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Feb. 4 2011 03:00 PM

If you think you've done everything possible to make mail affordable for your internal or external customers, you might want to take another look.

Everyone has made cuts over the last two years. But there are still ample opportunities to save money on materials, production costs and postage. Unfortunately, the savings that remain are difficult to recognize - especially for those who work in document operations every day. The very people called upon to find innovative ways to lower costs are handicapped by their intimate understanding of how things have always been done.

My own mail provides a perfect example. My brokerage statements have typically arrived in a 9" x 12" flat envelope. But this last month, my statement was bi-folded and inserted into a 6" x 9" window envelope, qualifying the piece for letter mail postage rates. The postage savings? A whopping 32% over the previous month!

Mail geek that I am, I was curious to see if anything had changed, or if my brokerage firm had just finally wised up and figured out that letter mail is a lot less expensive than flats. When I compared my last two account statements I noticed the statement mailed as a letter had two fewer pages than the previous month.

Good for them, I thought! They've reformatted the document to cut down on page counts so that they could save on materials, printer clicks and postage - exactly what I would have recommended to them. A closer inspection, however, revealed no such format changes. The only difference was a slight variation in account activity. Amazingly, the absence of two little lines of print resulted in two fewer pages of statement.

Lots of Potential Savings
Wouldn't it be great if my financial company's print/mail processor could permanently reduce the number of physical pages on more of their accounts? Wouldn't their customer be thrilled to see lower postage and processing costs? Of course they would. And it's not that hard - especially with document re-engineering software that is available from several vendors.

Some minor reformatting and page-break logic changes could easily trim the statement page counts by 20%. Imagine the benefits if this could be consistently achieved:

Shorter print runs - Paper, toner and maintenance click savings, plus possible labor savings and perhaps even delayed equipment upgrades.

Quicker inserting - Folded mail inserters generally run faster than flats. And lower page counts have a direct effect upon the number of mailpieces that can be finished per hour. Some shops may even be able to reduce the number of inserters on the floor, saving capital expense, labor, maintenance and supplies.

Lower postage - There is a significant cost savings when switching from flats to letters.

Fewer meters - With more of the statements qualifying as letter mail, it might be possible to pay the postage on a large percentage of the mail by permit, thereby saving on meter rental, ink and print head costs, communication lines, and loss-of-use as money gets loaded onto meters in advance of need.

Page-count reduction is just one of many possible document-production modifications that can turn into big savings. There are lots of other ways to trim costs without affecting quality. Every shop is different, but I see savings opportunities in virtually every operation I visit.

If mail is to remain a critical customer communications medium, it has to be produced with the greatest accuracy, at the lowest cost, and have a significant impact upon the recipients. Not taking advantage of ways to make mail better puts the departments or vendors that produce the mail at risk. Neglecting to make necessary changes because they just weren't identified in time would be a shame.

REDUCING PAGE COUNTS can have a dramatic effect on overall document costs. Here's how to do it:

Change fonts & margins

Eliminate blank or nearly-blank pages

Eliminate redundant or irrelevant text

Print summaries instead of details

Move disclaimers or terms and conditions to the web

Smaller barcodes for inserter control

Variable size sections instead of fixed, reserved space

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants, a consulting firm that helps companies get the most out of their document operations. He welcomes your comments and questions. Visit or email Mike directly at