Compassion International’s distribution center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is home to a robust in-plant printing department. Using a range of Xerox printers and a host of cutting, folding, binding and inserting equipment, a team of 80 employees has managed the printing and distribution of more than 15 million impressions this year alone. More than half of those impressions were printed on pre-perforated Domtar cover- and text-weight stocks.
The in-plant printing work is critical to the overall mission of Compassion International, which was founded in 1952 and employs more than 4,000 people worldwide. The Christian organization, which was recognized by Forbes in 2017 as one of America’s best midsize employers, is one of the country’s largest charities. It partners with more than 6,700 churches in 25 countries to deliver its holistic child development program to more than 1.8 million babies, children and young adults.
Compassion’s efforts to release children from poverty are made possible through a unique child sponsorship program that pairs children with individual donors, whose contributions help fund education, prenatal care, Christian spiritual growth and other critical services. The charity’s in-plant printing department ensures sponsors receive the information they need to create a successful sponsorship. It also facilitates communications between children and their sponsors.
In-Plant Printing Meets On-Demand Goals
Gary Benson, print operations manager at Compassion International, has overseen the organization’s in-plant printing department for the past 10 years. His group primarily prints three types of donor communications.
“A lot of the custom paper stocks that we order from Domtar are used to print child packets for sponsorship events. They’re designed to attract new sponsors,” he says. “Then, when we get a new sponsor, the first thing they receive is a welcome packet, which is a 24-page customized booklet that includes everything they need to start a relationship with that child.”
The third type of communication that the in-plant printing department handles is correspondence between the children and their sponsors. Letters, drawings and photos used to be packaged in the home country and shipped to the United States, where Compassion would sort and send the material to the sponsors.
“About a year and a half ago, we addressed one of the main comments that we heard from supporters, which is that it took too long to get letters to and from the children,” Benson said. “It was a very manual process; we were physically moving the letters back and forth. Now we receive a scanned image of something the child has written, and we can print and deliver it in a fraction of the time.”
Because of that process change and the organization’s organic growth, the number of print impressions handled by the department each year has more than doubled since 2012.
Compassion works with Domtar not only to supply the custom sheets that make up its communications but also to manage inventory through a “make and hold” system.
“We work with our sourcing group to set up quantities as far in advance as we have accurate forecasting. That information is translated into orders to Domtar and our converter for production, and then they stage the paper in a warehouse for us,” Benson said. “It makes inventory management easier and more efficient because we know what’s available at any given time. If we see a demand coming, we can draw from what’s available instead of placing critical orders at the last minute.”
Benson appreciates how Domtar works with him to identify new products that are available and how they might be used for Compassion. “We also like what we see on the back end,” he says. “Paper quality is consistent, and their processes help us manage our workflow more efficiently.”
In-Plant Printing and Variable Data Drive Results
Having a reliable paper partner is key to a well-run in-plant printing department. For Compassion, in-plant printing enables it to turn projects more quickly than if they were outsourced to another printer. It also keeps costs low and quality high.
“We can be very cost-competitive for what we do; in-plant printing is lower cost than any outside resource,” Benson said. “And we like being able to control quality all the way through, from design to mailing. When you outsource, you give up control. But we control everything right here.”
In addition to the equipment and the paper that in-plant printing team uses, they rely heavily on the use of variable data to personalize their communications with sponsors.
“One thing we’re really good at doing is working with variable data — all content, not just text,” Benson explained. “We’ve taken the use of XMPie® (Xerox production printing software) to a level that makes it possible for variable content to be very robust. It allows us to send very personalized communications, and we’ve seen an increase in response rates because of that. No doubt about it.”
Erica Adkins, the Domtar account manager who works with Compassion International, enjoys working with Gary and his team. “I think it’s wonderful how we are able to support them with their endeavors by being creative and by helping them improve their processes to achieve greater ROI,” she said. “They are a Xerox shop and have been since they opened the in-plant printing department 15 years ago. It’s a good partnership.”