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.
Employees don’t stay in the same cubicle forever. They move quite a bit; getting promoted, changing employers, or responding to corporate restructuring. Some companies even have in-house relocation departments just so they can move boxes and files when people, or entire departments, are assigned new workspaces. Keeping track of each employee’s physical location is a constant challenge for corporate mail centers. Often, informal updates come to the center in the form of courier observations, emails, or post-it notes. It’s common to see hand-written re-routing instructions taped to the sorting bins. The whole system relies on scraps of paper and information lodged in employee's heads. Obviously this approach is inefficient. People make mistakes, causing letters, parcels, and interoffice memorandums to be mis-routed. Delays and wasted resources result. Fortunately, organizations can install automated solutions that eliminate most of the issues associated with matching incoming mail to delivery destinations. Inbound mail sorting systems route mail accurately while simultaneously reducing the manual sorting and handling tasks that consume most of the labor hours in corporate and campus mail rooms. Why Isn’t This Automated Already? Given the high degree of automation dedicated to processing outbound mail, one might wonder why so many organizations continue to operate manual inbound mail distribution operations, even after they’ve invested in sophisticated outgoing mail solutions. The reasons for the disparity are big differences in the materials that make up a company’s outbound and incoming mail. Control is the most obvious difference. With their outbound mail, organizations control when they process, how they format the mail, and what data they use for addressing. They even verify addresses for deliverability and they update delivery addresses if mail recipients have moved-all before the mail ever leaves the building. Conversely, organizations have almost no control over the mail that comes to them from outside the organization. A notable exception being mail they originally produced themselves, such as Business Reply Mail or bill payment envelopes. Much of the inbound mail comes into the mail room as single pieces. Large quantities come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and weights. Bags and tubs of letters, postcards, newspapers, magazines, flats, and parcels arrive daily. Another distinction of incoming mail is the address block. Inbound addresses may be hand-written or printed with fonts or color contrast difficult for some cameras to capture. The addresses may appear anywhere on the front or back sides of the mailpieces. The biggest challenge with processing incoming mail though, is lack of information. Incoming mailpieces don’t always give the mailroom enough details to identify where to deliver the mail. Employee names may be missing or outdated, or mail drop locations are omitted. The addresses were good enough for the postal service to deliver to the company, but lack the specificity necessary to pinpoint the correct recipients. Even if employee-level details are present, they aren’t necessarily up to date. Company employees don’t always inform people outside the company when they move to a different office, assume a new position, or leave the company. The mailroom can’t assume an address appearing on a mailpiece is 100% correct. All this disparity in the incoming mail leads many organizations to rely on human mail sorters to read and interpret the mailpieces, compare what they see to what they know about the organization’s sites, departments, and employees, and assign mailpieces to courier routes. Technology to the Rescue Camera technology and computer processing speeds and capacities have allowed innovative companies like Tritek Technologies to develop inbound mail processing solutions that can perform nearly all the functions of human mail sorters. Our solutions process mail quickly, leaving more time for the mailroom staff to handle their other duties. On Tritek machines, cameras capture images and extract data from the mailpieces. Then our proprietary rules engine uses that information to determine who should receive each piece, where employees are located, and which courier route serves their workplace. Intelligent Tritek machines distribute the mail into bins representing courier routes or storage locations. The Tritek Advantage Our machines can handle the inbound sorting tasks efficiently because of two important features that distinguish Tritek from other mail handling equipment. The first is our data capture capability. Our machines find and read address blocks on either side of the mailpiece, in any orientation. We can capture printed data and handwritten information and do it all at lightning quick speed. Our cameras also capture additional information from the mailpiece, such as the sender’s return address, which helps us match the mailpiece with the correct recipient. We archive an image of the mailpiece, which is important for chain of custody documentation. The second advantage is the Tritek Editor software. This is the essential part of the solution that allows the machine to match mail addressed to Jane Smith, Mary Jane Smith, and J. Smith to the correct Ms. Smith in the accounting department. If she has left the company, the rules will route Jane’s mail to her replacement. The rules engine reduces the mailroom’s reliance on employee knowledge and written notes to deliver the mail. The Tritek Rules Editor software is highly configurable, and therefore a powerful and effective tool. Machines lacking the rules engine rely on simple OCR capture. Without considering context, that equipment cannot route the mail accurately. The Tritek machines process all these complex rules in a very short time and deposit the mail in the proper sort bins at top speed. Organizations benefit by implementing automated inbound mail equipment and software. Tritek’s advanced technology makes it possible to design and build inbound sorting equipment for organizations of all sizes. When the mailroom swiftly delivers mail to the right place it makes the whole business run more efficiently. Companies can profit by processing payments sooner, responding to customer inquiries faster, or allowing themselves more time to respond to bid requests or other business opportunities.