Herpreet Kaur Grewal investigates what the future holds for mailroom management.
4 December 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Processing and distributing physical mail has always been a slow, labour-intensive process prone to error. But as offices and the people working in them adapt to new technologies, the back-end operations of big companies - such as office mailrooms - are ripe for disruption.
Mailroom management is a service that companies can outsource like other soft services. Specialists even offer to market new technological solutions including 'intelligent lockers', which allow for round-the-clock package pick-up to drive down wait times. Despite this, the result of new technologies also means that company mailrooms are discovering that they don't have the resources, the technology or the experience to support wider business objectives.
For this month's Think Tank we asked: are you increasingly using technology and digitising tour company's mailrooms? This is what you said.
Freeing up the front line
With pressure on resources greater than ever, at London South Bank University, we have recently looked at our postal services to identify ways in which we can free
up resources to focus on other more student-facing services. As such, we have halved the number of internal deliveries and collections undertaken on campus each day, putting the resources freed up into our frontline teaching space support services. We are also now trialling a service with a third-party mail distribution provider to manage our external post. This is not only saving us on reduced franking costs, but has freed up a member of the team to focus on our frontline services instead.
We have seen the demand for our postal services reduce year on year so have adjusted our services accordingly. While incoming and outgoing mail has reduced significantly we have seen a growth in personal parcel deliveries for our staff and students. As such, we now provide a number of Amazon Lockers on campus, which has helped to reduce the impact on our post team.
Simon Francis, London South Bank University
Understanding user needs
Digitisation of incoming documents creates better tracking and enables faster prioritisation of management action and eventual response. It minimises data loss and improves record keeping.
Mailrooms also deal with vast amounts of personal items sent to staff that need to be handled differently. This increases resource burdens on busy mailrooms and can be addressed in part by a robust policy, However, this should be contrasted with the need for employers to have a suitable work-life balance.
Amazon Lockers, which staff and customers can have packages delivered to, can also help reduce this demand.
Clearly identifying the service needs that support the business objectives and matching these to available products and services improves the chances of success. FMs are focused on customer service and expectations; the advances in digitising processes enable this to be measured and improved. Managing change is what we do.
David Stevens, vice-chair, CIBSE FM Group
Provide a bridge
Ricoh has been offering mailroom management for over 10 years. Our customers were looking to consolidate their supply chains This started with the management of the mailing function within a business, prior to digital mailroom services.
Firms now look to digitisation as the link between paper-based processes and digital solutions. The so-called systems of engagement such as mailroom, email and even fax can take a long time to evolve due to external stakeholders who can't or won't change. Solutions that handle both paper and electronic content natively provide the essential bridge.
These new technologies have proved compelling in this area:
1) Machine learning for document classification;
2) Machine learning for data extraction;
3) Fuzzy matching against backend data;
4) Integrated robotic process automation to deliver quicker and where no standard systems connections exist;
5) Mobile capture, which leverages smartphone cameras as digitisation devices; and
6) Process intelligence to provide continued feedback to allow processes and tasks to be improved and enhanced.
Digital mail and physical mail are integrated through the use of standardised platforms that handle digital and physical mail, e.g. Kofax Total Agility. The core technology is well established. The challenges we are seeing stem back to business change and process management.
Richard Ash, national sales director, Business Process Services, Ricoh UK
On-site control and flexibility
We are considering ways to digitise pockets of outbound mail across the university. The challenge is the wide variety of document formats, envelope types and postage classes used. Our preferred solution is to introduce a managed print driver that enables us to control the variables as well as the print and fulfilment. We have also identified ways to digitise inbound letter mail and so direct items straight to recipients' email inboxes. Once used for mail delivery, this same service can be used to digitise document archives and so enable us to not only achieve a far greater return on investment for the solution, but also to secure more work for mailroom staff and offer greater value to our internal customers and the university as a whole.
We don't outsource mailroom services. This fits in with business objectives perfectly as we retain complete flexibility and are able to deploy resources quickly when and where they are needed rather than having to liaise with a third party who will have other customers.
Steve Shine, UCL logistics and mail services manager
Securing data streams
Swiss Post Solutions is a provider of mailroom management services both physically and digitally, and has direct access to the global trends.
The mailroom remains the entry point of physical data into many organisations and represents the first point at which technology can be introduced to streamline a business process. As consumer behaviour evolves and communication becomes more digital, companies must find ways to combine physical and digital channels. This merging of physical and digital processes is driving the evolution of the mailroom service, moving services offsite into virtual solutions where the delivery of manageable, structured, 'secure' data streams is key.
Compliance and data protection concerns hinder the evolution of mailroom services, but these fears are misplaced; security associated to digital delivery with the associated audit capability far exceeds the data protection controls for physical mail delivery.
Gary Harrold, CEO, Swiss Post Solutions UK
Although the use of paper-based communication is declining, it is still an important part of business operations and tracked mail and parcel post play a growing part. Efficient management is important, particularly with many people working flexibly, but many mailrooms either rely on outdated paper based logs or complex, expensive electronic systems.
IT technology has resulted in low-cost, efficient systems that allow all activities to be managed electronically. Access is secure and the systems support management from receiving, collection, sorting and distribution of mail, to scanning to electronically manage workflow, provide archive records or enhance courier/client accountability. Apps allow mobile delivery via handheld devices and signature capture.
Mike George, founder and director, MyTAG