The mail center is at the tail end of a long process that starts with a communication strategy and ends with a pile of print to be finished and mailed. By the time mail center managers see the material, it's too late to have any influence over how it looks, how it runs on the equipment, or how effective the mailed pieces will be in achieving the desired outcomes.

But you can do something about future work coming your way.

Jobs causing major problems always get discussed and fixed. I’m talking about those jobs that run fine, but could be improved. Always in a “we’ll deal with it” mode, mail center managers may not take the time to really examine what they are mailing with a critical eye. Here are some examples:

· A job that requires a custom window envelope or folder adjustment — only because of how the designer positioned the address block on the page. Reformatting the document to match the standard envelope lowers costs and opens the door to productivity improvements like merging small jobs together.

· Jobs with chronic page overflow conditions resulting in the repetitive production and mailing of pages bearing only headings and no data.

· Notifications formatted for folded and inserted mail you could convert to postcards or self-mailers to reduce postage and speed production.

· Jobs requiring pre-printed inserts you could improve by switching to onserts printed directly on the documents, saving money while simultaneously improving response because of personalized or segmented offers.

· Repetitive jobs that generate a high number of undeliverable mail pieces. Correcting the addresses will generate many benefits including better campaign ROI, lower production and postage expense, and hassles of dealing with returned mail.

· Jobs that, with a small schedule change, you could combine into highly efficient units of work.

· Standalone mail pieces that could be integrated with digital communications like email to improve response rates. Learn about QR codes and augmented reality to see if they are useful in connecting your company’s offline and online content.

· Documents you could reformat to use fewer sheets. This reduces click charges and speeds the insert process.

· Billing jobs that include return envelopes for customers who always pay online. Segment the documents or invoke selective inserting to only include return envelopes for customers likely to use them.

· Flats you could mail at letter rates by folding pages in half and inserting into 6” x 9” window envelopes.

Mail center managers may not feel empowered to speak up with suggestions about improving the mail, but remaining silent robs their organizations of their mail industry knowledge and experience. The people designing these documents probably don’t have an intimate understanding of document production workflows or postal regulations. Or conditions may have changed over time, tuning a once-required design feature into one that is unnecessary, and wasteful, today.

An approach I’ve used to get attention for my suggestions was to do all the research I could. I’d use resources like the US Postal Service, equipment vendors, software system help desks, or company purchasing agents to supply the facts and figures necessary to support an idea. Then I prepared a short presentation and scheduled meetings with internal departments, salespeople, or executives to share money saving and communication effectiveness ideas.

Mail won’t get better if we keep running the same jobs, the same way as we’ve always done. Look at the documents your organization is producing and see where you’d make improvements if it were up to you. Then make a case with the people who can put those ideas into action.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at and Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.