Universities build state-of-the-art research facilities and top-of-the-line athletic training complexes. Upgrading the mail center is rarely on their investment list though. Inter and intra-campus mail delivery does not attract highly recruited students or research grants, so understandably, mail services do not get the same budget allocations as plans for a new weight room. Nevertheless, educational institutions must take the importance of the mail into account. A campus mail center handles all the incoming and outbound communications between the college and its alums, donors, students, staff, and faculty. Along with email and telephone calls, the mail facility is a primary conduit to the outside world. The difference is that when an official, perhaps direction-changing document arrives, it often comes through the mail center. Without efficient and secure mail operations, an educational institution could miss opportunities to apply for grants or secure an endowment. Operating university mailrooms with equipment no longer suited for the job is a risk. It is also unnecessary. Affordable replacement technology is available. The College Campus Mail Center Model Has Changed Change is difficult in any organization, including within the university mail center. Barriers to change include employee resistance, ambiguity surrounding the benefits of change, and inadequate resources or equipment to implement the proposed improvements.Most campus mail center designs, policies, and processes are 50 years old. Mail workflows today are dramatically different and not supported by legacy methodology. Workflows have changed because of new technology, improving traditional methods, and accountability requirements. University mail centers must accommodate the transformation of the traditional mail stream. Transactional and social mail has declined rapidly while package volumes have grown exponentially. Higher education mail centers will reinvent themselves and embrace new technologies, including electronic mail delivery and management solutions. The “Mail Services” sign on the building will soon give way to the “Parcel, Printing, and Mail Service Center” or a similar description. The evolved mail room will distribute mail and packages to the campus community and offer outbound shipping and printing services. Campus Delivery is Now Campus Pickup Carriers, including the Postal Service, rarely deliver directly to campus locations. The possible exception is overnight and accountable items. The mail center is there to connect students and faculty with their items. Traditional campus mail systems collected mail and packages at a central site and distributed them campus-wide, including dorms, where mail may be sorted into personal mailboxes. A parcel shipment is kept behind the desk in a dormitory until the resident retrieves it. The chain of custody is lax at best. A different type of centralized approach is gaining traction nationwide. Today, carriers deliver to one building: the mail center. Students and staff receive an email or text to pick up their items. This workflow provides a tighter, more accountable chain of custody. The Mail Center Challenge The challenge for college mail centers is optimizing floor space while maintaining prompt notification of package or mail arrival. Like the USPS, a college mail center’s volume has shifted from letters to packages. Between 2009 and 2018, First Class Mail volume declined 31%, Marketing Mail volume declined 6%, while shipping and parcel volume increased 100%.1 That number is pre-COVID. Package volumes overwhelmed postal processing centers during the pandemic. Packages take up space and need manual handling. Knowing that mail is not going away anytime soon, how can colleges reduce mail's footprint to make room for boxes? The Mail Center Solution: The Tritek Oasis Inbound Mail Processing System Tritek’s Rule Editor software applies business rules to inbound mail. The editor determines which mail to open and scan. Some envelopes are only externally examined. The software directs envelopes and catalogs to bins for pickup. The mail processing hardware feeds the document, scans the front and back, opens the envelope, and gathers mail into collection bins. The Oasis Processing System helps campus mail centers overcome space and staffing constraints and provides notification in a safe and secure environment. For decades, Tritek has engineered patented, field-proven mailroom automation and document imaging solutions to improve productivity and mailroom efficiency for college campuses nationwide. The company understands the challenges faced by university mail center managers. Tritek’s expanding menu of mail services includes biohazard screening, digital email delivery, database management, returned mail processing, inbound mail, presorted mail, and parcel processing. Their clients include Fortune 500 companies, government, educational institutions, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and fulfillment. 1 https://www.cato.org/cato-journal/fall-2019/restructuring-us-postal-service#usps-s-predicament
