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An Office Equipment Checklist for Churches
By: Jeff Bishop

Churches face a wide variety of cost-cutting issues in today's economy, but efficiency and quality do not have to suffer because of internalizing projects that might have been previously outsourced to a mail house or print shop.

Manufacturers have created a broad spectrum of office equipment to handle collating, cutting, folding, inserting, booklet making, and mailing of projects with an equally wide scale of pricing. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution, since churches come in all sizes, but there are basic guidelines to use when considering the purchase of office equipment in five basic categories.

1. Buying a Paper Folder
Churches frequently depend on the services of volunteers to complete various tasks, so the user-friendly aspect of office equipment should be considered before purchase. Paper folders can come fully automatic and programmable, so the length of paper and the type of fold required can be recognized without extensive user input. A simple push of a button will fold up to 13,000 pieces per hour with automatic jam alerts and no fanning necessary. Easy-to-use digital control panels, counters, batching capability, and exit conveyors for keeping folded materials stacked properly are also value-added features.

If cost considerations or frequent repeat jobs apply to your organization, there are lower-priced folders that have almost all the features of the "high end" models but require more operator involvement. "Drop in" feed systems and fold plates with clearly marked settings provide for quick and easy setups. Custom folds aren't a problem with manual folders, and they have the same durability and high level of performance as their higher-priced counterparts.

If inserting is your next challenge, once the folding is done, why not consider the purchase of a folder/inserter and reduce your task to a one-step process?

2. Considering a Folder/Inserter
Quiet operation, ease of use, and compact desktop design are features of many folder/inserters. Documents are automatically folded and inserted into an envelope and sealed, creating a mail-ready piece. In most instances, the more documents that are needed to be inserted at one time, the more expensive the system. However, the features of these high-end systems include: high-capacity conveyor stackers and envelope hoppers, color touch-screen control panels, multi-station input, Optical Media Recognition for special applications, and bin-linking capabilities.

Don't waste time and money folding and inserting by hand; by automating your mailings, you can maximize your organization's resources.

3. Finishing the Process
Once you've reached the stage where you're ready to mail out your project, investment in a postage meter will continue your savings. One of the decisions you'll need to make is whether to consider a manual feed vs. automatic feed model, as this feature will directly affect the amount of time needed by an operator to process the job. An automatic model will allow for stacking of envelopes in a feed tray and processing at speeds of up to 95 letters per minute. Not all models have an integrated scale, but this is a valuable feature that allows the operator to know the correct amount of postage at all times, thereby eliminating guesswork and the chance of mail being returned for insufficient postage.

Automatic rate increase protection is also available, so you don't have to worry about staying on top of postage increases and security is an option for authorized use only of the meter.

4. Rounding Out Your Options
Depending on the size of your organization, you may need additional office equipment to handle your member correspondence, mailing projects, and even data security. Paper cutters and kutrimmers are convenient for trimming oversized print jobs, inserts, and special bulletins. Manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic/programmable models come with a wide array of safety features, adjustment options, and capabilities, while kutrimmers provide a low-cost, convenient solution to your cutting jobs.

Many of today's high-end copiers provide collating and bookletmaking options, but if your church does not have the budget for this type of post-printing equipment, there are joggers, multi-bin collators, and semi-automatic and automatic bookletmakers that can help with the most complex job. Many bookletmakers can jog, staple, and fold in one operation, creating up to 1,500 sets in an hour with features such as exit conveyors, various stapling positions, and optional trimmers. Once again, touch-button control panels, LED readouts, and bin empty sensors help to make these systems user-friendly and highly productive in order to save you time and money.

Protecting the security of your members, administrative staff, and donors can be daunting when faced with the enormous amount of information that is stored in computers. Mailing lists, church expenses, payroll, ministry program proposals, and other related correspondence are proprietary information and are frequently backed up or updated via use of CDs and other storage media.

Small deskside shredders can handle several sheets of paper at a time and larger department shredders can destroy CDs, DVDs, credit cards, and dozens of sheets at a time. Strip cut and cross cut shredders offer varying degrees of security and can be found at all price levels; they're all easy to operate and can provide the ultimate level of assuredness that your information stays private.

5. Protecting Your Investment
Finally, when you're ready to make your purchase, you want to go with a dealer that provides durable, dependable, and time-tested equipment. Preventive maintenance agreements help to give you peace of mind that your productivity will not be adversely affected should a malfunction occur, and many dealers can offer special training and options to trade-in and upgrade equipment when you outgrow your current system.

Make sure to call and speak with a sales representative before you buy so that they can help assess your needs and suggest the model most suited to your budget. "Brick and mortar" dealers, as opposed to superstores, work very closely with world-renowned manufacturers to provide the best in safety, design, and cost-effective features so that first-time customers become repeat customers. Factory-trained technicians can frequently offer on-the-spot service advice and the benefit of years of experience with a particular brand or model.

There are, of course, many factors to consider when purchasing office equipment for your organization, and this has been just a basic overview of the most common products found in the church print shop or administrative office.

Choosing the right office equipment for your church will save you time and money, and the options available are numerous. Once you've looked at your budget and defined your needs, you'll be ready to research the many product lines that exist in order to make the best choice for your organization.

Jeff Bishop is sales manager for Whitaker Brothers Business Machines, a leader in the sales and service of data destruction and office equipment since 1945. Whitaker Brothers works closely with the top manufacturers in the world to provide the right solution to every office equipment challenge, www.whitakerbrothers.com.









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