This article originally appeared in the May/June, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
Congratulations! You have recently been tasked with mailing operations. Now what? Relax and take a deep breath; you’ve got this! Let’s start by focusing on ways to drive savings and, in some cases, improve service times.
MAIL: LETTERS AND FLATS
If your company processes a high volume of daily mail (more than 1,000 pieces per day,) reach out to the presort consolidators servicing your area. They will show you how to meter your mail at a lower presorted rate with the proper endorsement. There is not much you have to do here; these providers will pick up your mail and consolidate it with many other businesses in your area to achieve workshare discounts that your company can participate in. This process also works for Flats, Standard Mail, Bound Printed Matter, and small packages.
Mail Processing and Department Chargeback
Processing outbound mail (sealing and metering) while also accounting for postage can be a time-consuming bottleneck. I advise consulting with your current vendors and explore automation options. If your operation also processes packages, consider a system that includes dynamic best-way routing intelligence.
Certified, Return Receipt
If there are more than a couple of these receipts a day, consider a system that can automate the generation, tracking, and archival of the return receipts. Electronically processing them can save postage while eliminating the need to file and store the returned green cards.
This is, by far, one of the most neglected area of opportunity! Try and cut through the never-ending list of excuses and take ownership of this challenge. Become the guardian of your key mailing lists by creating a process to keep the list current for moves (via NCOALink) while also standardizing the address to the USPS-verified standard (CASS software). This will save a lot of time, money, and embarrassment by getting in front of problems before they occur. Think of the saying that, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Outbound and Returns, Less Than a Pound: First-Class Package Services (FCPS) is a flat-rate (no zones), ounce-based program that beats every option out there except for Parcel Select Lightweight (PSL). FCPS is a premium service with two- to five-day delivery to every address in the country. It does not require special packaging and, like First Class Mail, travels by air to the outer zones and is delivered six days a week at no additional charge. PSL packages are picked up by consolidators and inducted deep into the network for last-mile delivery. Consolidators include UPS (SurePost and Mail Innovations), FedEx SmartPost, Newgistics, DHL SmartMail, and OSM Worldwide. These services are a viable alternative when lower costs trump the need for faster speed.
Key Savings Tip: Make sure you record these transactions as ounce-based FCPS or PSL. Many systems default to the more expensive Priority Mail (PM) or Parcel Select (PS) programs, which use pricing that is based on one-pound increments, making it more expensive, especially for longer distances.
Outbound and Returns, Greater Than a Pound:Here is where the lines begin to blur. Your savings will depend on which service you choose and how the price compares to your existing FedEx/UPS carrier negotiated rates. This is where that dynamic best-way routing intelligence of an automation solution will pay for itself many times over by comparing the landed costs between service offerings to identify and deliver savings while achieving the desired time in transit (TNT). Make sure the system compares based upon the package dimensions, accurate weight, and provides options based upon when it needs to arrive.
Key Savings Tip: By rate-shopping based upon desired arrival time, you can avoid the expensive Express options, especially when the distance traveled is not that far. In most cases, Ground TNT is the same as Express for zones 2 and 3.
Flat Rate Upside: Besides direct comparisons using the weight and zone, a more difficult comparison integrates dimensional charges and service options. Many shippers are still coming to grips with UPS and FedEx increases relating to package dimensions instituted over the last few years. The USPS has not changed its dimensional policies and is more favorable. In addition, it offers Priority Mail Flat Rate, Priority Mail Regional Flat Rate, and Priority Mail Cubic options that can potentially provide benefits to a basic weight/zone best-way routing tool.
Key Savings Tip: Reduce the box size by eliminating dead air in your packaging. Consider the use of the USPS Padded Flat Rate Envelope, which is one price regardless of distance (zone).
International: There are many choices when it comes to international shipping. One of the biggest differentiators is how the carriers handle brokerage fees and the collection of duties (if any). The USPS acts as its own broker, so brokerage is always included. However, if any duties are owed, the recipient must pay at time of delivery. This may have the undesired effect of the recipient refusing delivery, so plan accordingly. The USPS offers six different ways to ship internationally. One of the most competitive service offerings is the USPS First Class Package International Service (FCPIS), which is ounce-based up to 64 ounces (four pounds) and includes basic tracking to most countries.
This is the low hanging fruit that should provide you plenty of opportunity to overachieve in your new role. In addition, I recommend joining your local Postal Customer Council (PCC) or the Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA) chapter and network with others that have already faced the challenges you might be experiencing. Wishing you great success in your new role!
Gordon Glazer, CMDSM, CMDSS, MDP, MDC is a Senior Consultant, USPS Specialist at Shipware LLC, an innovative parcel audit and consulting firm that helps volume parcel shippers reduce shipping costs 10%-30%. Gordon is a postal industry veteran with over 30 years’ experience and is a sought-after speaker and industry thought leader. He welcomes your questions and comments, and he can be reached at 858.879.2020 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.