Campus mail center employees spend most of their time sorting incoming mail and attempting to deliver it to recipients scattered over a large geographical area. This is especially true now that many students and instructors are studying or teaching from home. Automated, rules-based sortation and electronic mail delivery can slash a university’s dependence on mail center staffers while simultaneously speeding up mail delivery. A student’s residence is often difficult to pin down, especially when they move to off-campus housing. That challenge increased dramatically with the remnants of COVID-19 still with us and at-home learning. Delivering to faculty, staff, and students is a guessing game, yet packages and mail continue to arrive. The key to keeping the campus mail center functioning is automation. Here are five factors motivating campus mail center administrators to seek automated mail delivery solutions for the educational institutions they serve. Space Challenges The dilemma for college mail centers is optimizing floor space while maintaining timely notification of package or mail arrival. Volume is shifting from letters to packages. Packages take up space and need manual handling. Knowing that mail is not going away anytime soon, how can colleges reduce mail’s footprint to make room for packages, yet still process correspondence? Automated inbound sortation technology is flexible enough to process mixed-weight mail, parcels, flats, and postcards. The equipment can enable more efficient package storage and retrieval while optimizing the space allocated to the facility. Digital Mail Replacing Hard Copy Digital delivery of hard copy postal mail is gaining wide acceptance in corporate mail centers. For businesses, digital mail delivery automates manual sorting and delivery. Corporate inbound mail is repetitive. It is usually a form or a standard response. Once opened, automated processes scan the envelope’s contents and send images electronically to the appropriate employee, even if the name on the envelope no longer matches the person holding the position. The automated system captures the recipient’s name and other information from the envelope and software looks up the employee’s email address. Cameras scan the front and back of the envelopes, date-stamp them, and send the images to the recipients.College mail differs from private business mail. However, much of the same technology now adopted by businesses can be effectively deployed to serve the students, professors, and staff at a college. University mail is personal. An envelope could contain a card from home with 20 dollars secretly folded inside. If it has a First-Class stamp, the mail center cannot open it.Rule editor software uses business rules created by university privacy administrators to control what mail the mail center can open and what stays sealed. The automated system scans the front and back of the envelopes and sends images to student phones. They can pick up their mail at any time. Staffing Challenges The Printing Industries of America reported that 30%-50% of skilled workers in the industry will retire in less than ten years. Replacing these workers is a challenge. Vocational schools are not producing graduates with traditional print and mail processing skills. Hiring employees in any capacity is a struggle. Finding workers with an understanding of mail processing is rare. College mail centers must adopt automated inbound mail and parcel sorting to make up for the lack of staff. Centralization At most colleges, mail and parcel management is moving toward centralization. The traditional model is delivery directly to a dorm or office where staffers sort the mail into personal mailboxes. Dormitories, keep packages behind the desk until residents retrieve them. The chain of custody is lax. Today, the common carriers deliver to one building: the mail center. Students and staff receive an email or text to pick up their items. The Face of Mail Has Changed Legacy campus mail center designs, policies, and processes are not equipped to accommodate the transformation of the traditional mail stream. The demand for transactional and social mail has declined rapidly, while package volumes have grown exponentially. Higher education mail centers will reinvent themselves and embrace new technologies, such as alternative delivery and management solutions. Eventually, the nomenclature will change. The “mail center” will be known as the “service center” or a similar description. The evolved mail room will provide distribution of mail and packages to the campus community and also offer outbound shipping and printing services. Tritek’s Inbound Mail Processing Systems for Universities Customers use the Tritek rule editor software to apply business rules to inbound mail. The rules determine which mail to open and scan. Some envelopes are only externally scanned. The software directs envelopes and catalogs to bins for pickup. Our solution also includes the hardware. The hardware feeds, scans front-and-back, opens the envelope, and gathers mail into collection bins. Tritek’s line of mail and parcel sorters helps campus mail centers overcome space and staffing constraints and provides notification in a safe and secure environment. Since 1988, Tritek has engineered patented, field-proven mailroom automation and document imaging solutions to improve productivity and mailroom efficiency. Tritek’s expanding menu of mail services includes biohazard screening, digital email delivery, database management, returned mail processing, inbound mail, presorted mail, and parcel processing. Tritek’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, government, educational institutions, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and fulfillment.
