When establishing a mail center or updating an existing one, many companies must consider whether it makes sense for their operation to outsource company mail center needs or to buy or lease mail center equipment to add to an existing postage meter. As the demands of a company's mailing needs increase, this is an issue many small- to medium-sized businesses face when it comes to evaluating their mail center budgets.


It is essential to address the following issues in order to understand what approach to take:

  • Do we really know the inner workings of the mail center?

  • Is our mail operation cost efficient, or are we acting in a penny-wise and pound-foolish fashion?

  • Do we know what other mailing activities take place in the organization through outside organizations?

  • Do we know the postage costs per department?

  • Is there an opportunity for us to improve throughput?

  • Can we quantify the impact on the entire organization if we create an efficient/centralized mail center solution?

  • Is our staff adequately trained to use our equipment?


    The first thing a company must do to determine its mail center needs is to conduct an internal needs analysis. The following can be used as a guide to conduct this analysis and help you determine your mail center needs.


    Mailing Systems and Service

    1. Do we currently lease a postage meter? If so, how many months remain on the lease, and what is the monthly cost?

    2. Do we own a scale, a folder/inserter or sealer?

    3. What is the monthly service contract cost, and how long does it take for the dealer/sales representative to respond to us when we require service?

    4. Are we satisfied with our current level of service?

    5. What outside services are purchased through all the departments in the company?

    6. What costs are associated with mailings that are not managed in-house?

    7. What are some of the problems with our current equipment?


    Use of Systems

    1. What is our annual postage budget, and do we experience any peak or cyclical periods in our mailings?

    2. What is the average weight and size of an outbound letter and an outbound package? Is there a high percentage of mixed mail sizes?

    3. How much time does it take to presort the mail to run through the mailing system on a daily basis?

    4. How many minutes/hours per day does our mail meter run, and who is responsible for operating the equipment?


    Quantify Mailings

      1. How many letters do we mail on average during the month?

      2. Do we mail internationally and, if so, to which countries?

      3. What is the average number of incoming No.10 envelopes a day?

      4. How many monthly invoices/billing statements do we mail, and what is the average number of pages per statement?

      5. Do we mail direct marketing enclosures with our monthly statements?

      6. How long does it take staff members to manually fold and insert each invoice, and who is charged with this task?

      7. Do we outsource folding and inserting statements, and if so, what is the cost per piece?

      8. How many pieces of bulk mail do we send out annually?

      9. Do we affix an address label to packages?

    10. What sorts of enclosures are included in these bulk mailings (catalogues, brochures)?

    11. What other repetitive mailings do we do?

    12. What special mail services do we utilize?

    13. Do we need to track postage costs by client or by specific internal departments?

    14. How are overnight, Priority Mail and FedEx mail packs tracked to their recipients?


    Utilizing Additional Equipment

    Once you've conducted an audit of your current mailing needs and have determined that it makes sense to bring the mail center function in house and make it an important function of the company's operations, then you should consider whether adding the following equipment to your mail center would increase efficiency:


    Addressing equipment eliminates outsourcing and ensures that only your company has access to its proprietary databases and contact lists

    CASS software enables presort discounting

    Folders/inserters automates folding and stuffing of monthly statements and catalogues, as well as direct marketing pieces

    Furniture increases mail center efficiency by providing compartments for inbound and outbound mail, recycling and shredding and storing confidential papers

    Openers provide access to contents without damage, trimmings or sharp edges.

    Parcel tracking software provides the means to trace the flow of a package throughout the entire organization


    Selecting a Mailing Solutions Provider

    Of course, you'll want to work with a provider that offers the best value, reliable products and the solutions that fit your long-term mail center needs. The best provider is one that offers a complete solution and one that can accommodate you as the organization grows and your needs change.


    Look for a dealer or solutions provider that can respond rapidly when you need service. Share your needs analysis with those solutions providers you interview, and choose one that is flexible and can create solutions to fit your needs.


    By making this a priority, you'll ensure that you are generating bottom-line results, including:

  • Decreasing the impact of postage rate changes on the mail center budget

  • Reducing costs of outsourcing as well as lease agreements

  • Empowering mail center staff with tools to increase efficiency for inbound and outbound mail as well as for improved mail routing within your organization

  • Eliminating personal mailing costs billed to the organization's meters

  • Protecting proprietary information from flowing outside the company


    Larry Turner is president of the US region of Francotyp-Postalia (FP Mailing Solutions). For more information, visit www.fp-usa.com.

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