Under Pressure to Cut Costs, Colleges and Universities Shouldn’t Overlook Shipping

Facing a shortage of revenues, higher education institutions could improve the bottom line if they lower expenses related to inefficient mailing and shipping.

Wed Oct 18 16:13:00 EDT 2017

When margins are tight, businesses have to find ways to either increase revenue or reduce expenses. One way to shore up costs is to improve operational efficiencies in mailing and shipping, especially in big organizations that send and receive large volumes of packages.

Colleges and universities are in that boat. Nationwide, higher education institutions are facing a shortage of revenue due to declining enrollments and a record-setting number of tuition discounts, according to a recent report from The New York Times. Administrators are looking at new student retention strategies, collaborations with other nearby schools and even campus consolidation as ways to address the shortfalls.

But, like other business leaders, those administrators may be overlooking one crucial operational cost impacting their bottom lines: inefficient shipping. Many likely don’t realize just how many administrative employees outside of their mail center are ringing up outbound shipping charges each day. Without visibility into how these orders are placed, schools are missing out on smarter delivery strategies that could provide significant savings in overall shipping costs.

Here’s how shipping inefficiencies drag down operational expenses in a university, and how a multi-carrier shipping solution could help you save. 

Unmanaged shipping can bog down university expenses

Schools often centralize mailing and shipping within a university mail center. But, hundreds of shipping orders are still placed outside of this unit by campus staffers in other departments, who are running charges on their school-provided purchase cards.

Whether they’re placing orders on behalf of the school or students, these individuals unknowingly contribute to an uncontrolled purchasing process that’s rife with inefficiencies and missed savings opportunities.

To start with, some employees will open up separate accounts with different carriers (such as UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc...), based on little more than individual preference or familiarity. As a result, they might not think to comparison shop between carriers for the best rate, even though doing so can lead to significant overall savings.

But, even if they did want to comparison shop, employees would have to do it manually, visiting each carrier’s website and running a quote every time they need to send a package. Not exactly the most efficient process.

On top of all that, most staff are simply unaware of the various factors that can lead to higher shipping costs. For example, most don’t know about dimensional rating, where package pricing can vary based on whichever is higher: the dimensional weight or the actual weight. Even something as simple as an address error can lead to additional carrier fees, unbeknownst to the sender.

Meanwhile, mail center staffers have to try to reconcile all of this activity, often manually chasing down separate shipping invoices so that they can charge back the correct amounts to each department. In some cases, they might not be able to trace back every charge; it’s not uncommon for a university mail center to assume a portion of untracked shipping spend as part of its operating budget. Between the labor and accounting inefficiencies, this can be a major contributor to operational waste.

Multi-carrier shipping can help

It is possible to gain complete control of shipping activity across the campus, even when orders are placed outside of the mail center. Schools that implement multi-carrier shipping solutions stand to achieve the following benefits:

  • Cost clarity: Every time a package is shipped, there’s a chance to shop for a better rate. With centralized ordering, multi-carrier shipping solutions allow users to quickly and easily compare rates between different carriers so they know they’re getting the best possible price. 
  • Shipping intelligence: Multi-carrier shipping solutions can also help users or mail center staff validate addresses or confirm dimensional pricing before the package is shipped. That way, they can ship with the confidence that there won’t be a surprise bill later on. 
  • Automation: Multi-carrier shipping solutions also make it possible for mail center managers to automatically capture and charge back shipping costs to the appropriate department. They can also track orders across the organization to keep an eye on overall spending.

At a time when universities are under more pressure to save, a significant improvement in outbound shipping costs could dramatically improve overall expenses, providing some much-needed relief to the bottom line.

Learn more about SendSuite® Live, a powerful solution for global shipping management.