Tag Archives: Production

The Production Department’s 2nd Annual Operation Santa

Production Department

The Production Department and the Operation Santa gifts!

Every year, the Production Department at Vanguard Direct does more than its share of charity work. From donating to troops to providing care during natural disasters, these Vanguardians never miss an opportunity to help out. A recent favorite has been Operation Santa, a donation drive the department has participated in for the past two years.

Operation Santa was started by the USPS to respond to needy children’s letters to Santa. Each year, “postal elves” sort through the letters looking for those from children who might otherwise not get Christmas presents. Then everyday folks go to the post office, pick up letters, and do their best to make these holiday wishes come true. Each “Secret Santa” then wraps his or her gifts and brings them back to the post office to mail to the letter writer.

Vanguard Production Coordinator Chantelle Santiago picked out the letters this year. “You can see when a kid is writing as opposed to parents. We pick letters based off of need versus want.” This year, the Production Department took letters and distributed them to teams. Each team handled the letter as it saw fit.

For example, the “Barbie” team loves it when a child explicitly says what he or she wants. Senior Production Coordinator Amy Bhagwandin said, “Each member bought something related to send. For us, it’s an easy thing. When kids list what they want, it makes it much easier and we get to get stuff they didn’t expect. It really feels good.” Senior Production Coordinator Theresa Thomas chimed in, “We do set a budget for ourselves. We never stick to it, but we do have one.”

The Production Department hopes to continue this for years to come. Senior Client Services Manager Doreen Doyle said, “It’s nice to have a philanthropic vein––we always want to help others without hesitation,” while Production Coordinator Natacha Arora “hopes it spreads to the other departments––everyone wants to help.” Senior Production Coordinator Cari Frederico sums it up: “This allows us to be grateful for what we have and help the less fortunate.”

Senior Customer Service Representative Sue Pabst recalled meeting a woman “who was doing this for 30 years. They used to deliver it themselves.” Although security measures prevent that today, many, like Senior Production Coordinator Chuck MacGill, “would like to see their faces.” Sue added, “I think you have to do it––it’s easier to write a check, but this is hands-on and establishes a connection. Vanguard Direct is happy to have people who care so much for those in need.” Senior Production Coordinator Velda Gardiner explained, “Need has tripled––we’ve had natural disasters and an increase in unemployment and homelessness.”

And as Sue said, “It brings the warm and fuzzies.”


Managing: Production vs. Digital

When you are providing management oversight in this industry, it shouldn’t matter what type of job it is, correct? Well, that’s very far from the truth. When the company shifts from a production (print) environment to a digital one, project management has to take on a whole new role. Let’s start with some basic differences between production and digital.

The end result of a production job is tangible––you can touch it, see it, feel it. Also, you are generally on the same page with the customer or vendor when you agree on the paper, color, quantity, size, and binding. The proofing, or verification, phase is straightforward because you––and the client––can touch it, see it, and feel it.

Digital jobs are intangible. These jobs are generally process implementations, computer programming and software development––things you don’t touch, see, or feel. These jobs are usually something new for the customer or an upgrade to an existing system. Although customers know what they want, their needs are conveyed in general terms. The verification stage becomes a testing phase where clients may decide that it’s “not exactly” what they meant, or decide that something “a little” more is needed. At this stage, you will also encounter differences in opinion––for example, when you agree with the client that you are going to provide documentation, does that mean a “how-to” user manual or a “blueprint” to rebuild the program from scratch? This is where the real negotiating usually comes into play, but proper planning can avoid this pitfall.

There are five basic project management phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and completion. These phases should be followed for any type of project regardless of the final output. The planning phase is probably the most critical for any project and ensures that both customer and vendor agree on the final output. In a production job, planning includes negotiation and agreement with the client on the paper, color, quantity, size, and binding for the final product. In a lot of situations, a sample or proof is created so that there is no misunderstanding––again, you can touch it, feel it, see it.

When you are dealing with an intangible deliverable, the planning phase needs further expansion. The creation of a sample or proof is generally not feasible, and the final output will not be realized without a majority of the work being completed. Therefore, “enhanced” planning  is required when you have a project in the digital arena. You will need to create a detailed, step-by-step approach from concept to completion. In addition, you must avoid using general terms (which could lead to divergent expectations, as illustrated in the documentation example above) and be as specific as possible about the final product, as well as its limitations. You can’t read the client’s mind, so you need to be more inquisitive and document what you discover so that both of you can “see” what the client meant.

