TaskMaster Goes Beyond a Tool to Automate Simple, Repetitive Tasks
One Engineer’s Courage Results in New Found Revenue for his Company
A common misconception around automation is that it’s only for repetitive tasks. While its true repetitive tasks are perfect candidates for streamlining, automation can go much further.
Jerry Eiler, a Finishing Technical Engineer for Ripon Printers in Ripon, WI, learned this first hand.
Ripon Printers serves small to mid-sized catalog marketers and publishers, producing catalogs, direct mail and directories as well as manuals and soft-cover educational products. Founded in 1962 with just 13 employees, Ripon Printers is now more than 320 employees strong and equipped with the latest technologies from premedia through fulfillment and distribution.
Like many customers, Eiler thought the one-off nature of the companies’ projects were not repetitive enough to warrant automation through TaskMaster, a script-based rule engine that can automate repetitive tasks available through BCC Mail Manager, the flagship product of BCC Software.
But as the fulfillment work increased for Ripon, as Eiler put it, he found the “courage” to try.
“We started to get some customers that sent in files the same way every week, and that gave us the courage to say ‘let’s automate’ and see if we could save time,” said Eiler. “We started playing with TaskMaster and found out how actually easy it was to use. The more we used it, the more we were impressed with it. It can do anything.”
TaskMaster Uncovers Multiple Benefits
Simply put, TaskMaster records what its operator does in a list. It can record parts of what task is being performed, or it can record an entire process. When the operator needs that task redone, it’s as if he/she is “pressing play.” If an error is made during the recording process, the operator can re-write the correct action without re-recording from the beginning, making the processing right again.
In his first tests, Eiler focused on tasks that he knew had a repetitive nature. Using the recording function, he made a recording, used the macro, and looked at the script results.
“We were so impressed with it that we made all kinds of other uses for it,” Eiler said.
“We are looking for every opportunity we can to use it. Even for a job that’s different each time, there’s still steps that are repetitive, such as printing forms or outputting files.
“I don’t always know what files the customers are going to send but we can pause and take over for TaskMaster for a bit, and then let TaskMaster handle all the routine stuff. More and more, we’re automating jobs that are not routine. That’s where we’ve gone.”
Eiler was able to use TaskMaster mail sorting software to increase revenues by taking on more complex jobs and increasing the volume of fulfillment jobs Ripon Printers could take on.
Eliminating Human Error
When describing the benefits of using TaskMaster, Eiler says that initially he was looking to save time, but today, he uses it for complicated data prep jobs to eliminate potential human error.
“What we’d be doing without TaskMaster is extremely manual and it would be so easy to screw up a job. TaskMaster not only provides us with a huge time saving, but also a level of accuracy that we’d never have in a manual mode,” said Eiler. “In list management, accuracy is more important than productivity. If you make a mistake, you can wreck half a year’s worth of profits. So accuracy is our number one priority and TaskMaster helps us with that, as well as productivity.”
Eiler started the company’s list processing group in 1995, and while he no longer directly manages the group, he does still oversee the technology that the group uses.
“The more I run TaskMaster, the more I’ve been impressed with it, and I’ve tried to get the other list processors involved. I’ve challenged them to find new ways to use TaskMaster,” said Eiler. “The more I find myself, the more excited I get about it, and the easier it becomes to encourage others to try it. It’s only scary until you do it. Once you use it, you’ll think ‘Why wasn’t I doing this all along?’”
Find a Project and Try Today
Eiler’s advice to other BCC Mail Manager customers curious about TaskMaster is set aside some time to use it and start the way he did with recording, then looking at the script.
“If you are a (BCC) Mail Manager user, the commands make sense. It’s not a programming language, it’s the same kind of words that you’d use running a presort or anything else in (BCC) Mail Manager, just in a scripted-kind of fashion,” said Eiler. “Don’t be afraid – just try it and the more you use it, the more you’re going to like it.”
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