Dec. 29 2006 12:24 PM

In Part 1 of the Mailing Systems Technology Annual Wage & Operations Survey Results, we analyzed the impact of the economy on the industry, and we presented this year's trends in wages. In Part 2, we turn our attention to the operational side of the survey to learn how managers are coping with an ever-evolving industry, especially in a weakened economy. On with the results.


Your Greatest Challenges

Managing the mail center has its challenges; the number one challenge, as stated by 31% of managers, is dealing with personnel issues. A close second is the challenge of productivity as noted by 28% of managers. The other 41% of managers stated challenges of postal issues (12%), budget concerns (11%), equipment (7%), upper management (4%) and training, customers and safety/security (each with 2%). Managers in government find budgets and productivity are their two biggest challenges, while managers in print facilities find productivity number one. All other business types find personnel issues as the number one challenge. Predictably, budgets are a greater concern in low-volume centers than in high-volume centers; otherwise managers' challenges are about the same regardless of volume. Women managers more often perceive challenges with the U.S. Postal Service than do their male counterparts. Even though the vast majority of managers do not consider upper management a challenge, those who offer incentive programs have the least challenges with upper management. Instituting incentive programs also helps push personnel challenges to the number two challenge but ups productivity to number one. So while incentives may resolve some hiring, retention and disciplinary problems, it still does not fully resolve productivity issues.


Economy Impacts Processing

More volume than ever is being outsourced. Forty-four percent of managers outsource to presort service providers and 17% outsource to lettershops. Of total mail center volume, 41% is sent to third-parties for processing. The volumes outsourced are significantly higher than last year, regardless of the type of mail processed or the business type.


With more mail being processed outside the mail center, staff has been affected. Part-time workers seem to be impacted the most with a significant reduction, from 23% of non-management staff being part time in 2002 to only 15% being part time in 2003. Although part-time employees can be less costly, obviously managers have opted to maintain more full-time positions.


Managers of low-volume centers are doing more with less; in 2002, the average staff size was 3.7 and now is 3.4. However, in the largest volume centers, the number of employees is on the rise from an average of 38.5 workers in 2002 to 40.1 workers in 2003.


Tackling the issue of tighter budgets in a weakened economy may have shifted the recent surge of interest in security and safety to a decline of interest. Fewer mail centers today have safety and security protocols in place than they did a year ago. Safety sank from 77% in 2002 to 74% this year, while security went from 74% to 70%. Hopefully, mail center managers will not continue to lose sight of these very important issues.


Internet Continues to Take a Toll

Overall, more businesses are moving documents via the · Internet. Last year, 43% of businesses had online marketing programs; this year it has soared to 52%. Likewise, many more companies are also implementing online billing (from 19% in 2002 to 25% in 2003). Those businesses that process transaction mail (financial, insurance, utilities, communications, health care) are leading the surge to the Internet, fol-lowed respectively by manufacturers, business services, educational institutions, government, printers and lastly, lettershops and other third-party mail service providers. For some companies (28%), the Internet has meant an increase in volume. Topping the list are lettershops (40% realized an increase) and printers (37% increased), followed by government (33% increased) and business services (30% increased). However, most mail centers are losing volume to the Internet. Especially hard hit are educational institutions, in which 82% are seeing a decline in mail volume followed by transaction mailers (79% realized a decrease). The only facilities seeing more of an increase than a decrease in mail volume are those that process mostly Standard mail. Fifty-two percent of Standard mailers say volumes are on the rise because of the Internet, while 77% of First Class mailers say their volumes are decreasing. These facts bear out the Postal Service's prediction that the Internet would result in declining First Class mail and increasing Standard mail.


Still Making Headway

Although mail managers have been burdened this year with budget cuts and other challenges, more managers than ever are providing operational tools for their centers. Sixty-one percent of managers have operational manuals (up from 57% in 2002), 49% have customer service manuals (up from 37%), 43% belong to an Internet list service (39% in '02) and 37% have a mail center Web page (30% in '02). Of those who have Web pages, 25% are interactive, allowing customers to conduct business (such as placing orders, checking job status, calculating postage) over the Internet. Eleven percent of managers have implemented all of these tools along with security and safety protocols.


Until Next Year

We analyzed over 263 mail centers and a total of 4,112 mail center workers for this year's survey. We appreciate those mail center managers who took the time to complete and return the survey. Please, when you get your Mailing Systems Technology late in the winter and in early spring, look for the survey on the back of the cover wrap and fill it out and submit it. You can make a difference. If there are topics you would like us to include on the survey, simply go to and log onto the "Talk to Us Page" or e-mail Dan O'Rourke at or call 800-536-1992.