The delivery of critical communications within the government has undergone many pivotal changes recently. Many of these changes are causing federal, state, and local government mailing centers to revitalize their production processes and review mail management best practices. Here are four changes that are worth reviewing and questions to ask to ensure your operation is keeping pace:

1. Mail piece verification and piece level tracking

There’s no question that Amazon has changed consumer expectations when it comes to tracking shipped items. Combine this with the private sector’s 99.999% accuracy rates for mail verification. The USPS Informed Delivery platform now enables end users to see where their letters are in the process. Now, these same tracking expectations are being placed on government agencies by constituents. The question to ask is: Does your production process verify and audit every job, mail packet, and page to ensure 100% verification?

2. Vote by mail

The pandemic brought the ability to vote by mail to nearly every household in America. Mailing technology and having an AI-based, intelligent automated document factory (ADF) are key to ensuring accuracy of voting ballots with the correct information and then auditing them on the back end. Now is the time to look at your infrastructure and deploy solutions that address the ongoing issue of accounting for every mail piece that is created and sent and to be able to report on every step of the process quickly and efficiently. The question to ask is: Do you have a robust reporting and accountability process to handle future production processes reliably?

3. Inclusivity and Section 508 compliance is law

One of the most significant changes that has happened in the government printing and mailing space has been inclusivity, or Section 508 compliance. This law covers a range of issues related to assisting people with different kinds of disabilities and, in a print and mail operation, this means offering accessible formats to recipients. Departments and agencies need to ensure they have a solution or offering to deliver accessible communications. Implementing these solutions will help ensure your organization is compliant and, thus, avoid potential lawsuits.

There are vendors that specialize in bringing braille or large format solutions to the print and mail industry. The vendors in this space know how to support government agencies and departments and have the expertise and people to ensure that your communications are 100% compliant. The question to ask: Do you have a partner or a vendor to help ensure that you offer compliant communications?

4. Automation

Automation should no longer be “in plans for the future.” It is the only way for nearly every large transactional mail provider to ensure it is competitive with the private sector. Automation means you can produce perfect, repeatable output. There are many systems that talk about automating manual tasks in print and mail, but in 2022, it all comes down to using a hyper-automation platform to take those islands of technology and link them together into a harmonious, fully automated workflow.

Machine readable codes like 2D barcodes and address verification software have enabled many federal, state, and local government production facilities to now have the latest and greatest software that will control and manage all their jobs. A simple, secure web interface that offers web-based job approval can move responsibility from print operations back to the department or agency that created the communication — all without requiring a production employee to get involved.

Technology has made many things easier, and the right workflow management tools will automate manual tasks and eliminate errors, while protecting your employees — which are your most valuable production assets at the moment. The right implementation will simplify your operational procedures so that you can survive some turnover, having less dependence on individual people. The question to ask is: What do we need to do to improve or eliminate those non-value-added processes?

Tying It All Together

Production print and mail is no longer just print, insert, and mail. It is now about developing the best AI-based hyper-automation workflow and developing a unique, secure offering to give your internal clients and agencies the ability to trust in your production workflow. The best place to start is by outlining where you are at today based on the above four points and look at how you can adapt and expand processes to maximize the efficiency of your mail operations and ensure you are meeting evolving client expectations.

A digital document industry pioneer, Ernie Crawford is President/CEO and founder of Crawford Technologies. One of only a small number of people worldwide with M-EDP (Master Electronic Document Professional) designation, Ernie has more than 30 years of senior marketing and management experience in the high-volume digital printing market.

This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.