Compart - Document- and Output-Management

Thorough Checking Yields the Greatest Returns

The increase in delivery complexity (more communication channels), legal obligations (compliance), and customer requirements (personalized mass mailings) makes a stringent document quality assurance indispensable. Yet at the same time, shorter throughput times are expected.

The fact is that production reliability when processing such data volumes simply is not possible without automation. The risk of misprints and expensive legal entanglements ensuing from rule violations and delivery errors is too great. An IT-supported document quality assurance is absolutely essential for one hundred percent certainty.

Summary

Reading time: 5 min

  • Why automated document quality assurance?
  • Procedure and sequencing of the examination
  • Criteria for the quality check

 

The benefits are obvious:

  • Error-prone manual checking is eliminated
  • It guarantees that every document, regardless of format, structure, scope, quantity or output channel, complies with defined quality standards
  • Productivity increases because employees can concentrate on their core business

Check Before the Document Is Created

The question therefore is not if, but how to set up computer-supported document quality assurance. Where in the document cycle does it make the most sense? Naturally, where the document is created. If the data in an ERM or ERP system is not absolutely correct and complete, for example, it needs to be checked long before document output. The sooner, the better. Statistics prove that the later an error is detected, the greater the effort to correct it.

It turns out the investment needed to correct an error at the end of the process chain is tenfold that needed to correct it right at the beginning. Even then, cost savings warrant integrating another check, such as in the output center for opportunities to bundle mailings to the same recipient to save postage or if documents have all the required control characters for post-processing to prevent returns.

The Bertelsmann subsidiary Arvato, for instance, uses a system that checks the data stream for correct content and positioning of saved objects even before the document is created (composition), formatted and sent. Say an invoice number is always located at a defined position and has a specific length.

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Compliance and 100% Quality Assurance
Learn How to Reap the Benefits of an Automated Document Quality Assurance

If the tool determines that its placement in the final document is wrong or it has only eight characters instead of ten, production is immediately stopped. Alternatively, the "flagged" data stream could be sorted out first and other jobs continued. At the end, a report lists all the changes or interruptions, and the affected procedures are submitted to the responsible individual (specialist or customer) for a decision to release or cancel.

Document Checking Without Centralization Is Meaningless

One thing's for sure. Quality assurance can be performed at any or many points during document production. In the end, it is the defined processes that determine when what documents are checked and by whom. A frequent phenomenon in customer communication, however, is that documents are created decentrally, outside the standard processes. A call center or local branch office still produces and sends a lot of communications on site, without the main office knowing anything about them. Important business information gets lost in the process. Therefore quality assurance in document processing is also tied to centralization.

All mail deemed to be customer communication is collected and transmitted to a central system, regardless of in what area, in what format, and on what physical and digital channel the correspondence is created and output. While the processor prints the document at his or her workstation or sends it as a PDF attachment to an e-mail, it can be indexed and archived at the same time.

Everything runs in the system background. Ideally, a rules check is integrated here, including for compliance with corporate identity (wording, layout, fonts, etc.) and legal obligations (archiving, reporting, data protection) and even release mechanisms (four-eyes principle, etc.) In particular, banks, insurers, and telecommunications providers are faced with a complex maze of regulatory requirements. How can they possibly meet them without a reliable and central IT-supported check procedure?

First the Analysis, Then the Cross Check

One thing is for certain. Quality assurance encompasses a multitude of things, such as a check of the content (Is the data correct and complete? Are all CI and compliance regulations observed?) and well as a technical production check (Can the files be output and further processed? Are all the control codes for enveloping, franking, etc. present?), and of course, validating the IT itself (How do modifications and updates affect a specific system, other applications and the document? If documents were converted, does the content of the original match the output file?)

For these reasons, a thorough quality check is always tied to a process analysis. Where can rule violations or bottlenecks occur in production? Is data consistent? What document-generating systems are subject to frequent updates? Do these modifications affect document creation at all? The answers ultimately determine what type of check is needed at what point during document processing. Processors and specialist users must be included in that analysis so the entire document cycle can be examined for possible weak points.

