You’ve heard it all before. Managing the mail center is about efficient employees, streamlined process workflows, top-notch customer service, quick turnaround times, superior communication, and a unified stack of applications that provide the data and resulting metrics you need for your bottom line and to help you identify problem areas. In short, it comes down to how you leverage the available technology to improve your processes, gather data, and track your results.

At this point, you have a pretty good idea of what’s out there, but do you know what questions to ask yourself to determine what is right for you, your team, and the mail center? In this article, we’ll discuss some of the technologies you are familiar with and some of the variables involved that may or may not make them a good fit for you.

USPS Partner Delivery Program

Along with the ever-increasing number of packages flowing into businesses and universities across the world come the ever-increasing number of misplaced or improperly delivered packages. When an employee or student searches for the status of their package on the USPS website, their records state that the package has been delivered. Yet when they go to pick it up, your department has no such record. The USPS Partner Delivery Program is designed to eliminate the uncertainty around the handoff between their couriers and your receiving team and close the accountability loop once and for all. Sounds great, right? Before you jump in, ask yourself this question first:

Do I have a good relationship with my post office? If not, am I willing to invest the time needed to create one?

This program will only be a success for your department if you are in good communication with your postmaster and they are willing to change their workflow to accommodate your request. They don’t benefit from this program, so motivation to implement the software and properly re-train staff are largely dependent on their good will towards you and your institution.

Intelligent Locker Systems

More and more intelligent lockers are popping up across university and business campuses alike with varying sizes, configurations, and feature sets based on your facility’s needs. What’s not to like? But before we lose you to the sweet, fuzzy daydream of high-tech lockers branded with your company colors and logo, know that these systems can get pricey and take up precious real estate if you’re not careful. Think about this:

Do I have students/employees that need 24/7 package access?

If so, this solution could very well be right up your alley. However, if your general population goes home at the end of the work day and your staff are not usually overwhelmed during that time, it may not be a worthwhile investment.

Are my buildings locked after a certain hour?

Make sure you consider the building and/or campus logistics. Is your facility manager willing to work with you if security measures need to be taken? Do they want people walking around the facility after hours? If you need to “take it outside,” do you have a suitable location to house a large piece of equipment? Is there proper lighting and security personnel? Checking these boxes beforehand will help ensure your locker implementation will be a success.

Line-Busting/Package Pick-Up Kiosks

Kiosks are nifty because they don’t require a significant budget and are highly flexible, coming in an array of hardware types and levels of mobility to suit your workflows and physical mail center configuration. However, that shouldn’t make them an automatic addition. They still take time and effort to successfully implement, and a dusty, barely operational kiosk does not make your mail center look cutting edge. With that in mind, ask yourself:

Does my mail center have known busy times or do crowds seem to ebb and flow erratically?

Some operations have established times when they know they’ll be busy, such as the first few weeks in September when students are moving back into dorms. If this is the case, it’s fairly easy to acclimate by temporarily increasing staff or altering their workflow by having a staff member walk down the pick-up line to jumpstart the pick-up process. On the other side of that coin, that same staff member could walk down the line with kiosk software installed on a tablet, bringing the process to a faster and even more efficient level.

If your mail center experiences unexpected up and downswings in activity, a stationary kiosk at the front of the building can give your staff a few extra minutes to retrieve a package, which can be helpful during both the busy times when they’re slammed with lines and the slow times when they may be busy handling other tasks.

Virtual Mailboxes

The concept behind virtual mailboxes is very clever and has the potential to positively transform your mail center, streamlining not only the physical space but also your white mail workflows. There are several vendors out there touting their solution but quite frankly, they run the gambit from smart and sleek to downright bulky and inefficient. So, pose these questions to yourself:

Are my mailboxes standing empty most of the time?

If you are like many mail centers, you’re finding that the space once held dear for banks of mailboxes now act as home to dust bunnies and spider hunting grounds. Put that space to use! Sell your mailboxes and use the proceeds to install a file folder system that is more compact, easier to distribute mail to, and flexes based on the flow of mail traffic.

Am I truly trying to consolidate and make smart choices for my dwindling white mail volumes or making it the excuse to have something new, big, and shiny in the mail center?

It’s time to be honest with yourself. There are better ways to spend your department’s budget and upgrade your in-house tech than purchasing a massive version of a Rolodex. If you’re looking at a virtual mailbox system, then you should be thinking slim and trim. Want something impressive? Look at intelligent lockers.

Bruce E. Little is SCLogic’s Vice President of Emerging Markets. Founded in 1996, SCLogic is a leading provider of the innovative facilities workflow platform, Intra Enterprise, that leverages the latest scanning, printing, mobile computing, and wireless technologies. The company has thousands of enterprise, government, and university users around the world. SCLogic is headquartered in Annapolis, MD with offices in New Jersey, Texas, Florida, and California.