Updating Office and Mailroom Processes
- By Ellen Kollie
- December 1st, 2011
Ah, automation. We love to hate it when there’s
a glitch in the system. But, mostly, we love it for how
it allows us to streamline processes, and thus garner
efficiencies and cost savings. And, these days, there’s a lot of automation occurring on campuses, including in the mailroom.
Outsourcing Mail Delivery
In 2000, Craig Meddin, a junior at the University of Florida, joined forces with two other students to begin what is now Orlando-based US Postal Solutions. The firm offers nationwide mail delivery management services for residence halls, on- and off-campus student housing, apartment communities, and more.
“The United States Postal Service does single-point ‘drop’ delivery to residence halls and other places that have a high rate of transient residency. They do not deliver mail into each student’s mailbox in a residence hall. That’s where my firm comes in,” says COO Meddin.
The firm’s employees collect the mail from the post office, sort it off site, and then deliver it to each person’s mailbox within the contracted facility, collecting outgoing mail and completing change-of-address forms along the way. “The resident doesn’t have any idea that it isn’t the United States post office delivering his/her mail,” Meddin points out.
Outsourcing the Mail Center
“Automation is what drives operations and efficiency,” says Kevin Pignone, vice president of Non-Traditional Development for San Diego-based UPS Store. “Technology is the only way our business can manage thousands of student mailboxes, which is multicarrier on both the inbound and outbound side, and also has a package receiving component.”
And UPS Store’s campus business is broad. As already noted, the firm handles ingoing and outgoing mail from multiple carriers. It includes a proactive notification component so that students receive texts or email alerts when packages arrive. Then there’s online printing: students can upload a presentation or senior thesis, have it printed and bound, and pick it up in the store.
“We partner with Residence Life at Arizona State University (ASU),” says Pignone, “which has a progressively green campus. Because they’re reducing their carbon footprint, they work hard to eliminate traffic on campus. The vast majority of move in is now done through us. Incoming freshmen receive letters from us, telling them how to ship their boxes and that we’ll have them staged and ready when they arrive.”
Tracking and Receiving Packages
At Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, University Residential Life is drafting a proposal for a system that notifies students via email when their packages arrive in the mailroom. Residential Life officials hope to implement this service in order to overhaul how students in University housing receive packages.
“The claim by the company is that it’s four to 10 times faster than using the paper system that we have now,” says Paul Hubinsky, assistant director of Residential Life.
If the system were implemented, mailroom staff would use iPod touches to scan in packages as they arrive, instantly sending an email to the recipient. Currently, a paper slip is placed in a student’s mailbox as notification that he or she has received a package.
However, Residential Life must overcome some hurdles before the plan can be approved.
“It would necessitate funding and additional technology, but it looks promising,” Goldenberg says. “It really depends on how many questions there are about it … and if the University is comfortable with that.”
The main obstacle could be questions of student privacy, Hubinsky says. “One of the things that we’re trying to be very careful about is the sharing of information. It’s a third-party vendor and we want to make sure that we adhere to Northwestern policy,” he says.
Providing Off-Campus Mail Service
At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), although they bear the name UNLV, UNLV Tickets sells more than just tickets to UNLV’s Intercollegiate Athletic and performing arts events. They are also the source of tickets to some of the most popular entertainment and sporting events in Las Vegas. UNLV Tickets has both a challenging and rewarding dilemma of providing the best-in-class entertainment.
As the venues UNLV sold tickets for continued to grow, UNLV Tickets began having trouble getting their tickets out in a timely manner. Previously, all mail was carried to the main office at UNLV, where postage was added and the tickets were sent out along with the rest of the University mail. However this process proved to be inefficient and costly. So, UNLV Tickets turned to an online shipping and mailing service.
UNLV Tickets has been using the online service for more than six years. Since then, UNLV Tickets has been able to improve their customer care and save a significant amount on their shipping costs with the combination of USPS price discounts and the low cost of the service.
“Due to the large volumes of tickets being shipped on a daily basis, UNLV Tickets qualified for the USPS Critical Mail service. With full tracking capability and at a highly competitive rate, the move to [the online service] was an easy choice to make,” says Laurie Ochsner, risk management supervisor, UNLV Tickets.
UNLV Tickets now has the control they need to ensure that tickets go out on time with full delivery tracking included. This means that customers receive their tickets in a timely fashion and have nothing more to worry about than the outcome of their favorite sporting event.
In addition, back at the University, the ability to import multiple orders into the mailing software further improved the speed and efficiency with which the ticketing operation runs.
“Enterprise Content Management, known as ECM, is a combination of strategies, tools, methods, and IT solutions that automates documents related to business processes, removing paper from the workforce,” describes Valeria Phillips, worldwide market development consultant, Public Sector and Education, Managed Enterprise Solutions, Imaging and Printing Group for Palo Alto, CA-based Hewlett-Packard Co. “There’s a cost to work with and store paper documents. That cost is greatly reduced when the paper-based process is moved to a digital/automated process.”
Administrators at Grove City College, a four-year liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, heard the message and made a decision to streamline their business processes associated with student recruitment, financial aid verification, the registrar’s office, and alumni development.
“The ability to access information
any time, anywhere is critical for higher-education institutions to be successful,” says Michael Turner, HP’s director of Technology, Solutions, and Partner Program. “The solution, leveraging … imaging and printing devices, will help administrators ensure the campus is connected, informed, and engaged.” Indeed, automating manual document processes will empower faculty and staff to make better, faster decisions for students and alumni, allowing departments across campus to share and deliver information when, where, and how it is needed.
“ECM software combined with multifunctional devices is important to a campus for four reasons,” sums Phillips. “The first is cost containment. The second is collaboration — being able to share information between offices. Third is compliance. And fourth is continuity of business operations — the ability to manage records retention. It allows a school to focus on its main business of recruiting, retaining, and development.”
Who doesn’t love efficiency and cost savings gained from streamlining processes? Who doesn’t love the ability to focus on his/her core job function? Yes, automation is there for us when we need it, notably when it comes to mail delivery, the mail center, and document processing.