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Streamlining Workflow Using Technology = Award

Ann Arbor, MI — June 10, 2015 — A better, more efficient way to create, print and track the printing of posters and other graphic works used by students and faculty for special events and conferences has been developed by the University of Michigan School of Dentistry’s Digital Learning Services (DLS).  The process was described in detail in a report submitted to a competition hosted by the university’s Information Technology Services unit and received a first place award.

Dan Bruell, media services manager of DLS, a unit of the Department of Dental Informatics, says the new approach streamlines workflow as it leverages and combines M+Google forms and M+Box shared folders.

Large Numbers Seeking Help

In the past, dental and dental hygiene students often descended en masse on the school’s multimedia designer, with requests to print their “poster presentations” for Research Day and Pathways Day.  In the weeks leading up to Research Day, held in mid February, and Pathways Day, held in March, “we often received 90 to 100 requests from students to print their posters,” Bruell says. 

Around the same time, faculty who needed posters for presentations at important scientific conferences, such as those sponsored by the International Association for Dental Research and the American Association for Dental Research.  They also asked the school’s media services unit for printing help, adding to the logjam of requests.

The files sizes for posters ranged from 20 to 70 megabytes, depending on content and the number of high-resolution graphics.  File size limits on the e-mail system meant larger files could not be sent electronically as an attachment.  As a result, those files were put on a jump drive and personally delivered to the design team, leading to an increase in foot traffic in DLS.  The ad hoc approach was inefficient, often missed critical bookkeeping information, and resulted in some files being lost or misplaced since they had no identifying information on them.

That process has changed.  Those problems have been eliminated.

The New Approach

Bruell has created a Google form that has fields for all relevant information needed to process a request for printing.  At the end of the form is a link the submitter uses to upload their poster file to a shared M+Box folder. 

Once a file is uploaded, the design team receives an e-mail alert.  The file is previewed, edited as needed and converted to a Portable Document Format file for printing.  The PDF is then uploaded to the M+Box folder generating another e-mail indicating the file is ready to print.  Printing takes about 30 minutes.  When finished, Bruell creates another form advising the student or faculty member that their poster is ready for pick up.

“The new approach of managing and tracking poster requests is more efficient and accurate,” Bruell says.  In addition to less foot traffic to the Digital Learning Services, “no files have been lost since we began this new process,” Bruell says.  “By comparison, in the past, three or four may have been lost.  By themselves, those are not big numbers, but for a student or faculty member losing such an important file was very stressful, if not disastrous.”

The success of streamlining the workflow for poster printing led to Bruell winning first place in the “M+Box 50K Contest” sponsored by the university’s Information and Technology Services.  Bruell continues to look for ways to improve the process and apply this approach to enhance workflow for other graphics projects more efficiently.