As an industry, we’re still quite a ways away from automating everything in the program book production department, but we can certainly utilize the latest technology to make us as lean and mean as possible.
Below are some ideas to get you started on your way to help to automate some of the more time-consuming processes in your program book production department.
Document Your Processes
I can see eyes rolling as I write this, but like it or not, it all starts with documentation of your current processes.
Without your program book production processes being documented, you will never be able to identify processes that you can automate. But more importantly, even if you don’t want to automate a thing, without documentation, you will never be as efficient as you can be.
As tedious and time-consuming as this step may be, you really won’t be able to realize everything in your production department that can be automated without this step.
Think in terms of a franchise, and set this as a goal. Just like McDonald’s, everyone on your team should know the exact process for everything to produce your program books.
By documenting your program book production processes, it brings to light things that can be automated, or done differently to be as efficient as possible, and prevents redundancy within your department.
But it also ensures consistency in your program books every time. Just like when you order a Big Mac at McDonald’s, it is the exact same thing whether you’re in Dayton, Ohio or in San Francisco, California.
A good tool to assist in your documentation process is Process Street. They’ve done a good job to make the task of documenting your procedures a bit easier, and best of all, they have a free version!
Take Full Advantage of the Latest Technology
Once you have your program book production department processes documented, you can now start to identify the things that can be automated.
After identifying these processes that you think can be automated, do some Google searches.
Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to automate or make your proofing process less time-consuming. You would want to start with searching for this topic.
You should be able to find tons of tools out there to help with your processes. And the good news is, a lot of them are free.
Don’t forget to visit the websites of the current software you are using.
For example, you may find that the current pagination software you are using has some pretty strong tools that you may have been unaware of. So, another resource would be that company’s website.
On the other hand, your program book production department may have some proprietary software that will need some additional programming to accomplish what you’re trying to automate.
So, another resource to help in the automation of your program book production department would be your IT department or IT vendor.
For example, one of the things we’ve done here at Onstage Publications is we’ve automated our customer supplied ad materials gathering.
Once the advertising agreement gets into our system, we have a series of automated emails that go out to each advertiser until their ad, or ad materials to build their ad, is received.
This has eliminated a ton of manpower for us. In the past, our Art Controller would email each advertiser individually!
Our production department and IT department meet regularly to continuously improve our processes to make us as efficient as possible and keep us as lean and mean as possible.
By meeting on a regular basis with all that are involved in your program book production department, ideas will come to light on how to do things better.
Keep in mind, this may also involve people that are involved in your program book processes, but don’t necessarily work in your department daily.
For example, if different departments need to proof the program notes for each program book, it would be wise to include that department head in your meetings.
You’ll be amazed at the ideas that will come up from these meetings when the goal of being more efficient are clearly set.
One Bite at a Time
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your program book production department to be fully automated in a day either.
It will take time, and it will take mistakes, and sometimes it won’t be perfect. But without taking the first step, your program book production department may be left in the dark ages. Good selling!