Proofing and Quality: Part 2

By David Alan Rech of Scribe Inc.


Proofing and quality assurance are two distinct tasks, as we discussed previously, and we capitalize on their value through feedback. We’d like to share some things we have developed to improve the quality of our work.

Carefully vetting a project and executing a project launch are helpful. Vetting is a close examination of a project’s source materials and task list against specifications established for the project. In a project launch, we meet to inform each person involved in the project about the process, specifications, due dates, known issues, client expectations, and other factors that could influence the successful outcome of the project. This is an opportunity, before starting work on the project, for everyone to develop a similar understanding and to raise questions or concerns.

When mistakes are discovered during the project, the person who created or allowed the error is responsible to fix it. This may seem time consuming, but it teaches people about their errors and helps them avoid future occurrences. Without a feedback loop and recognition of an error, we find that our staff members do not become cognizant of their shortcomings.

As projects unfold, we keep a record of the process, what happens at each step, and all pertinent information. Each person has a sense of his or her role in the entire process, what is expected for the tasks being performed, and how long the task should take. At each stage and when a project ends, our staff record how things are going (good, bad, or indifferent) and each person tries to explain why his or her effort turned out as it did. We analyze each project as it ends and perform periodic reviews of batches of projects (similar types, clients, obvious errors, etc.). Often, this broader review allows us to discover a pattern that is not obvious while we work on a single project. We analyze projects based on raw performance data augmented by our reporting system. Through this analysis, we can determine which methods work and which approaches miss the mark. We have also learned to determine where potential problems could occur so that we might prevent them. This may seem to take time, but since beginning this methodology, we have seen a decrease in the overall time on projects—not to mention fewer repeated errors and complaints.

In addition to a time reduction and higher customer satisfaction, the data analysis helps us determine the correct reaction to problems. In the past, we would react to each problem with new tasks or practices. As our analysis got better, we were able to determine which problems were caused by poor procedures and which were caused by poor training, communication, or other things. This analysis gives us a better understanding of how to react when a problem occurs. On occasion, stuff just happens and it might be overkill to alter procedures to adjust for an individual occurrence.

We hold periodic discussions with the people to whom we deliver books. This can be the client, printers, e-book distributors, editors, or others. During these conversations, we go over projects, listen to criticism, and learn how we can work better. These discussions give us valuable insight to improve the quality of our work.

We also try to get out of our office. We have the luxury of being exposed to the processes and practices of almost one hundred clients, and we are able to visit them regularly. We learn a great deal from our clients and try to incorporate their good practices and insights into our procedures.

Last is a healthy dose of concern for our future. For Scribe, the competition is fierce and technology is continuously changing. Even if we are as good as we hope we are, there is always someone trying to supplant us. If we stagnate, we can be out of business. This reality motivates us to strive for constant improvement.

We would be happy to share our production methodology and invite any suggestions you may have. Feel free to contact me anytime.