Towards an efficient mail management system

Though the mailroom is not necessarily perceived as the best place to look for potential savings, better mail and document management may bring a surprisingly positive outcome to a company’s bottom line.

Despite the fact that over the last 15 years, digital communications have taken an ever growing share of the document exchange and transaction field, the volume and fulfilment of mail still represents a significant cost centre for businesses. It may represent a costly, time-consuming process mobilising both human resources and floor space.

Complex category

Mail management includes inbound and outbound letters,  like invoices, reminders, order confirmations that are shipped or delivered either by the domestic post office or private carriers. In-house mail management requires dedicated space, time, human resources, technical equipment and a budget that may vary with the company’s activity and seasonality. Because all services in the company are more or less involved in generating some mail volume, it may be difficult to plan, track and analyse the category. Yet often the level of costs, productivity and efficiency in the mailroom are not looked at closely.

With proper technological tools and organisation, companies will achieve a far higher productivity whilst reducing all the expenses linked to processing, sorting, printing, stamping and delivering paper communications. Often companies will choose to rationalise the back-office work by opting for a franking machine instead of stamps or the use of mail accounting software to help with the best shipping solutions and user data. In relation to the mail volume these investments are often too high to deliver an efficiency advantage.

However for comprehensive solutions, the intervention of an external expert brings an unbiased approach, applying proven methodology and tailor-made solutions that take into account human, spatial, financial and technological factors.

Mailroom Audit

The expert’s assessment will include qualitative and quantitative elements such as identifying the:

  • Exact internal needs of the company and the main users
  • Clients’ requirement with regards to delivery timelines
  • Volume of inbound/outbound mail flow
  • Mail processing organisation
  • Type of shipment (first or second class, signed-for),
  • Type of supplier (national post or private carriers)
  • Postage rates and their application
  • Origin of the data used – centralised or atomised?
  • What technologies and applications are currently used? Are they relevant to the corporate and clients’ needs?
  • How flexible is the fulfilment process? Is it capable of coping with an increased influx of mail?
  • How are the documents sorted and prepared? How is the mail tracked?
  • Security and data protection
  • Percentage of mistakes and complaints vs. the volume of post handled – includes returned mail, misspelt addresses, duplicates etc.? How is it dealt with?

The initial analysis will also look at the physical structure within the mailroom, i.e. if the floor space is adequately organised to save time and unnecessary movements. There may be a need to redesign the room to improve efficiency or to outsource altogether the whole process.

Another more sensitive element will be to check who’s in charge in the mailroom: are we talking about dedicated staff? Or does any employee use the room? Have all users benefited from the relevant training to make the most of the technological tools at their disposal, and if unavoidable peak times are sufficiently manned to avoid stress and potential mistakes.

Then the expert will analyse the contracts and invoices to check that the services provided as well as the prices – often volatile and diverse - best meet the company’s needs.

Solutions may include outsourcing the mail services, which will automatically save on floor space, equipment rental, and allow better use of the workforce and increased flexibility. This is not however the best solution for every company. For many businesses, the ideal solution may not be between in-house or outsourcing, but a combination of both depending on the tasks at hand, i.e. large volumes of mail runs may be more efficiently handled outside.

Dedicated outsourcing partners are working on a highly automated level and use intelligent tools to prevent errors like wrong addresses in the case of outbound mail. Although in most countries there are limited possibilities to negotiate the rates for postal services outsourcing providers can reduce the postage costs by printing optimisation (duplex vs. simplex) or automatically collating multiple letters into one envelope to name just a few examples. On the other hand available space in letters can be used for marketing flyers, which are automatically added by the enveloping machine.

Last but not least most companies also save on material costs as the outsourcing providers are purchasing paper and envelopes in much bigger volumes.

The same applies for outsourcing inbound mail: letters are scanned, identified via multiple record recognition and electronically submitted to the correct recipient in the company – avoiding the usual 100% manual process in the company. This can also be done in-house, but as the appropriate equipment is very expensive this makes only sense for very large volumes.

Of course all qualified suppliers are working on the highest level of security and data protection.

Whether outsourced or in-house, the mailroom remains a place to investigate for potential savings.

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