July 27 2006 04:50 PM

In the last issue of Mailing Systems Technology, you had the opportunity to compare your mail center workers' wages with the results of our Annual Wage & Operations Survey. In this issue, you will be able to tell if you are keeping pace with your peers operationally. We analyzed over 500 mail center operations to provide you with the information you need to continue improving working conditions and productivity. With more and more documents moving to the Internet, it will be critical that you achieve operational excellence at the best possible cost to justify the continuing existence of your mail center. And you will have to keep your organization knowledgeable about the true value of mail it has a great return on investment. Now, on with the results.


In Good Standing

The U.S. Postal Service remains at the heart of our industry. And the majority of our survey respondents give it a big thumbs up. Of course, opinions change from time to time. The very highest volume mailers are more likely to have changed their opinions in the last 12 months, and those opinions are more negative. The Internet could be affecting changing attitudes. If a manager's mail volume is increasing because of the Internet, 52% have recently changed to a more positive attitude of the USPS. On the other hand, if mail volume is decreasing because of the affect of the Internet, 54% of those whose volumes are decreasing gave the USPS a more negative rating. Standard mailers were more apt to change their opinions than First Class mailers. Of those who changed recent opinions, First Class mailers were more apt to give the USPS a more positive rating than Standard mailers.


In terms of performance, First Class and Standard mailers (80% of each) rank the USPS' performance as good to excellent. Of all the business categories surveyed, educational institutions were the most likely to rate USPS performance from fair to poor, and manufacturers were the most likely · to rate it good to excellent. Again, the Internet may have played a role because if mail volume increased due to the Net, 85% gave the highest performance ratings; if volume decreased, only 76% gave the USPS a good to excellent rating. Those companies that have begun billing via the Internet followed suit with only 70% giving the best ratings versus 80% of those that do not have electronic billing.


A Call for Reform

Sixty-five percent of survey respondents believe Congress should enact Postal Reform legislation. Manufacturers followed by educational institutions lead the charge (77% and 72% in each industry, respectively). Standard mailers are only slightly more interested in seeing reform than First Class mailers (68% and 63%, respectively). The amount of volume processed has virtually no affect on a mailer's beliefs. Sixty-seven percent of lowest volume mailers and 66% of highest volume mailers want reform. While most managers want reform, most do not support privatization of the Postal Service. The least likely to want privatization are educational institutions, government entities and other nonprofit organizations.


Tomorrow's Technology

As the Postal Service grapples with a changing business environment, mailers want it to continue investing in technology to improve mail delivery and accountability. As in 2000, 68% of mailers would apply USPS tracking codes if they were available. Surprisingly, more Standard mailers (75%) than First Class mailers (66%) would apply tracking codes. And more lettershops (83%) would use the technology than other business types, which ranged in interest from 63% to 72%.


Investing in the Future

For the first time in the 12-year history of this survey, mail center managers are investing in "out of the norm" technologies. As mail centers merge with print facilities, documents move to the Internet and one-to-one customer relationship building occurs, managers are buying such diverse technologies as language translation software, electronic billing systems, voice recognition systems as well as graphics and accounting software. While these items are not the most sought-after investments, their mere mention reflects how managers are adapting to the · changing business environment. However, most managers are still investing in typical mail center equipment to help drive costs down. Number one on the list for lower volume mailers, after computer hardware, is printers and addressers, with meters and inserters coming in a close second for purchases planned this coming year.


Using Specialists

In addition to acquiring equipment, managers invest in "outside" help to drive down costs. Mail centers that outsource between 1% and 25% of total mail volume drive costs down the most, to 32. per piece (overall average cost per piece is 40.). Lettershops, more than presort bureaus or fulfillment houses, help reduce the cost per piece, most likely because of the tremendous volumes they process (on average 48 million pieces per year). Centers managed by an outside facility management firm send out more mail volume (46%) than those managed from within, which sends out 24% of volume. First Class mailers use presort services more often, while Standard mailers rely on lettershops.


Counting Every Penny

The very smallest volume mailers (averaging 207,000 pieces annually), of course, bear the highest cost per piece at 43.. The very high-volume mailers (averaging 94 million pieces per year) have realized a 28. per piece cost. (Note that the annual volumes include both incoming as well as the outgoing mailpieces processed.) Lettershops, educational institutions and transaction mailers are more likely to keep their costs per piece under the industry-wide average. Business services, government and other nonprofit entities as well as manufacturers all exceed the mail industry cost per piece average.


Your Input Matters

Again, thanks to all of our readers who took the time to fill out the survey. Each spring, you will find Mailing Systems Technology's Wage & Operations Survey attached to your magazine. Please take the time to fill it out and return it. The more surveys we receive, the more reliable information we can provide you. If there are other topics you would like us to have on the survey, let us know by e-mailing us at editorrb@chorus.net or by visiting www.mailingsystemsmag.com and submitting your comments on the Talk to Us page, or you can always call us at 800-536-1992.