Is it time to audit your technology?

A regular assessment of the technology tools you use can take your mail center to new heights

At the 2015 National Postal Forum in Anaheim, California, there was a common theme among mail center professionals. When asked why they run their mail centers they way they do, they would reply, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Considering the ever-changing technologies out there, it makes sense to review your operations. A technology audit can help you see where your mail center stands in terms of efficiency and accuracy — and give you a sense of whether investing in an update can save money or boost revenues.

Gaining Precision and Efficiency

Delayed or lost packages and mail can slow down an organization. Basic mail center technology allows businesses to track packages from start to finish, notifying recipients by email or text of deliveries and automating the processing of lost or damaged items.

If your organization needs to track more than just packages, consider an integrated solution that allows you to track just about anything marked with a barcode. Modern sorting systems that reliably and accurately read product barcodes and labels can help your company avoid incorrect deliveries and extra manual-handling costs.

Technology upgrades also can help reduce inefficiencies and make running a mail center more convenient, particularly useful if you have multiple locations and multiple mail centers to get in sync. Freeing employees from the minutia of stuffing envelopes or monitoring operations at other sites can allow them to focus on other work.

Managing Outbound Shipments

No one likes — or, in this day and age, expects — to hear that a package or key document is “in the mail.” Today’s state-of-the-art technologies can report to both the sender and the recipient with the time a shipment was sent, approximate delivery date, tracking number and more. In fact, the recipient often knows a package has arrived before the mail center has even had a chance to process it, which means that mail centers have to be tech-savvy in the digital age. Automation is key.

  • Is your technology integrated with order processing, purchasing, accounting and other business applications?
  • Does it automatically print carrier-compliant labels, manifests and other shipping materials?

Today’s technology can shop your negotiated discount rates with carriers to find the right one for every package you send, consolidate and rate orders to minimize transportation costs, and more.

Making Mail More Intelligent

Keep in mind that the USPS now requires something called an “Intelligent Mail® package barcode” (IMpb) on all their shipped packages. It’s possible to get pre-printed barcodes and put them on all your deliveries; this even allows you to track them throughout the delivery path. 

However, pre-printed labels don’t get you the best discounted pricing; that requires specific software to custom-print the IMpb label. You can get the IMpb software on its own or look at options such as getting it included with the postage meter. This all-in-one approach allows you to send mail and packages using the same process while you get the best discounts available.

Optimizing Direct Mail

If you send direct mail to consumers, a technology upgrade can not only dramatically reduce costs but also improve marketing effectiveness and ultimately increase sales.

Postage is often the largest portion of a company’s communication budget. The U.S. Postal Service offers mailers the opportunity to save 22 percent or more on first-class mail. But the complexity and ever-changing nature of postal regulations makes it difficult to capture the full savings.

If you send out a significant volume of mail, you may want technology that assists in presorting it to comply with USPS provisions. Smaller-scale direct mailers may benefit from software that sorts addresses and creates the reporting required by USPS, while larger-volume mailers may want to buy a “sorter” that physically sorts the mail in ZIP code order and produces barcodes to maximize postal discounts.

Here again, automation matters. Inserting, weighing, measurement, certification, tracking, data verification, reporting — when automated, these processes can reduce labor costs, postage costs and materials expenses. Ultimately, you’ll get the right message to the right customer faster than before.

Designing for Profit

A renewed focus on branding and the need to deliver brand messaging in color is another reason to update your technology. You should be able to bring color to every campaign, from creating document to designing envelope, inserts and digital files. Some of the latest innovations allow for personalization that can match or exceed the standards set by online marketing. For example, variable data printing is enabled by software that can change text, images and layouts for individual items, based on your own database information.

Furthermore, the cost of high-speed production inkjet technology has declined dramatically in recent years, bringing full-color printing to a price that is often close to basic black. Other technologies fold packets in unique ways, add loyalty cards to the mix and can make direct mail campaigns even more inviting overall.

As your mailing operation grows, investing in automation becomes more attractive. Ultimately, however, you may want to consider outsourcing part or all of your mail operations to a fulfillment house that has the technology you lack. A periodic review of your mail center software and equipment can help you get the best bang for the buck you spend on mailing and shipping.

Learn more about automation tools that can help your mail center operate more efficiently, the five critical events when technology can make all the difference, and six ways to ensure your packages are not delayed.

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