College students as a group have always been a nomadic lot. That tendency has increased dramatically with the onslaught of COVID-19 and at-home learning. For a college mail center, getting letters and packages delivered to faculty, staff, and students can turn into a guessing game. Where they were last month has probably changed. It could be a different building on campus, a nearby community, or nearly anywhere that distance learning takes place. Though the recipients are mobile, packages and mail addressed to them continue to arrive at college mail centers. Fortunately, technology can allow college mail centers to keep students, faculty, and staff connected and receiving all their mail. Campus Mail Today Campus mail centers are competing for real estate and resources. Staffing is not at the levels it once was. Space is also at a premium. Areas once allocated to mailboxes now accommodate packages as mail volume decreases, but parcels stack up. Instead of delivery to dorms, offices, and departments, a centralized approach is gaining traction nationwide. Carriers, including the Postal Service, typically do not deliver directly to campus locations. It is the mail center’s job to connect campus inhabitants with their items. This is happening under the constraints of COVID-19 protocols. Centralization In the past, college mail and packages may have been delivered directly to a dorm or office. The mail was sorted into personal mailboxes. In a dormitory, a package was kept behind the desk until the resident retrieved it. The chain of custody was lax. Today, carriers deliver to one building: the mail center. Students and staff receive an email or text to pick up their items. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, over 75% of adult respondents believe packages sent to students are safer delivered to a campus mail center and not a dorm or off-campus apartment. The Challenge The challenge for college mail centers is optimizing floor space while maintaining timely notification of package or mail arrival. Just like the USPS, a college mail centers’ volume is shifting from letters to packages. Mail volumes have declined by 39 percent since 2008. Package volume and delivery have grown by 21 percent. That number is pre-COVID. Package volumes overwhelmed postal processing centers during the pandemic. Packages take up space and need manual handling. Mail is not going away anytime soon. How can colleges reduce mail’s footprint to make room for packages? Handling Campus Mail Campus mail center managers should borrow a strategy from corporate America: digital mail delivery of hard copy postal mail. Digital mail delivery automates manual sorting and delivery. Once opened, equipment scans the envelope’s contents and sends electronic images to the professor, student, or staff member. Powerful rules software finds the recipient’s email address based on the name on the envelope. The equipment scans the front and back of the envelope, date-stamps the entry, and sends the images to the recipient. A college mail center differs from a corporate mail facility. In a business, inbound mail is repetitive. Documents they receive are often a form or a standard response. Mail is often not addressed to a person per se. College mail is more personal. A card from a mom to her son at the freshman dorm is an example. Opening personal mail is not only bad manners, it is also a federal offense. Here is where the power of advanced rules software takes over. College privacy administrators decide what mail can be opened and what stays sealed. These instructions are programmed into the digital mail system, which controls the handling of each mailpiece. The system scans the envelope of a greeting card sent to a freshman from his mom and sends the image to the student. If it is his birthday, he knows what is inside. He gets an email asking him to pick up his card. The mail is not opened until he does it himself. Suppose the next envelope is addressed to the athletic department — a business reply envelope supplied to high school baseball players interested in a summer camp. Each of these envelopes is easily identified and always contains a form and a check. Business rules compiled in the rules editor direct the mail handling console to open the envelope, scan the contents, and send the image to the athletic department. The mail center may hold the checks in a secure location for pickup by an authorized athletic department representative or sent directly to the business office for deposit. Magazines, Folded Self-Mailers, and Catalogs Many mailpieces do not present a privacy issue. These documents are already open and do not contain sensitive information, but they are important. People want them. In these cases, the system sends scanned images to recipients as directed by the rules software. The mail center will hold the pieces for pickup. Tritek Oasis Inbound Mail Processing System We have discussed the rules editor that applies business rules to inbound mail. The software determines which mail gets opened and scanned and directs envelopes and catalogs to bins for pickup. Tritek’s powerful rules editor makes it easy to transition from a system that manually distributes every mailpiece to one that lessens the burden on college mail center personnel. Besides the software, Tritek provides the hardware platform that feeds the material, scans front-and-back, opens (if directed), and gathers mail into collection bins. The processing console has a compact footprint, operates on standard power, and can process up to 10,000 mail pieces an hour. The Oasis Processing System helps campus mail centers overcome space and staffing constraints and provides notification in a safe and secure environment. Contact Tritek to Get Started