Quality Control Checklist for Mail Production

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Quality assurance in mail production is a rigorous process.
Quality assurance in mail production is a rigorous process. (Image: snail mail envelope image by feisty from Fotolia.com)

Companies may commission a mailing house with a printing service to manage the mass production of their sales and marketing materials. The mail production process involves a close collaboration between the corporate client and the mailing studio so that the order is made to the client’s satisfaction. A quality-control checklist helps ensure that the client’s professional standards and specifications are met exactly as stated in the job-order and instruction forms.

Creative Production

The quality control checklist includes the review of the creative materials, revisions based on feedback from management, and approval with sign-off on the final copy. A company’s art department may create its promotional materials for direct-mail campaigns. The editor or production coordinator makes the final editing and proofreading of the documents, logos and other artwork for the “camera-ready copy.” This is the final output to be sent to the mailing studio for mass production.

Data Processing

The checklist items for this stage comprise updating, standard formatting, final review, and privacy protection of the customer database. This master list of the names and addresses of the company’s target market is checked for accuracy and completeness to minimize undeliverable mailings. The mailing house ensures that the data on the mailing list is purged of duplicate entries and has the correct address display before mail merging. After sending a sample dump of the data to the client for approval, the mailing house checks the output report, then transmits the live data for laser printing. Throughout the process, the mailing house makes certain that the customers’ personal information is kept secure at all times, and a data-recovery plan is in place.

Prepress

Here, quality control is concerned with printing specifications, the final output files, and the printer’s full-color proof. Printing specifications include the number of copies, page sizes, number of colors, one- or two-sided printing, type of paper, among other requirements, based on the publishing house. The company provides the final output to the studio, which may be in both electronic and print formats. The soft copy is in a file format agreed on by the client and the studio, while the hard copy is a “dummy” sample for visual reference. The studio produces the printer’s proof for the client’s final approval and sign-off before the print run.

Press Stage

Checkpoints in this stage involve accurate color reproduction, sheet cutting, laser printing, data display, finishing process and final product approval. The machine operator checks at least one per 500 sheets to ensure a match with the client’s approved proof as the print job continues. Laser printing personalizes the mail pack. The client reviews the laser output to ensure the proper customer greeting and positioning of the data on paper. The machine operator checks a copy every half-hour during this step. The folding and finishing machines take care of the enclosing phase. This is critical because it will be too late to change the mail packs once they are in the envelopes. As a final quality-assurance measure, the client checks a sample pack to verify that inserts and everything else are in order.

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