Mailing Solutions, Equipment, & Software | Pitney Bowes

4 ways to automate a manual shipping operation

Here are four essential practices that can make your mail center’s transition from manual to automated as painless and efficient as possible.

When you’ve built your business on years of manual practices and processes, replacing them with a more automated system isn’t like flipping a switch. By Stephanie Benedetto
Global Product Marketing Manager
Shipping & Receiving Solutions

When you’ve built your business on years of manual practices and processes, replacing them with a more automated system isn’t like flipping a switch. This is especially true for mail centers, where the daily tasks of processing inbound and outbound parcels, notifying recipients and processing pickups becomes so ingrained in your employees that it can be difficult for anyone, from the CEO on down, to think outside of that box.

But, despite those inherent challenges, upgrading your manual shipping and tracking operation into an automated one doesn’t have to be a painful procedure.

Here are four essential practices that can make your transition from manual to automated as painless and efficient as possible.

1. Get everyone onboard

Step one in implementing any new rule, procedure or process always has to be to engage with your employees first – if not everyone, then at the very least those who will be particularly affected by the change. That requires a coordinated, unified message from the management team that can clearly articulate the benefits of an automated system. This message should also proactively anticipate and answer any concerns employees may have.

Without a plan in place to plainly explain the need for changing from manual to automated, the impact it will have and the new opportunities it presents, you’ll be constantly playing catch up in trying to sell your employees on it.

2. Bring IT into the loop early

Getting IT involved in any major technology decision-making seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be shocked at how often companies roll out new tech-driven initiatives without properly consulting their IT team first. In the case of mail center automation, it’s especially important to get IT onboard from day one so that they can determine whether automated tracking and multi-carrier solutions should be deployed either in the cloud or in an on-premises environment.

You’re going to need their help in implementing and supporting your new solution, after all, and by giving them the heads up you can ensure that the people who will be providing that support already knows its ins and outs from the beginning. Without them, you could be setting yourself up to fail right out the gate.

3. Don’t ignore the soft-dollar saving

Anytime you introduce a new piece of technology into an operation, it’s always first looked at through the lens of, “How much money will this save?” But, there’s a lot more to a new investment than just looking at the hard-dollar savings. Soft-dollar savings, like improvements in accountability and efficiency across the mail center, may not be as easily quantified but they’re just as important – and organizations that implement automation often see significant gains in day-to-day routines that used to hold back productivity because of their investment.

Set reasonable expectations for yourself that take soft-dollar, and not just hard-dollar, savings into account.

4. Share data across the organization

The default process for many companies is for individual teams or departments to create and manage their own specific data sets. This might make sense in terms of delegating responsibility, but it inevitably leads to a buildup of information siloes, where relevant data on clients, customers, costs and other information are kept separate from each other. When you’re not sharing that data across departments, you end up spending unnecessary amounts of time and effort on producing redundant data sets – all of which limits how efficient both your teams and new technology investments can truly be.

To get around this, make sure you’re integrating client data and accounting systems from across the organization into your new shipping and receiving solutions. This eliminates duplicate data and the inefficiencies of maintaining those redundancies. The more you share sender and recipient names, addresses and other vital data across the organization, the less you have to deal with tedious and time-consuming data entry.

To learn more about how to transition your mail center’s tracking and shipping processes from manual to automated, check out our new white paper, “Optimizing your shipping and receiving operation – an expert’s perspective.”