A look at how National Church Solutions has applied lean strategies to their processes.

Dan Timco and David Carrick looking at the process

When you think of various types of manufacturing operations, church offering envelope manufacturing doesn’t necessarily come to mind. But offering envelope manufacturing has been around for a long time and National Church Solutions has been manufacturing offering envelopes for over 100 years. It takes sophisticated processes and equipment to produce envelopes at speeds of over 1000 envelopes per minute on a single machine. It also takes sophisticated data management systems to manage and provide the variable data needed to make these products.

Offering envelopes are an integral part of a church’s way to receive tithes and offerings from church members. The offering envelope not only delivers the contribution, but also the needed information for church records. This requires a manufacturing process that can efficiently manage large amounts of variable data including names, addresses, unique identifiers, and barcodes at very high speeds.

Church offering envelope companies have traditionally had the same process from company to company for many years. Advances in manufacturing equipment and computer systems have helped them gain incremental improvements over time…until now. National Church Solutions has been on a continuous improvement journey, and the key component to these improvements has been Lean Manufacturing.

Manufacturers will agree that Lean Manufacturing is key to making large scale improvements to manufacturing operations. Tools like 5S, Kanban, Quick Changeover, Kaizen and so on are all about one thing, waste elimination. Waste is anything that is not “value added” and “anything that your customer would not be willing to pay for”. By implementing improved processes using Lean Tools, a company can make incremental improvements that save time and money. But the real value of Lean Manufacturing is what happens when a company achieves Continuous Flow. That is the ultimate goal of Lean. All of these other tools (5S, Kanban, etc.) support the goal of achieving Continuous Flow.

Church offering envelope manufacturing has followed the same general “Batch Style” processes for decades. Batch manufacturing is when a process produces parts of a product in functional work areas and large batches of product move from step-to-step. This creates a lot of “Waste”. The chart below shows the “Batch” process that church offering envelope companies have used for many years. Factories arranged in functional areas create waste. Every time there is a break in the process, wastes accumulate costing companies time and money in the form of inventory, material handling, scrap, delays, and rework.

National Church Solutions set out transform their process using Lean Manufacturing to create a Continuous Flow Process that has transformed their business.  The goal was to create Continuous Flow from the front office all the way through product shipment.  The chart below shows the improved manufacturing process.


Wastes in inventory, material handling, scarp, delays, and rework can be found between the function areas of converting envelopes, pre-press, collation, and print variable data & insert compared to Small Kanban fitting between print and convert and insert

The Road to Success

Anyone who tries to go from Batch Manufacturing to Lean Manufacturing will tell you that it is not easy. It takes years and there are a lot of struggles along the way from managing change to technology challenges to having the right people to guide the process. It takes time, investment, and perseverance. National Church Solution’s journey is shown in the timeline below.

Lean Six Sigma Timeline. January, 2011 – WVU Industrial Extension lean assessment. September 2013 – WVU Industrial Extension lead a kaizen event.   Q4 2016 – Kolor Jet improvement project.   Q1 2017 – manufacturing process spaghetti diagram was conducted.   January 2017 – Quick Changeover training. February of 2017 – 5S kaizen Harris Press. March of 2017 – 5S kaizen event warehouse. Q2 2017 – Value stream mapping monthly mail process. September 2017 – quick changeover project – envelope department. Q1 2018 – lean continuous flow planning Round 1. Q1 2018 – process map 4 color process. Q2 2018 – inventory reduction. September 2018 – manufacturing process FMEA. Q3 2018 – Trivor continuous flow project. Q3 2018 – Pre-press Kanban. November 2018 – lean training. February 2019 – OSV lean benchmarking. Q1 2019 – Lean training. Q1 2020 – Trivor training. Q1 2020 – QA Process spaghetti diagram. Q1 2020 – QA process continuous flow. Q1 2020 – improvement form 8D analysis. Q1 2020 – improvement form pareto analysis. Q2 2020 – Trivor total preventive maintenance. June 2020 – Trivor process FMEA. Q2 2020 – Lean training. Q2 2020 – Trivor 5S. Q3 2020 – Trivor 5S. Q2 2020 – Trivor standard work. April 2020 – 5S kaizen warehouse.

Step 1 – Value Stream Mapping (identifying waste)

The first step was to create a Value Stream Map of the process. This is key to identifying Wastes and looking for ways to create Continuous Flow. A team was assembled, and the Current State Value Stream Map was created as seen below. The red shows the non-value-added activities (opportunities for improvement).

Value stream mapping process showing current activities and opportunities for improvement.

The biggest challenge to creating Continuous Flow was figuring out how to print all of the images, static data and variable data all at the same time to eliminate multiple process steps. This had not been done successfully in this industry to date. If this could be done, pre-press, collating and the secondary printing processes could all be eliminated enabling Continuous Flow. The team had to challenge “the way things had always been done”. The result has been nothing short of amazing.

National Church worked with Xerox Corporation and developed a printing process for envelopes that was truly something that had never been done before. Technical challenges with data and functionality had to be overcome. In the end, the result was so innovative, National Church Solutions obtained a provisional patent for the new process.

The organizational successes are detailed below.

Improvement Estimates

Labor Reduction 50%
Floorspace Reduction 75%
Lead Time Reduction 70%
Inventory Reduction 90%
Shift Reduction 50%
WVU Industrial Extension Logo
New machine used to improve capacity and efficiency
Offering envelope examples
Assembly line with workers collating product from machines

“The improvements have
transformed our business.
What used to take weeks
and months, now takes
a couple days. The company
has reduced costs
significantly and we are now
in a position to service our
industry like never before.
We’re doing things that no
one in our business segment
have been able to do. The
future is bright and we’re
ready for what lies ahead.”
– Daniel Timco, Vice President of
Product and Process
Development at National Church

Are you interested in making your processes more lean? Contact the WVU Industrial Extension today to learn how we can help.
Staci Miller – director

Production equipment used to enhance process

For more information about National Church Solutions, please contact:
Dan Timco – VP Production & Process Development
(304) 387-5200

For more information about the WVU Industrial Extension, please contact:
Jamie Cope – Manager, Business Development
(304) 610-2104