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how to handle printing?

I am in the process of starting a business that will have significant printing needs, and printing is one of those topics that seems to have very little information available on the Internet.

What is the best way of printing large numbers of critical documents such as invoices and reports?  I may need to run print jobs that are anywhere from a few pages to hundreds of pages to a few thousand pages.  How would an organization such as a hospital billing department handle this in-house?  Outsourcing isn't an option as I won't always have enough to print to make this feasible.

For documents that need to be mailed, I have determined the best thing to do is to use windowed envelopes and run them through a folder/inserter machine, but I assume I would have to very careful that pages do not get out of order, especially if the machine jams or has other problems.

Another concern I have is when problems arise during printing.  If the printer messes up in the middle of a run, the software will somehow have to accomodate this.  (I will be using Java.)  One significant problem is the operating system can show that a print job has finished while it is still printing due to most printers having a buffer. Even if the operating system is set to print directly instead of sending print jobs to a spooler first, the printer's buffering prevents the software from receiving a lot of printer events as they happen.  If I print something such as invoices in batches, and a printing error occurs, I need to exactly where so that I don't skip or print anything twice or make some other mistake.

As a small business, I cannot afford commercial printing equipment that costs $50,000.  If anybody here has had to write software that handles large volumes of critical printing then I would be interested in hearing about your experiences.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Well, what is your budget, and how frequently will you be printing "thousands of pages" in a report vs. hundreds vs. just a few?

At my previous job we did between 2,500 and 5,000 page daily of lab reports.  Some of the testing equipment had automated printouts to higher-volume HP laser printers (the devices were made by Agilent, a scientific arm of HP).  The lab reports delivered to clients were typically one or two pages and had to be batched different ways.  We did this as a single large job (software was written before I got there and was end-of-life at that time) on a Canon Imagerunner 7200 printer capable of sustained 120ppm printing.  These were leased from Ikon Office Solutions and they were in our office fairly frequently doing either PM or repair service.

If I had it to do over again I would work with a company like Ikon to find a printer that could report back the status of each print job, and write my software to print each report as a separate printing batch.  This would allow a status flag for each batch.  As each job reported successful printing the flag would be cleared.

Don't know if this has helped at all ...
Karl Perry Send private email
Sunday, October 08, 2006
>> Another concern I have is when problems arise during printing.  If the printer messes up in the middle of a run,

I have seen this handled manually, with a person identifying the last usable set of pages from the job (by invoice number, for example), and functionality in the application that reprints from the first failed set.
David Aldridge Send private email
Monday, October 09, 2006
A combo network printer/photocopier would be ideal for now, but since those are at least $10,000 I'm afraid my budget doesn't allow for much more than a good laser printer right now.  I will look into what Ikon Office Solutions has to offer.

I don't think I would be printing jobs that are thousands of pages more than once a week in the beginning.  I suppose I could break larger print jobs into smaller runs with "separator" pages. I assume that folding/inserting equipment can be programmed to leave out separator pages so that I could count the number of separator pages which would be known and then follow up with random audits.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Need a high capacity printer?

Warning, the ink and maintenance kits are on the expensive side.  But you get free black ink for the life of the printer which may not be bad.

Like a post above this one, we do medical billing on high speed dot matrix printers.  Our customer still uses them to get the impact to go through 3 part forms.  The dot matrix printer actually has a this long band inside it that rolls left & right but don't recall the printer model.  It wasn't too bad.

Our software can reprint where it left off by simply going back into the critical report and telling it to reprint from the last good page or whatever.
Monday, October 09, 2006
note: on the web site I provided above, you have to fill out a questionaire to be eligible for the offer.

The magic number, at least for us 3 years ago, was 2600.  We had to produce at least 2600 printed pages per month for 3 years to be eligible for the offer.

Friends of mine were turned down if they entered values less than 2600 in monthly volume.

Hope this helps.

NOTE: On the days we were under, we would print pages with a small periode on it to get us by :)
Monday, October 09, 2006
Are you sure you can't outsource?

Many local print shops will accept jobs over email.

Ask around and see if they can help you.  You don't need to have continuous high volume for this to be a win.
David Jones Send private email
Monday, October 09, 2006
At my job, an educational testing company, we do print large number of reports. Most of our reports involves collated printing from multiple papers. For jam recovery, most production level printers knows which pages are jammed and will re-print those pages. Your software should not need to be aware of which pages did not print.  But there are times where the printer completely crashes. You have to turn off the printer. In that case, you do need to re-print the pages.  In any of these cases, you still want to manually inspect the outs to make sure that it's not completely out of wack.

Since our print job involves multple small jobs, some times thausands of single page jobs, I found it a lot better to mangage when we first send the print stream to a file, and once the printing finished, send the file as a raw file to the printer.  We wrote a special Windows Print Port monitor that automatically append print jobs to a specified file.
Jerry Wang Send private email
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I work for IKON Office Solutions.  Give me a call and I'll
help you investigate a solution that works for you!
Rosanne Smoot Send private email
Thursday, October 26, 2006

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