Excursus – PDF Formats Comparison

Below you will learn which different PDF formats exist or how these different types of documents can be compared:

PDF

Portable Document Format PDF is a platform-independent document format developed by Adobe Systems and is a public standard. Due to the numerous possibilities for converting different file formats into PDF while largely retaining the original layout, the availability of free PDF readers for all common operating systems and the scalability of the display, the format has become widely used.

PDF/A

PDF/A is a format for long-term archiving, standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

PDF/A-1

PDF/A-1 describes the use of PDF documents for long-term archiving of electronic documents based on PDF version 1.4. The ISO standard ISO 19005-1:2005 specifies which requirements a PDF document must meet to be a standard-compliant PDF/A document.

PDF/A-1 distinguishes between two different levels of conformance:

  • PDF/A-1b for unambiguous visual reproducibility.
  • PDF/A-1a for both unambiguous visual reproducibility and structuring of the document content.
PDF/A-2

PDF/A-2 describes the use of PDF documents for long-term archiving of electronic documents based on PDF version 1.7. The ISO standard ISO 19005-2:2011 specifies which requirements a PDF document must meet to be a standard-compliant PDF/ A-2 document. PDF/A-1 documents retain their validity; PDF/A-1 compliant files also meet the requirements of the corresponding PDF/A-2 conformance level.

PDF/A-2 distinguishes between three different conformity levels:

  • PDF/A-2b: minimum requirement for a PDF/A-2 file
  • PDF/A-2a: fully meets all requirements of ISO 19005-2
  • PDF/A-2u: beyond 2b, all text is mapped in Unicode.
PDF/A-3

PDF/A-3 describes the use of PDF documents for long-term archiving of electronic documents based on PDF version 1.7. The ISO standard ISO 19005-3:2012 specifies which requirements a PDF document must meet to be a standard-compliant PDF/ A-3 document. PDF/A-1 and PDF/A-2 documents remain valid; PDF/A-1 compliant files also meet the requirements of the corresponding PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-3 conformance level.

PDF/A-3 differs from PDF/A-2 in the following essential point: any file attachments may be added to a valid PDF/A-3 document. The file attachment itself does not have to be PDF/A-compliant and is not taken into account during validation. This makes it possible, for example, to add the relevant output document, e.g. an XML document, to a PDF/A-3 document. The attached file can be associated with the entire PDF/A-3 document or a part of it, and the relationship of the attached document to the PDF/A-3 document must be specified.

PDF/E

PDF/E is a special PDF format for engineering that offers, among other things, the ability for interactive 3D display, e.g. in order to be able to view construction drawings interactively on the computer. PDF/E has been standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as ISO 24517.

Since mid-2010, the corresponding plugin for Adobe Acrobat has been produced by the company Tetra4D.

PDF/UA

PDF/UA is a way to create accessible PDF documents. Accessible PDF documents not only offer advantages for people with impaired vision, but also create the prerequisite for texts to flow around objects correctly and thus output correctly on small display devices.

PDF/UA documents have the following features:

  • PDF/UA markup (version information).
  • dc:title entry in the metadata
  • The semantic structure of the document must be specified (Tagged PDF)
  • The language of the document must be specified, as well as any deviating languages of individual text passages
  • Alternative descriptions must be provided for all non-textual content of the document, e.g. images.
  • The long forms of all abbreviations must be specified.
  • Identified artifacts
  • No use of visual aids such as blinking or flickering
  • No exclusive use of contrast, color, or layout to convey information
  • Embedded fonts
PDF/VT

PDF/VT defines the use of PDF as an exchange format optimized for variable data printing (VDP) and transactional printing. This makes PDF/VT, which was published as an ISO standard in 2010, the first VDP format to enable modern ICC-based color management via the use of ICC output intents. By means of the Document Part Metadata concept, the selection of variable data, e.g. from databases, based on metadata is made possible.

PDF/X

The ISO standards published under the name PDF/X describe which properties PDF files must fulfill in order to be used as print templates. Using PDF/X can prevent or reduce problems when exchanging PDF files between DTP programs and the print shop.

Compliance with PDF/X requirements can be checked by means of the so-called preflight. The Media Standard Print, which defines a process standard for offset printing and specifies how print data should look, recommends PDF/X as the format for proofs.

PDF/X is described in ISO standards 15929 and 15930.