Aug. 10 2006 12:37 PM

    As the economy lags and mail volume declines, increased operational efficiencies can mean the difference between just barely surviving and thriving. Luckily, a wealth of post-presort software tools exist to make mailing operations run more efficiently and profitably. Postal statement generation and editing tools allow mailers of all sizes to electronically build their postal documentation to match their mailings and easily update them with changes. Beyond statement generation tools, a whole realm of software tools exist that support freight and logistics planning, postage accounting, mail tracking, container label generation and postal special services. Mailers should consider the many functionalities of software when looking for post-presort software tools.

     

    Postal Statement Generation and Editing Software

    Without the right post-presort tools, the mailer who uses presort software to cleanse his data, generate ZIP+4 Codes, and qualify for presort discounts still finds himself building his mailings to suit his documentation rather than building the documents to suit his mailings. Many postal statement generation and editing tools work with the electronic files produced by a mailer's presort software a mail.dat file to create postal statements more quickly, easily and with greater accuracy. Building the documentation to match the mailing is more cost-effective.

     

    Postage statement software makes it easy to prepare accurate 3600 and 3602 statements, 3541 periodicals statements and 8125 drop-shipment statements, regardless of whether or not you are working from mail.dat files. The software should store all statements and allow the mailer to edit and print the statements. Postage statement software that includes management reports and databases needs to allow mailers to go beyond just preparing postage statements and can make the whole mail production system more efficient. The best postage statement software should allow mailers to manage partial mailings; produce consolidated postage statements with greater ease; capture data on all mailings; and provide useful mailing data to the production, sales and accounting departments.

     

    Freight Planning and Logistics Software

    Entry-point planning and optimization allows mailers to introduce mail into strategically located postal facilities, thereby taking advantage of destination entry discounts and/or increasing service with faster delivery times. If mailers are restricted to entry-point planning prior to presort, they may be unable to take full advantage of last minute changes and react to manufacturing concerns.

     

    Logistics and freight-planning software should support the inclusion of freight charges, thus allowing the mailer to balance cost and speed-of-delivery options to make the best choices of postal entry facilities. Mailers should look for freight planning software that optimizes entry planning not just by postage charges but also by freight costs, eligibility requirements, penetration levels, in-home dates as well as  weight parameters.

     

    The right software can allow those who do their own trailer planning to "build" trailers right on the computer by pulling pallets from any number of mail.dat files for multiple jobs or versions that have the same in-home delivery dates. In this case, mailers and transportation companies should look for freight-planning software that supports pooled data trailer loading and that gives the total weight and pallet count for the trailer and for each stop as pallets are added. It should also update trailer numbers, stop numbers and ship dates back to the individual mail.dat files once a transportation plan has been completed. Finally, it should print Bills of Lading, Master Bills of Lading and 8125-C statements for each trailer at the end of the job. This software is of particular interest to transportation companies and their lettershop clients because it allows transportation companies to provide their entry plans to mailers more efficiently. After the mailer's mail.dat file is used to generate an entry plan as part of a pool, the mail.dat file can be modified and sent back to the mailer to print out revised mailing documentation, postage statements and 8125 statements.

     

    Postage Accounting Software

    Postage accounting software should have the ability to manage postage funds for a variety of situations including permit balance tracking and meter and stamp inventory tracking. With the right postage accounting software, mailers can post advanced postage payments from clients and determine if there are enough funds to cover a mailing before printing postage statements. The software can warn or prevent a mailer from printing postage statements if there are insufficient funds. Mailers should also be able to generate estimated postage invoices when job information is entered and can receive a warning if postage funds have not been received prior to the scheduled mailing date, giving the mailer time to remain "on schedule." Postage accounting software should track all postage disbursements and can even print postage checks and do CAPS reconciliation.

     

    Mail Tracking Software

    By participating in the Postal Service's Confirm ASN program, mailers have a prime opportunity to enhance the service they provide their existing customers the "mail owners" and to expand this customer base. The Confirm ASN program provides tracking data on First Class and Standard mailings so that mail owners can spot transportation or mail processing problems and predict when their mail will be delivered. By allowing mail owners to coordinate telemarketing follow up, schedule call center staffing and coordinate many other marketing and operational issues that are dependent on mail delivery, Confirm ASN information proves invaluable in optimizing the impact of each mailing. Mailers should look for mail tracking software that supports the Confirm ASN program.

     

    Container Label Generation Software

    Container label generation software can quickly produce tray, sack, ACT and pallet tags. This type of software can be used as a freestanding system that prints tray, sack, ACT, and pallet tags on demand, or it can import tags from mail.dat files, which are generated by presort programs and list processors. Container label generation software can support both continuous-feed thermal and cut-sheet laser printed tags and should require very little or no technical support.

     

    Software for Special Services

    Mailers can benefit from any number of software tools that prepare and track accountable mail. Mailers who use this software save hours that they once spent on filling out receipts for special services such as insurance, certified mail, delivery and signature confirmation. They can also qualify for large postage discounts. Another opportunity to save money and improve customer service will start June 30, 2002, with the addition of electronic delivery and Signature Confirmation for First Class mail. Currently shippers can get electronic Delivery Confirmation for free on Priority Mail and for only 12. for Package Services Parcel Post, Bound Printed Matter, Media Mail and Library Mail. After June 30, mailers can get delivery confirmation on First-Class parcels as well! If you convert your lighter packages from Priority Mail to First Class parcels, you will save money on postage without losing valuable delivery confirmation services. Some mailers who currently send Certified Mail will be able to convert that mail to First Class parcels and add electronic Signature Confirmation for only $1.30 each. With a minimal investment, mailers can equip themselves with postal shipping software that supports electronic delivery confirmation, electronic signature confirmation, printing postage with a permit and the use of special services. The best shipping software also provides benefits such as automated e-mail notification upon shipment and delivery of packages, automated importing of customer and/or package data and real-time connectivity with your customer database.

     

    Utilizing post-presort software tools can make it simple and cost-effective for mailers and transportation companies to streamline their operations and, in so doing, save labor and postage costs and increase their company's profit. Mailers who take full advantage of their existing presort software programs and generate mail.dat files can more fully automate their mailing operations.

     

    J. Jeffery Peoples is the founder and president of Window Book, Inc. For additional information on any of these software solutions, please visit www.windowbook.com, call 800-370-2410 or e-mail jpeoples@windowbook.com.

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