The company's existing printing system included three 45-page-per-minute (PPM) IBM printers, the newest of which was purchased the previous year, and it needed to print documents from the AS/400, two analog copiers, and two network printers to support printing jobs from the Windows NT and Novell networks. In addition, two employees each spent an average of 15 hours each week assembling individual insurance policies after they'd been printed.
AAOMS National estimates the business generated close to two million documents in the 2000 alone. "We print a boatload of documents, and it just didn't make sense to have people doing all the assembling and stapling when I knew that there were printing systems that could do it for us," said Tyk. Most of the large documents and those that required manual attention were generated using the AS/400 network and were printed on the IBM printers.
AAOMS National provides professional liability insurance coverage exclusively to oral and maxillofacial surgeons who are members of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS). AAOMS National was incorporated in 1988 and insures over 3,000 members of the association located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Search Begins
Tyk considered digital copiers as a potential replacement for the IBM printers for several reasons. First, copiers have a number of document handling and finishing capabilities that could streamline insurance policy creation process. For instance, copiers can produce duplexed or two-sided documents, they can staple and hole punch documents, and, when producing multiple sets of documents, they can sort the sets.
In addition, digital copiers can act as networked printers with the addition of a print controller. Not only does the print controller translate data from a PC into a language the copier can understand, but it has a number of document printing features, such as electronic document collation and job merging that can eliminate the need for post-printing manual processes. These features would allow AAOMS National's policy division to merge the appropriate documents to create an individual policy to be printed.
The high PPM speeds available on digital copiers also appealed to Tyk. Insurance policies are not the only documents generated by the AS/400. At the end of each month, AAOMS National must deliver claim history, claim reserve, and loss history reports to state and federal regulators. These reports are large. The biggest report is 1,100 pages long. Printing these reports takes a lot of time at the end of each month. With the higher PPM speeds available on digital copiers and the processing power of the print controllers, Tyk felt he could reduce the time the company's equipment was dedicated to printing these month-end reports.
All in all, Tyk believed a digital copier was a good solution for AAOMS National because it could quickly and easily produce the finished policy documents with a minimum of human intervention. "With the faster speeds available on digital copiers today, I anticipated that I would need only one digital copier to replace the three IBM printers," said Tyk.
AAOMS National created a criteria list for the digital copier and set out to find one that could meet the company's needs. The primary requirement was that any potential solution must be able to communicate with the company's NT, Novell, and AS/400 networks. The solution also needed to be able to print on both sides of a page (duplex), staple, sort and collate sets of documents, have a minimum print speed of 45 PPM, create PDF images of scanned documents, and work with the IPDS data format. In addition, Tyk wanted a solution that fit in his budget and was supported by a four-hour service response guarantee.
"While the major copier manufacturers all had digital copiers that were faster than 45 pages per minute, at the time, only Minolta Business Solutions had digital copiers that would talk to my AS/400 network," recalled Tyk.
Why Minolta Worked
The solution AAOMS National installed was a DiALTA Di750 digital printer/copier, a Pi7500 print controller, and a PR2000A print server from Minolta. The PR2000A held the key to the new printing system because it provided the printer interface necessary to deliver print outputs from AAOMS National's AS/400 system to Minolta's digital copier. The IBM AS/400 and iSeries servers offer the ability to produce complex documents that can include electronic form overlays, logos, multiple fonts, graphics, and barcodes. The printer data stream that produces these documents is IPDS. The PR2000A receives this data stream in its native format and converts it, in real time, to a format that is printable on a Minolta digital copier/printer. The PR2000 offers all of the features inherent in the IBM IPDS printers being emulated.
Tyk connected the PR2000A to the AS/400 over a TCP/IP network using an Ethernet connection. While all configuration, administration, and maintenance tasks may be accomplished locally by adding a standard PC monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the PR2000A, Tyk chose to set up the PR2000A to handle these tasks remotely at any Windows NT client on a network. This remote set up allows Tyk to perform these tasks from anywhere in AAOMS National's facility.
As a printer, the Di750 offered many document-handling and finishing features that have automated the printing of insurance policies in a way that couldn't be done on the company's IBM printers without a lot of extra work. For instance, AAOMS National has outfitted its Di750 with three types of paper; letterhead in the top tray, "seal" paper in another tray, and paper for endorsements in yet another tray. To ensure that information is printed on the correct type of paper, Tyk embeds paper tray instructions in the AS/400 print stream. To accomplish this same task with the IBM printers required so much programming that Tyk never bothered. It was easier to switch the paper in the trays during the day and manually collate the policies after all pages were printed.
Life in the Fast Lane
The Minolta system is off to a good start, meeting AAOMS National's primary printing needs. Its capability to output 75 PPM has significantly reduced the time it takes to print the month-end regulatory reports, and it has automated insurance policy assembly. "By automating the insurance policy creation process, the Di750 has freed up 30 staff hours each week for more productive tasks," said Tyk.
The Di750 has been installed on the company's network and is available to employees regardless of their networking environment, be it Windows NT, Novell, or AS/400. AAOMS National's employees have embraced the new printing system, so much so that the monthly page count on the Di750 was three times higher than anticipated during its first months of operation.
What's caused the higher-than-anticipated use? "A lot of the departments here generate information that needs to be shared with 100 people. They had been printing one copy off the AS/400 or the network printer and then making 100 copies. Today, they print all the sets off the Di750 because it's convenient and so much faster," explained Tyk. "In fact, the Di750 is so fast that I haven't seen anyone waiting by a printer or copier since the Di750 was installed." In addition, the Di750 also serves as the fastest copier in the office and as a result handles more of the copying jobs than the two analog copiers combined.
AAOMS National compared the printing speeds of its IBM printers and the Di750 by sending defined job streams to both systems. "There was a significant time savings by printing on the Minolta," recalled Tyk. "The claims department really appreciates the speed because time is of the essence. In the days prior to the Minolta, it was not unusual, depending on print traffic, to see someone wait for 15 minutes for his or her documents. The Minolta is just so fast that today there's no waiting."
A Solid Printing Solution
The Minolta Di750 with the PR2000A print controller has worked well for most AAOMS National employees whether they're printing from the AS/400, Novell, or Windows NT environment. The system's speed, document handling, and finishing capabilities simplify printing regardless of how long or complicated the documents are. From a cost standpoint, the Di750-based solution costs less than the three IBM printers AAOMS National previously purchased.
"While we didn't do a formal ROI study on the Minolta, I can tell you that we already believe that this investment is paying off," said Tyk. "It's just so much faster at printing our documents, and it's more convenient. It's eliminated a lot of headaches and allowed people to move on with their work much more quickly, and it's hard to quantify that in dollars and cents."
Terry Aurre is the product marketing manager for the PR200A at Minolta Corporation's Office Systems Sales and Marketing Division.
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