Author: Tim Murphy

Get That Order Into Production NOW! (1969)

Back in the day, before email was even a thought, orders were received from customers via US Mail. They were mostly handwritten, with the key words “as per sample.” Our mechanicals were a collection of cut and paste, shoot samples, parts of negatives, and––best of all––handwritten corrections. Shipping instructions were complete and accurate: a ship-to address on the printed sample (no cost centers or multiple locations). The method of shipping specified was “cheapest way.” Our main piece of up-to-date order-entry equipment was the IBM Selectric II electric typewriter.

State of the art 1969

State of the art 1969

The production order form was a six-part snap-out form. The hard part was to be sure that the number you put on the order was entered, by hand, correctly in the order logbook and on the job jacket. The order number was written on the upper right of the job jacket at least 3″ high with a black marker. The real heart-and-soul item was the rubber cement. The trick was to remove part one of the six-part form and glue it to a 10″ x 15″ envelope (job jacket) without getting glue all over yourself and, more importantly, place it dead center, lying flat without any bubbles. We were so efficient. It only took 20 minutes to enter an order.

Vanguard Direct heard our prayers … enter Easy Order 2. How do Vanguard and our clients do it now? Easy Order 2 will be the subject of my next post.

Author: Joe Corbo

Vanguard Direct Integrates Print, Production, & Distribution

Vanguard Direct is a family-owned business that has grown dramatically since we first opened in 1976 and now employs nearly 150 people. We have remained steadfastly committed to integrity and accountability from day one. We take pride in the enthusiasm and professionalism we bring to our work, and our clients trust us to deliver what we promise. That will never change.

Printing stands as the cornerstone of our business. You benefit from our vast knowledge and experience, access to the best technologies, and an unrelenting drive to excel on each run. You will find our print work clean and compelling because it is our goal to make you look your best. And you can rely on us to manage rush jobs that require extraordinary attention to detail.

The picture below is an example of Vanguard Direct’s print production services. We printed the envelopes and inserts that were distributed in newspapers across NYC. The Mayor’s Office was looking to highlight the importance of not parking illegally in accessible spaces, so adding the envelope and insert to the ad in the newspaper was a great way to get the attention of NYC drivers.

Our full-service agency can solve any communications challenge you face. You can count on us to deliver marketing expertise, including creative, production, and distribution services. Our approach to integrated marketing allows you to orchestrate your various marketing activities, improve the productivity of your efforts, and make your marketing dollars work harder and more efficiently.

Author: Stephanie Huston

Ask the Vanguard Direct Production Experts: What Are the Best Questions to Ask When Starting a Project?

We are proud of our excellent production staff here at Vanguard Direct. With over 400 years of production and project management experience between all of us, we have seen almost every kind of production job out there. We strive to be consultants to our clients; we work together in teams with a variety of specialties to make sure every aspect of the job is covered and double-checked. Our Total Quality Management continuing education program for employees ensures we all stay on top of marketing trends and the new communication solutions that are being developed daily.

We asked our production and promotional department experts: What are the best questions to ask when starting a project?

“What is your budget?”
Cari Frederico, Senior Production Coordinator

“When do you need it? What is it being used for? Did you consider a personalized digital or electronic option?”
Tom Caska, Director of Commercial Production

“When do you expect to have all the materials you need delivered? We can then build a timeline to meet the expectation. What is the budget to complete this project? That will determine the quality and quantity of what we can do.”
– Diane Waldman, Senior Client Services Manager

“What are the objectives and impact requirements of the project, and what levels of your selected audience do you want to capture based on your message and/or branding? Naturally, there are short and long answers to this question, but a few short answers will help target goals immediately and snapshot desired results, time frames, and budget. We can then develop a more in-depth strategy, whether it’s executing a postcard mailing or a full-blown, multichannel campaign utilizing marketing vehicles such as email blasts, social media avenues, and mobile devices combined with traditional print, radio, or TV.”
– Jack Dash, Senior Client Services Manager

“What is the ultimate objective of this project?” (if not immediately evident)
Production Coordinator

“Who is the audience?”
– Doreen Doyle, Senior Client Services Manager


Do you have any questions that you would like us to ask any of our departments (Production/Promotional/Technology/Creative)? Let us know, and we may feature your question in an upcoming post!

Authors: Stephanie Huston & Dustin Hill

Inside Look at How Social Media & Technology has affected Print

Account representative Dustin Hill interviews Vanguard Direct’s director of commercial print production, Tom Caska. Caska highlights his professional experience in the printing industry over the past 40 years, and gives you an inside look into our commercial print production department. Dustin and Tom also discuss how  the social media and technology boom have affected the printing industry recently, and how our team is trained to integrate multimedia in our print projects to make them more effective and stand out.

Authors: Dustin Hill & Stephanie Huston