing and it’s becoming an issue,” claims Meyers. “There’s still a lot of manual work involved with processing and tracking mailings. Plus, we know that the future is in the cloud. We’re seriously contemplating our upgrade and migration options to Avanti Slingshot. It’s simply a matter of time.”