Jan. 3 2007 11:28 AM

As we delve into the operations side of the Mailing Systems Technology Annual Wage & Operations Survey results, we once again see how mail center managers are being ever-so forward-thinking to maintain an efficient and cost-effective operation in an era of a weakened economy. In fact, managers may be making greater strides in operations than they are in wages and staffing, as Part 1 of the survey results showed in the September issue. And with a looming postage rate hike, mail managers have to become even more savvy to keep operational costs down. Now, on with the results, which clearly demonstrate the tenacity of mail managers. ·


Rising Postage Costs

While most managers anticipate requesting a higher budget to cover the rate hike or cutting volume, some managers are turning to alternative cost-cutting ideas. Printers and publishers are hoping printing costs will continue to come down to help offset the postage increase, and they are considering lighter weight paper, since postage is calculated based on weight. Managers in education and transactional mail centers (financial, insurance, utilities, communications and health care) will be trying to achieve finer presorts. Transactional mailers are also moving more documents to the Internet to defray costs. Government mail center managers will be looking to consolidate more mailings. And for lettershops and other mail outsource providers, they will be trying to increase mail volumes through more sales to capitalize on volume efficiencies. First- Class mail centers are looking at savings through finer presorts, while Standard mail centers will try to cut operational costs.


But it is not just the rate hike that concerns some managers; compliance with Merlin is a constant concern which can wear on the budget. While fewer Standard mailers and more First-Class mailers are being affected, overall, more volume is being rejected or having to take on higher postage costs this year over last year. Even though there are negative consequences with MERLIN compliance and there is a rate hike around the corner, mail managers have ranked the United States Postal Service better this year than in years past.


Trends Driving Efficiencies

We have been monitoring three trends that have been helping businesses better manage their mail center costs: the merging of print and mail operations, adding fulfillment services and outsourcing. This year, we added "selling services to outside companies" as another trend to watch. All of these trends help to drive down the cost to process a piece of mail. For example, those who outsource to a presort bureau reduce per piece costs by 6% and those who outsource to a lettershop drive down costs by 8%. (For other per piece cost savings, refer to the charts.)


Staffing Operations

On average, our readers who responded to the survey that operate very low-volume mail centers (processing <600,000 outgoing mailpieces per year) have 4.9 employees; low volume (<3.6 million) have 6.8 workers; mid-volume (<6 million) have 11.3; high-volume (<12 12.8; and very (>12 million) have 85.9 employees.


Safety of those workers is a concern of most managers (64% have a safety protocol in place). When asked, "What is the most recent safety practice/device you have implemented?," the most frequent answer by managers was training or testing employees (24%). Fifteen percent implemented mail center entry security measures. Followed by the third-most common response (13% of managers), purchase of gloves, masks and other protective gear. The three safety measures mentioned least were purchasing defibrillators, installing better ventilation and purchasing lift belts.


Until Next Year

That wraps up this year's survey. We would like to thank those who took time to complete the survey. It is because of you that we are able to provide the mail industry with the only comprehensive analysis of wages and operations, now for the 16th year. Please remember that when you see the survey arrive with your magazine next spring, take a few minutes to complete and return it. Just filling it out may help you focus on your own staffing and operation issues. And then when the results are unveiled, you can compare your operation to the industry standard. Until next year.