When the U.S. Postal Service began testing its Delivery Confirmation service, large companies, those shipping more than 500 packages per day, were the testing grounds. With that sort of volume, electronic Delivery Confirmation and manifesting systems were essential, and software vendors were more than willing to develop applications specifically for large shippers.
When we launched the service in March 1999, however, there was nothing available for the small- to medium-volume shipper. Prices ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 for shipping system software were common. Only the larger shippers could afford the investment. Since small- and medium-volume shippers generate 57.8% of total USPS package volume, we recognized the tremendous need for affordable shipping software.
High Return on Investment
The larger volume shipper could easily reap the rewards for automating the process. The Electronic Delivery Confirmation option provides our shippers with savings of 35� per item for Priority and Standard B mail when compared to the manual option. Further, automated manifesting provides the most accurate and easy-to-use method of accounting as well as significant labor savings by reducing the number of steps required to process parcels.
With these advantages on the table, yet out of reach for the small- to medium-sized shipper, Expedited/Package Services (E/PS) undertook the initiative to promote development of low-cost software for Delivery Confirmation and electronic manifesting for small- to medium-volume shippers.
Meeting Shippers� Needs
We set criteria that we knew would most benefit our shippers. First, the product had to retail for under $500. The other criteria included having both Delivery Confirmation and electronic manifesting capabilities, providing for import/export of data in standard formats, having capabilities to update both rates and regulations via the Internet and, unique in today�s business computing environment, a minimum 30-day trial period.
Choices Now Available
Four vendors accepted the challenge: ABOL Software, DistribuTech, Pfastship and WindowBook. The vendors, with essential product points, are listed below. All vendors are Delivery Confirmation certified and all products are certified capable of producing accurate, good quality barcodes.
ABOL Express DC
Phone: 877-847-2265
Web: www.abolinc.com
�           $395 Delivery Confirmation & Manifesting (Priority, Parcel Post
            & Parcel Select)
�           Built-in Delivery Confirmation Test & Applications
�           Import/Export Tools
�           Free 30-day MindSpring Internet Service Demo
�           Adobe Acrobat Reader Installed
�           Pub 91 (Delivery Confirmation Tech Guide)
�           E-mail Shipment Notifications Available
�           60-day Free Demo Period
DistribuTech Priority Ship 2000
Phone: 800-804-4198
Web: www.distributech-inc.com
�           $495 Delivery Confirmation & Manifesting
�           Easy Setups for Delivery Confirmation with Built-in Tests
�           Import Database Wizard
�           Mixed-class Manifest
�           Express Mail Manifest
�           30-day Free Demo
Pfastship 2000
Phone: 949-221-0200
Web: www.pfastship.com
�           $499 Delivery Confirmation plus USPS Priority Mail, Parcel Post          & Parcel Select Manifesting
�           Import/Export Tool
�           Scale Interfaces/Wizards
�           Delivery Performance Analysis via Delivery Confirmation
�           30-day Free Demo
WindowBook Postal Package Partner
Phone: 800-370-2410
Web: www.windowbook.com
�           $499 Delivery Confirmation plus USPS Priority Mail, Parcel Post          & Parcel Select Manifesting
�           Built-in Delivery Confirmation Test File
            (required forms included)
�           Import/Export Tool
�           Special Services
�           Scale Interfaces/Wizards
�           Delivery Performance Analysis via Delivery Confirmation
�           Dedicated Web Page/Internet Updates/Tech Support
�           Express Mail Manifesting
�           30-day Free Demo
Although specific functionality varies from vendor to vendor, the following are basic features of most of the software packages:
�           Delivery Confirmation (electronic & retail options) with
            Internet or modem connectivity
�           Manifest or Postage Affixed Mailing
�           Rate Calculators
�           Scale & Printer Interfaces/Wizards
�           Import List Options
�           Label & Barcode Printing
�           Tutorials for Delivery Confirmation Certification and Manifest
            Mailing Systems Agreements & Procedures
Other features, such as the following, are available on a product-by-product basis:
�           Chargeback Codes
�           Account & Transaction Reports/Summaries
�           Delivery Performance Reports
�           Import Wizards
�           USPS Special Services
�           International Manifesting (available in the future)
With other parcel carriers offering free shipping systems, why should shippers pay even $500 for a Delivery Confirmation and manifesting system? The answer is simple: cost-savings.
Standard B and Priority Mail can often offer shippers significant savings over other carriers. With delivery options comparable to other carriers and the most extensive delivery network in the country, the U.S. Postal Service is positioned to offer high service levels for a reasonable cost. There is no extra charge for delivery on Saturdays or for delivery to PO boxes, APO/FPO, Alaska, Hawaii or US Territories. And there are no surcharges for residential or extended area deliveries. In addition, free packaging supplies are available with Priority Mail, giving customers even more value for their money.
Our sales representatives work with shippers to do an analysis, present a proposal that includes return on investment (ROI) calculations to see whether using the Postal Service can save � and by how much � over other shipping methods.
The bottom line on Delivery Confirmation and automated manifesting systems is simple � it�s your bottom line.
Jim Cochrane is associate vice president of Marketing for Expedited/Package Services with the U.S. Postal Service.