Fewer than 10 years ago, most mail centers were processing mail and packages by hand. However, an era of e-commerce and data-driven technology emerged, creating an exponential increase in purchase orders and package volumes, resulting in more misrouted items and an inability to close the accountability loop. In addition, more sophisticated requirements became a necessity as mail center managers were left to find solutions to address incoming supply and shipment requests, higher call volumes, and more stringent delivery expectations.

Logically these managers looked to package tracking companies to satisfy their needs and as a result, many companies studied these demands and created tools to work in tandem with the average package tracking system, elevating the offering into an all-encompassing campus logistics solution. Service request forms & management, client-facing portals, virtual mailboxes, locker/mailbox management, purchase order (P.O.) line item receiving, and outbound desktop shipping are but some of the tools designed to alleviate the pain many mail centers feel today.

Service Request Forms & Management

Service request forms are a substantial time saver for mail centers and even entire supply chains and function exactly how the name suggests. These forms allow employees to submit any request-related task, job, asset, or service in an electronic format. The requester simply selects the desired form, fills out the required information, and submits it. An automatic notification is sent to the mail center to be fulfilled. All submitted forms are tracked by status, like the package tracking software they are built on, until they are completed. Service request forms aid in avoiding last minute mishaps, allowing regulation of materials for better operations oversight, as well as ensuring tasks are being completed on time in order to meet service level agreements (SLAs). Manage all service requests through a centralized hub that allows managers to quickly view the status of multiple types of tasks and approvals. Have complete operations visibility at all times by viewing active requests in all statuses on an analytics dashboard.

Client Facing Portal

The last tool is not only helpful for the mail center, but also for the employees of the organization. A centralized client-facing portal is the essential hub where all these tools come together. A customer portal is also a powerful, yet user-friendly search and metrics tool for all to use. It manipulates data pulled in from all package and service-related transactions. The portal is a centralized location for employees to search for packages, request services, ship a package, or set up office alerts. The advanced search functionality within many customer portals allows users to search based on any variable tied to a particular package or service. For example, a user could search by status, sender, recipient, type, condition, carrier, and any other variable defined in the package tracking system. This function alone eliminates the, “where’s my package,” call. In addition, mail center managers can access an analytics dashboard detailing operations throughout the day as well as built-in reports based on key performance indicators. Based on the real-time data, managers can track deliveries, quickly and easily assign tasks to employees to optimize performance, view the statuses of incoming service requests, and ensure the mail center is meeting all service level agreements (SLAs).

Virtual Mailboxes

While package volumes may be increasing, white mail volumes have decreased drastically. Most mail centers have rows and rows of mailboxes that are hardly used. Why not repurpose some of that space and implement a more streamlined solution like virtual mailboxes? A virtual mailbox is essentially a bank of file folders. The barcoded folders represent each individual’s mailbox and essentially uses the same functionality as your package tracking system. When a particular person receives mail, it is placed in their folder and the barcode is scanned to notify them, via email or text message, that they have mail to pick up. The individual can then go to the mail center’s pick-up window to retrieve and sign for their mail. Virtual mailboxes not only free up space, but they decrease the amount of lost mail, provide complete accountability, and ensure mail is picked up in a timely fashion.

For larger organizations, utilizing an automated mail sorting machine that distributes a wide variety of mail into a convenient mode of delivery bins in a single pass may revolutionize the time it takes to sort all that junk mail from the important pieces of accountable mail using a wide range of sorting options including name, department, building, floor, and more.

Locker Management

Implementing a locker system is a great way to repurpose some of the space the mailboxes used to occupy. Locker management is the pairing of an intelligent locker solution with a package tracking software system. Instead of storing packages on a shelf until someone comes to pick them up, they are instead assigned and placed into a locker. Once the package is placed in the locker, an email or text notification is sent to the recipient with a unique access pin code. The recipient is then able to swipe their ID or enter their pin code to retrieve their packages from that locker. A locker system not only frees up package storage space, but it also reduces lines and staff required to process and hand out packages.

Mailbox Management

Even though white mail volumes have decreased, some mail centers are still required to keep their physical mailboxes. If this is the case, the mailbox management functionality within your package tracking software can aid in assigning, reassigning, and de-assigning mailboxes. Mailboxes can be assigned individually or in bulk and are assigned randomly or based on certain criteria, such as location.

P.O. Line Item Receiving

Increasing package volumes tend to correlate to an increase in purchase orders. Utilizing the P.O. line item receiving function in your tracking system not only saves time, but also closes the accountability gap completely. This functionality provides a single user interface for receiving, logging and closing purchase orders when integrated with the company purchasing system.

Desktop Shipping

While it is important to have tools to manage incoming packages, it is also crucial to have a game plan for outgoing packages as well. Desktop shipping is a game changing tool for mailroom managers because it allows employees the ability to set up shipping for their outgoing packages. This function is available in most package tracking systems and only requires the shipper to fill out the necessary ship-to information. The shipper is able to compare carrier services in order to select the most cost effective shipping method. With the help of a built-in address book, mailrooms can complete accurate shipments in less time. In addition, mailroom managers are able to analyze post-shipment costs, which in turn helps them meet delivery requirements without overspending.

Bruce E. Little is SCLogic's Vice President of Emerging Markets. Founded in 1996 SCLogic is a leading provider of innovative campus logistics software systems that leverage the latest barcode scanning, printing, mobile computing and wireless technologies. The company has thousands of enterprise, government and university users around the world. For more information about SCLogic, please visit www.SCLogic.com. Bruce can be reached at 1.888.700.7027 and blittle@sclogic.com.