Paper checking is not fun. Just ask Bette Norris of the Business Office staff at the Moline (IL) Dispatch. It's a job she's done for years but now, thanks to a new application from Software Consulting Services, LLC of Nazareth PA, her days of manual paper checking are over.
Her new tool is called PaperCheckAdBoss™ or PCAB for short.
The Dispatch is a 40,000 circulation daily that is part of the Small Newspaper Group. Dale Attwood, Production Manager, and Scott Aswege, General Manager, shepherded PCAB from an SCS new product vision to a useful production tool.
Paper checking is a back room process designed to tie the advertising that's published to what's invoiced. Hand measuring and a visual comparison to ad manifests is the usual process. (Those newspapers who abandon paper checking often find their credit managers dealing with unpleasant, labor intensive billing disputes and lack of audit accountability.)
You might think with all the technology of a fully paginated newspaper like the Dispatch, spending over four hours per day measuring and marking off ads wouldn't be necessary. The Dispatch's advertising front-end and A/R is from Brainworks. A DPS system provides production ad management. SCS's Layout-8000™ is used for dummying all products with SCS's InLay™ doing the automatic interfacing to InDesign® which is used for pagination. Believe it or not, PCAB needs to unite all of these systems to do the back-to-front data analysis necessary for effective paper checking.
However, as Bette points out, without paper checking, advertisers find your errors and they typically don't like it when it happens. Bette reports that "We checked the paper both ways during all of April. The only time there was a difference in the result, PaperCheckAdBoss found an error we didn't."
PCAB (which she calls 'AdBoss') has made her paper checking task so much faster and easier. "Whenever there's a problem [with an ad size or placement] it tells me where to go look. I'm more confident that I'm sending out true statements to customers. Since May 1st I have depended on AdBoss 100%."
Prior to PCAB, Bette worked with another business office clerk, checking printed reports and newspaper pages back and forth. Now she can get images of pages as dummied by Layout-8000 and right next to them the pages exported from InDesign for pagination. Or, she can use a simple report which lists exceptions right at the top. A quick glance at the designated exceptions completes the verification. "I can quickly do it by myself," says Bette.
Bette explained that PCAB draws her attention only to ads with a problem, usually on the first run. The problem can be fixed and it never needs to be checked by a person again throughout the run of the ad. She is proud that they "balance to the penny" before bills go out.
In addition, the program produces reports by page and by publication of inches printed, inches scheduled and billed to customers, inches of scheduled in-house ads and inches of fillers added during dummying or pagination. This can be balanced to reports from their ad order entry system to produce better tracking of in-house ads and better figures for non-paid ads.
Scott noted that not only was a formerly 'not fun' job made easy, but there were net labor savings of over 20 hours per week. Dale reported that personnel have already been reassigned to cover work left open by departed employees without hiring new people.
The Business Office saves the checked report from PCAB so that Scott Aswege, the paper's General Manager, can go back at any time and look at it. In the past they kept the marked up papers as an audit trail for two months to handle any advertiser questions. Now they keep only the electronic copies of the PCAB discrepancy reports.
As a beta site customer, Dale worked closely with the SCS developer, Charles Finady, during the installation. Dale describes Charles as "very responsive, very professional and very helpful." [Editor's note: This is what we expect of all of our developers and support staff. Charles is an excellent example.]
A recent email from Dale said, "We just tested the saving function of the newest update from last night and it works PERFECTLY!!! Also adding the lineage and ad count to that report is awesome".
Richard Cichelli, SCS President, says, "It has been a privilege to work with the staff at The Dispatch. These are the kind of customers that make it easy for us to continue writing and installing "smart" software to automate repetitive tasks for newspapers."