Last month this column highlighted some common ways that money gets wasted on print and mail projects. (Click HERE to read that article). I promised to share some more ideas culled from personal experiences and unfortunate mishaps related to me by clients. We try to help our customers avoid the painful experience of letting mistakes make it out of their building. But if you are on your own, you need to be aware of the pitfalls. Here two more common ways to mess up a print and mail job.

Matching Errors - We know of shops that still rely upon the sequence of materials to ensure the right pages and their matching inserts make it into the same envelope. It's not always their choosing. Sometimes customers make it impossible to machine-match by delivering material to you without the benefit of your advice. There are three possible outcomes to this risky behavior:

1. The job ran perfectly. You know this because you checked the last envelope in the run and it had the correct contents. Of course, that doesn't mean that there weren't multiple offsetting errors somewhere else in the job. Theoretically, every mail piece between the first one and the last could be mismatched. You may never know until customers start complaining.

2. A matching error was discovered. Productivity plummets and profit margins dwindle while you work backwards, trying to figure out where the error occurred and then taking the time to manually repair the damage. Even worse, I know of cases when errors couldn't be found in a reasonable amount of time. The entire jobs got scrapped and re-created!

3. To avoid the problems described above, you stop the inserting machines periodically to visually peer into envelopes and verify the material is still in sync. Stopping the machine eats into your productivity. Slowing down the machine in an attempt to prevent jams that can cause a mismatch results in a productivity hit as well. Some shops don't seal the envelopes on the inserter to facilitate this envelope-peeking integrity method. That means there's an extra expensive step required to seal (and possibly meter) the envelopes.

We recommend investing in technology that can ensure the integrity of every piece. Cameras, or even inexpensive barcode readers can help you run your equipment at production speeds with greater confidence. There are several solutions that may work for you. Get some information and decide on the best solution, depending on the types of jobs you run.

Inadequate (or unperformed) Quality Control - In all the years I have spent in the print and mail production business, I have experienced a miniscule number of errors that slipped through quality control and made it out the door - if the established procedures were followed. The vast majority of mistakes can be prevented or caught by processes that already exist.

Catchable errors can include: printing on the wrong form, using the wrong envelope, poor print quality, folding errors, incomplete jobs, duplicate jobs, incorrect or missing inserts, alignment problems, font substitution, printing upside down or on the wrong side of the paper, incorrect meter amounts, using the wrong postal permit, and more.

Developing procedures such as requiring a supervisor to review printer or finishing equipment set-up, or careful end-of-job balancing is a great idea. But it takes constant reinforcement to make sure those procedures are followed every time. Operators get so used to everything being OK that they start to believe that the QC procedures are no longer necessary. They might initial the check list, but they don't really do a complete inspection. Management must be vigilant about making sure that established processes are followed as they were designed.

One way to make sure your procedures are adequate in the first place is to request a professional review of your quality and integrity controls. Repeating an objective review on a regular basis can be an effective strategy that reinforces the importance of the procedures with the staff and also ensures you are still covered as applications are added and changed. An outside perspective is helpful. A fresh set of eyes can uncover vulnerabilities that were previously unrecognized.

An error or oversight will add unnecessary costs to projects. They can result in the loss of a customer or even a personal loss of employment. In a time when the volume of mail is decreasing, replacing lost revenue is becoming progressively more difficult.

Document operations professionals owe it to themselves, their customers, and their companies to eliminate waste and potential errors in all areas of the document workflow.

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide be more productive, adapt to changing requirements, and lower costs in their document operations. For more ideas about how to maximize your investment in document operations, connect with Mike directly at Or visit and sign up for Practical Stuff - the free newsletter for document operations.