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.
Is your corporate mail center ready to enter the digital age? Most organizations are considering it. Those that are implementing digital mail delivery are looking to reduce costs and increase efficiency. It is necessary for a dispersed workforce. But some organizations are slow to adapt. Perhaps digitization seems too complicated or too expensive, but that’s not the case. Any organization with a dispersed workforce, which now includes a lot more companies than pre-COVID, should probably consider the benefits of a digital mail system to handle incoming mail. What is Digital Mail Delivery? Digital mail delivery is a postal mail and scanning process that converts incoming paper mail into digital form. A digital mail system delivers mail to addressees electronically. Digital delivery solutions create a digital record of each incoming mail piece, and track the progress, history, and delivery methods. Employees receive e-mails with links to the images of the physical mail pieces. Organizations can digitize mail and automate indexing, classification, and distribution. Establishing Business Rules The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, or further challenges could be ahead. Regardless, processes that businesses changed in response to COVID remain in place today. As the health threat came on fast, no organization had a Plan B to get hard copy documents to transient employees. Today, companies are dealing with postal mail and parcels intended for employees that will stay remote, but those methods were conceived in times of crisis. They were not meant to be permanent solutions. It is time to update the mail center procedure manual. Write formal business rules to ensure consistency and avoid misunderstandings. Document how to sort the mail and parcels. Determine the criteria to open some items while others stay sealed. Decide when to forward some mail and shelve others. Set the standards for recycling vs. delivering. Procedure updates require input from managers in many departments, not just mail professionals. Confirm that everyone agrees about how and when the mail center handles mail and parcels for on-site and remote employees. These documented standards, updated to address new business processes, are helpful regardless of whether or not an organization adopts digital mail delivery. What Probably Cannot be Digital Some documents may never be converted to digital delivery. This includes formal documents requiring a wet signature and anything that changes the trajectory of a business. Certified Mail, Registered Mail, and confidential items are examples of mail not opened by staff but delivered to the addressee as-is. Benefits of Digital Mail Digital mail allows users to receive an immediate notification of an arriving document. Employees can examine the document before walking or driving to the mail center to retrieve the physical piece or waiting for the mail to be delivered to them. Digital mail improves the management of high-value and time-sensitive mail Employees on the other side of town or the other side of the planet receive mail just like employees on-site. Digital mail reduces labor By delivering only the mail employees must have in physical form, organizations can reduce the number of couriers and routes. Digital mail is trackable Digital mail systems send a confirmation e-mail when an employee picks up their mail, thus closing the custody loop. Digital mail improves efficiency A worker on the 17th floor or at home can decide if the mail piece they just viewed on their computer is worth visiting the mail center on the 1st floor. They can reply with a message to hold for pick up or to recycle. Doing Digital Mail The main hardware ingredient for a digital mail center is a scanner. Because of diversity in mailpiece sizes, shapes, thickness, and orientation, mail centers intent on a do-it-yourself solution rely on labor intensive flat-bed scanners. A team member must place items in the scanner by hand and determine the distribution of the image. Mail center staffers send notifications to the employees to inform them they have received postal mail. Specialized solutions for handling incoming mail make digital mail delivery workable. Systems like Tritek’s Oasis solution are built to take most of the manual and decision-making tasks out of the hands of mail center employees. According to your business rules, Oasis can separate important mail from not-so-important correspondence, locate the printed address block, and notify employees about their mail. Employees can then decide if the mail should be opened and scanned, delivered to them in physical form, or discarded. These are exactly the features mail centers need when dealing with incoming mail addressed to a widely distributed workforce. Making changes in the mail center isn’t easy. It’s not usually on the top of the list when organizations consider strategic advances. But companies that believe digital mail delivery isn’t for them are putting their employees at a disadvantage. Without a digital mail delivery solution, everything takes longer to do. Employees are always waiting for old-fashioned physical mail delivery or a home-grown solution to get them the information they need to do their jobs. Customer experience will suffer when delays that could be avoided are built into the workflow. This is a good time to decide how corporate mail centers can best serve their organizations by permanently addressing the significant organizational changes most companies have undergone. Digital mail delivery is in the future for many organizations.
