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Is Your Destiny Digital?

September 1998
Montgomery County Public School's in-plant explains why going the digital route enabled more customer satisfaction—and created more jobs.

Once upon a time, taking a school test meant sharpening your No. 2 pencil and concentrating on filling out the answers on a piece of paper. Today, in some circles, that procedure has given way to the click of a computer mouse.

An end result of this trend has been the reduction of unnecessary waste. With that in mind, and the explosion in the use of digital printers/copiers, in-plant managers are starting to rethink their production processes.

Some educational institutions are already taking notice. At a recent seminar in Bethesda, Md., Xerox and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) demonstrated how implementing electronic publishing and printing actually improves the learning process. How? Because everyone from the teachers to the students is involved in the technology.

For example, MCPS utilizes digital printing to develop custom student course packets—long the domain of university in-plants. Teachers collect choice resource material from various sources, such as newspapers or encyclopedias, digitize them and print them on demand. In turn, the school has the most up-to-date information to create targeted classroom materials.

Another example is digitally printing assessment tests. Although the majority of standardized tests are printed on offset presses, there are times when short runs or customized versions of those tests need to be printed under a deadline. Printing them on a Xerox DocuTech proves economical for the administration.

Headquartered in Rockville, Md., MCPS has 183 schools, 125,035 students and 15,126 employees, which makes it one of the largest school districts investing in digital technology. The Electronic Graphics and Publishing Services (EGPS) department realized the need to go digital back in 1995—when it purchased its first DocuTech.

By its first year of installing digital equipment, EGPS saved the school district $90,000 by printing spot-color testing materials in-house.

Putting aside dollar figures, though, other benefits have been:

• Creating customized and current student curricula and training materials in the quantity and time desired.

• Producing more than 3,200 print jobs annually, up from 700 jobs nine years ago when it just had traditional analog equipment.

• Providing speedy service at a lower cost to administration.

• Printing specialized projects like books for visually-impaired students and bilingual manuals to honor the diversity of the student make-up.

By 2005, the 24-employee in-plant will have invested $70 million in digital equipment, continuing to change the way MCPS educates its students by providing testing materials that are exact (e.g. math graphs can't be slightly off, and science curricula has to be current). Again, the in-plant utilizes its DocuTech, storing materials digitally, and printing the most up-to-date information when needed.

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