October 16th, 2012

Milton Hydro Distribution Inc.

To say the Town of Milton is booming would be an understatement. Spreading north and south of the country’s busiest highway, and located less than 30 minutes west of Pearson airport, Milton is Canada’s fastest growing community. There are new homes, new streets, new businesses and new shopping malls everywhere you look. And it’s up to Milton Hydro Distribution Inc. to provide electricity to the more than 30,000 business and residential customers.

For more than 20 years, the public utility had relied on what Billing Supervisor Debbie Ceelen calls a workhorse of a production inserter to get its monthly hydro bills out. The old machine was more than capable of handling their requirements when the utility purchased it second-hand from a larger utility, but the years had taken their toll. Production interruptions were increasing and with the growth and increased number of inserts, the jobs were becoming more complex while turnaround times seemed to be getting longer instead of shorter.

The equipment was jamming too often, reflects Debbie. “It could no longer maintain the uptime we needed. On top of that, it required too much manual adjusting.”

To ensure continued integrity, Milton Hydro staff were required to perform manual checks, increasing the time spent on the mailing process. It was time for a change.

Challenges

“We needed an intelligent inserter we could configure ourselves,” says IT Manager Andrew Peers, “and we needed a dependable modular solution that would fit our budget and grow along with us.”

He estimates that the town’s phenomenal growth means that Milton Hydro will add approximately 2,000 new customers every year for the foreseeable future. It became Andrew and Debbie’s job to find a new system to meet their changing needs. Since their mailroom was already using a Neopost mailing machine, it made sense for them to contact Neopost

They also called other public utilities in southern Ontario to see who else was using a Neopost system. While there were plenty of mailing machines and tabletop inserters in use, and everyone seemed pleased with both the product and its servicing, only one other public utility was using a Neopost production inserter.

Solution

Once Andrew and Debbie saw the Neopost demo, they were convinced the DS-140 production inserter was exactly what they needed.

“It was flexible, easy to use and modular,” Andrew says. “We could configure it ourselves, so changing jobs would be fast and simple.”

And even though it’s a production inserter, the DS-140’s smaller footprint and much quieter operation would provide more space and peace of mind, both for the operators and their colleagues working close to the mailroom.

Six customer service billing reps share mailroom duties at Milton Hydro, with each doing the mail for a month at a time. All were impressed with the DS-140’s modern and easy-to-use PC-based touchscreen that required minimal keystrokes to run jobs. And they all appreciated its overall productivity.

And the best part, says Andrew? “The machine would no longer be in charge of our operation. We could now dictate the kinds of jobs we would run.”

Previously, billing staff couldn’t run jobs on glossy or thicker stock. Those had to be done by hand each day.

“Basically we could only run one job,” Andrew remembers. “It was too complicated and costly to change jobs, since we had to call in a technician to reconfigure the machine each time, so we did everything else manually.”

But changing suppliers wasn’t easy. “There were a lot of headaches initially,” recalls Debbie.

In the beginning, the new equipment wasn’t always putting the right documents into the right envelopes, and without a lot of manual checking, billing staff couldn’t be sure customers were getting the right hydro bills.

“Transitioning to a new solution is often challenging,” says Zach Tourlas, Neopost’s Solutions Group National Manager. “In this case, installation and implementation did not go as smoothly as we would have liked.”

He explains that during the initial use of the inserter, they ran into misread issues. They couldn’t be sure where the problem was coming from and how accurately the OMR marks were being read. Folding and inserting machines eliminate a highly labour-intensive part of the mailing process. For them to work effectively, users must add Optical Mark Recognition (OMR), barcodes or 2D matrix barcodes to ensure the right sheets are put into the right envelopes.

With the vast majority of Neopost solutions, customers keep their original OMR marks, explains Zach. “To err on the side of security in this case, we eventually changed the OMR marks altogether and that took some additional time. Our only goal was getting the right bills into customers’ mailboxes on time without Milton Hydro staff having to do any manual checking. They needed peace of mind that no one was getting their neighbour’s hydro bill.”

Outcome

Mohan Letchumanan is Neopost’s pre- and post-application specialist. He was part of the team of sales and service personnel dedicated to resolving the issues.

“At the end of the day, after some real teamwork and rolling up of our collective sleeves, we got the DS-140 running properly and ensured that all Milton Hydro personnel had complete confidence in it. That was key.”

This kind of don’t-quit-until-it’s-done-right support comes standard with Neopost, explains Zach. “There are always challenges when a customer transitions to a new solution. The most important thing is that during that transition the support from the supplier is there to help the customer move to a higher level of productivity with a minimal level of stress.”

Mary-Jo Corkum, Milton Hydro’s VP Finance adds, “We were impressed with Neopost’s commitment to make this solution work. Neopost earned our business and made us feel that we are an important customer to them. They impressed us from the beginning with understanding our business requirements and ensuring they met our demands. During the early stages of implementation, Neopost had several technicians and specialists on hand dealing with any issues that arose. They instilled a sense of confidence in Milton Hydro staff that they would support us until we were happy.”

Debbie Ceelen estimates that billing staff now save up to 60 minutes every day by running all their jobs through the DS-140. No one stuffs envelopes manually anymore.

“I must say that Neopost’s support and follow-through are much better than other companies we have worked with,” she reflects. “They stuck to it and worked hard to get the system running perfectly. The Neopost team delivered what they had promised – that’s really something in this day. Now, we wouldn’t trade the DS-140 for anything.”