400 Miles Away, Would NPC Pass the Test?

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July 22, 2017

Tackling complex logistics and an intricate project scope meant building an entirely new automated system to deliver thousands of standardized tests.

Fear of the unknown. Resistance to change. Maybe even some second-guessing.

For the administrators of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, a large district serving 50,000+ students, the sheer logistics of printing and distributing paper-and-pencil exams across multiple grade levels was an annual challenge. Introducing a new production partner to their standardized testing process created additional complexity.

Listening to specifics & concerns

“NPC was in another state, almost 400 miles away. We hadn’t worked with them before. Would their quality be what we were used to?” explains Deborah Hartman, a district administrator.

We knew that, by erasing geographical and quality concerns early on, we could establish a working trust level and hit the ground running. We worked closely with test administrators to gain greater insight into their specific requirements and unique logistical challenges before addressing the project itself.

Understanding the greater context

The printing portion of this project was pretty straightforward: producing test forms, answer sheets and 12- to 36-page test booklets. On the flip side, there was significant complexity in the varying page counts, different test versions for multiple subjects and grade levels, as well as generating distribution labels for delivery to multiple testing locations.

For the test distribution, we initially received a thorough yet elaborate spreadsheet outlining all test versions, page counts, test locations and delivery routes. But the supplied information did not seamlessly import into our data management systems. The data transfer was burdened by manual processes. We kept each of these special considerations top of mind as we developed the right process to solve their challenge.

Delivering the most effective solution

Our software engineers took a proactive approach, developing a custom program to automate the data transfer process. “We used a lot of creative thinking to make this work in the most effective way possible with the least amount of confusion for our customer,” recounts Christie Bonfanti, NPC Preship Specialist. “We updated the address preparation from a manual process to a much more automated system.”

All of the testing materials were delivered to one centralized warehouse location within the school district. We labeled each box on two different sides so that the school name and delivery route were clearly visible to package handlers. Boxes were stacked in the most logical order, based on delivery routes. This helped make distribution to multiple schools within the district as efficient as possible.

The administrators at the school district discovered that the entire process was more efficient than it had ever been. Deborah Hartman concluded, “NPC is right on time, every time. They accommodate us when we have not planned as well as we should… and they call us when they find enhancements that could make the product better for our students and our district.”

NPC is right on time, every time. They accommodate us when we have not planned as well as we should… and they call us when they find enhancements that could make the product better for our students and our district.

- Deborah Hartman, School District Administrator

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