Most college mail centers were built well before e-commerce existed. Original construction plans didn’t anticipate the impact that a surge in packages would have on their limited space and staff resources as students and faculty turned to online shopping. The increased parcel volume makes the traditional methods of dealing with incoming packages impractical. Besides a severe storage space issue, manual procedures are inefficient. Mail center staff must send notifications to package recipients via printed alerts or emails and make them wait in line while mailroom clerks find packages, examine ID, and gather signatures. Anxious students waiting for online-purchased books to arrive often visit the mail center repeatedly, hoping their order arrives before the new term begins. Extra people standing around waiting to be served also contribute to the floor space issue. Students order books, dorm room furnishings, clothes, and electronics. They receive care packages from home. Faculty and staff receive many items such as supplies and materials that arrive via the US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, Amazon, or other delivery services. All those packages come to the campus mailroom where the staff logs the materials, sorts, and stores them until campus couriers can deliver the items or they are picked up. Students aren’t just buying discounted books online, they are selling them. College mail centers are also seeing an increase in outbound parcels. Again, space and staff resources are a problem. Inefficient Handling Compounds the Problem When addressees come to retrieve their items, clerks must find the boxes, bring them to the counter, and hand them over. Items that can’t be immediately located trigger a lengthy and expensive treasure hunt and leads to dissatisfied customers. Because of crowded conditions, the mail center has become a dangerous workplace littered with tall stacks of parcels and narrow spaces in which to operate. Manual logging and tracking procedures cause delays and limit inquiries because physical access to the paper log sheets is necessary. Distance learning and interrupted on-campus class schedules caused by the pandemic have made the problems even worse. Packages may sit in mail centers for long periods of time before the recipients come to campus to collect them. Some packages that are initially delivered to the campus mail center may need to be re-shipped to home addresses. Admission and departmental mail stacks up too, waiting for university staff to return to their offices. Automation is the Answer The first step in tackling the parcel problem is implementing a parcel induction system. Automated systems record the arrival of packages and enable the university mail center to notify recipients electronically, so they can pick up their parcels. Because floor space is usually limited, a small and portable mail induction unit is an ideal solution. Once the system records parcel arrivals, the mail center can easily track their movement and disposition by scanning barcodes instead of completing paper log forms. Information is then immediately available to mail center staff working at satellite offices, couriers on their mail routes, or others scattered about the campus. Tritek Technologies’ Mobile Ace Work Station solves the package induction and logging issue for many college mail centers. The compact size and portability (it’s on wheels!) make it an ideal solution for institutions cramped for space. Smart Lockers – A Perfect Solution for Campuses Many college campuses have turned to smart lockers to relieve the pressure caused by so many packages and parcels. Combined with an inbound induction and tracking system, smart lockers solve many of the problems encountered by university mail room staff today. Smart lockers can be located throughout the campus or installed at a central site, but in accessible areas. Parcels no longer spend days locked in a storage room behind the mail center counter, and addressees can pick up their items at their convenience, twenty-four hours a day. No-contact package deliveries enhance staff and student safety. Mail room employees can deliver online orders, interdepartmental packages, or deliveries from home to secure smart lockers. Once delivered to a locker, mail room staff knows the packages will stay there until collected by the rightful recipients. No more chain of custody questions! Lockers come with compartments in various sizes and include automatic notification via text or email. With students and faculty spending less time on campus because of social distancing guidelines, smart lockers make even more sense. The mail center operating hours will no longer limit the ability to deliver packages promptly. Time to Update the Mail Center Affordable technology that is available today can help campus mail centers handle the influx of parcels more efficiently without expanding physical space or hiring more staff. Tech-savvy students and university personnel will appreciate the transparency, security, and service improvements that mail centers can offer by adding modern tools to their operation.