Aug. 10 2006 05:46 PM

Many organizations see the mailing process as a necessary evil, just another cost of doing business. Randal Westbury, MQCS, CMP, MSS, a nominee this year for the National Postal Forum's Mail Manager of the Year Award, admits he too once shared that view but he now realizes how wrong he was.


When First American CREDCO, a global leader in credit reporting, began consolidating offices into one campus in Poway, California, back in 1999, Westbury was offered the position of supervisor of Office Services. His new duties covered mail and mailing, off-site storage, company vehicles, shipping, receiving, document shredding, courier services, internal mail and deliveries as well as a full-service copy center.


"After agreeing to accept the position, I soon learned why this was a department all to itself," he remembers. "I was so overwhelmed that I had no idea where to begin."


Deciding to concentrate his energies first on the most costly area mail services he began developing a flow chart for all functions. "I immediately saw redundancies. Four people were actually performing a task that could be done by one." It didn't take long before he was able to deploy the other three staff members to the production department.


After learning that four individuals had the full-time duty of manually folding and stuffing envelopes, he met with his mail vendor. Westbury quickly became convinced that a folder/

inserter could perform the same task far more efficiently, offering a payback within just two years. "Once I saw the potential for savings, I started looking for other areas where mail flow could be improved." He carved out the time and money to attend a Pitney Bowes' mail management seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. "It was eye-opening, full of tips on mail and mailing." Don Archer of Pitney Bowes is an excellent facilitator and was able to shed light on what used to be a cloudy subject."


To gain more knowledge from experienced mailers, he joined IPMA and the San Diego Postal Customer Council and began feverishly reading everything he could about business mailings. He went on to achieve his Mail Quality Control Specialist (MQCS) certification and soon became an administrator of the program, requiring that all of his staff also attain the credential.


In attempting to set up benchmarks, he discovered that in 1998 the department spent nearly $400,000 in postage, mailing almost 600,000 pieces. Unfortunately, no record of returned pieces had been kept, or the volume of business reply or even how many of those mailpieces actually reached their target destinations. Large volumes of mail that had been returned by UPS for address updates had been discarded without any changes being made.


Realizing improvements were desperately needed, Westbury drew up what he refers to as an itinerary, mapping out the path to reach additional savings for his company. It included:

  • Locate a U.S. Postal Service-approved database cleansing program to use in-house

  • Track and log every incoming and outgoing mailpiece including return pieces to identify how much was being spent on undeliverable addresses

  • Track all business-reply mail and its weight

  • Audit invoices and cease using a pre-sort house

  • Centralize printing and processing


    Based on the information gathered, he knew mailing costs could be significantly reduced without reducing the volume of mail. "My goal for 2000 was to save $50,000. As it turned out, we actually saved $62,202 for the year in addition to reducing five full-time staff positions."


    Realizing how much could be saved if all of First American's sites implemented similar processes, Westbury created a mailing manual, describing ways to mail most effectively and economically. It lists all the Postal Service requirements of mailability as it pertains to an organization like First American, provides examples of what mailpieces should look like and offers ideas on their content and size.


    In creating the manual, he invited two local postmasters to view his mail center and offer suggestions on ways of improving deliverability. "I became very good friends with my local Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA), Paula Bigorma, who taught me so much from barcode symbology to aspect ratio and print reflectance difference."


    Westbury also invited other First American mail managers to a national meeting in Poway to brainstorm and share ideas, opening the doors of communication to strengthen buying power and negotiating.


    By converting from a basic BRM to a QBRM account, First American saved $73,000 in postage. Only verified addresses were used for mailings and promotional offerings. By having a MQCS negotiate and monitor mail contracts, the company was able to save an additional $4,000.


    By mailing only to verified addresses, an additional $25,000 was saved the following year (2002). Using an Océ 3165 digital printer/copier, Westbury also began managing the data lists within the department. Once Westbury's operation took over, the once two-week printing cycle shrank to just two days. Consequently, payments were returned much more quickly because the statements were delivered faster and more consistently.


    What new savings does Westbury foresee in 2003? "We're projecting a savings of around $68,000, based on automating two of our major users of mail." He shares how it has taken several years of success stories to eventually sway some departments to take the leap and start mailing smarter.


    "One department had budgeted $17,500 in postage for a major mailing. After meeting with the director, I noticed the piece weighed four ounces and didn't need to be mailed First Class," Westbury explains. What could have cost $14,400 in postage ended up costing just $5,250.


    If just one thing can be learned from Westbury's journey during the past five years, it is that there are tremendous savings that can be found in the mailing area if you are willing to dig for them and have a strong working knowledge of the mailing industry.


    If you have questions for Randal Westbury, he can be reached at


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