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Aug. 8 2006 04:49 PM

The days of interoffice mail envelopes and mail carts as the chief means of moving documents and parcels within a company are long gone. Todays corporate mail centers must not only manage deliveries down the hall and between floors but among far-flung sister facilities and regional, national and international office locations. In this new global economy, a single shipment of documents or parcels between an enterprises facilities may involve many delivery agents including mail center clerks, other employees, messengers, courier services and domestic and foreign carriers.


In such a complex system, opportunities abound for packages to be misplaced or delayed once they come through a facilitys front door and costs to skyrocket. How can forward-thinking companies increase the accuracy and timeliness of internal mail and parcel delivery while keeping costs down? Many are taking the tracking technologies and desktop tools used by external carriers inside to manage intracompany and interoffice delivery.


Achieving Accuracy and Timeliness

The most effective internal mail management systems incorporate digital and electronic tools such as barcoding, handheld data collectors, electronic signatures and Web-based software applications. These tools should be connected with a thoughtful and user-friendly architecture that enables the five functions outlined below.


1. Extends tracking visibility to internal mail and parcels. Employees will often use an external carrier to ship items between a companys facilities just so they can have the ability to track and trace. An internal system can provide the same capabilities without adding the premium fees. It can also reduce those Wheres my package? calls that create havoc in an enterprises central mail center.


2. Empowers employees to prepare shipments from the desktop. In most companies, employees who are not members of the mail center staff initiate a significant number of expedited envelopes and package shipments including intracompany shipments. Few of these employees understand the costs associated with the delivery agents or service levels they select; most use paper airbills to initiate transactions.


The most cost-effective internal mail management systems will include desktop software that empowers employees to initiate shipments and make better shipping decisions. Such a system should:

Enforce the companys business rules for internal and external shipments.

Ensure accurate accounting information is associated with the shipment so chargebacks can be tracked and managed effectively.

Enable addresses to be validated before shipping, which ensures packages arrive on time and reduces carrier charges for incorrect addresses (up to $15 per address). Newer systems also offer point-to-point internal tracking.


3. Identifies whos accountable regardless of delivery agent. Once mail and parcels are in the hands of clerks, route drivers, messengers and couriers, their whereabouts and time in transit should be tracked. Using handheld devices, signatures can be input electronically at each package transfer point to validate who has responsibility for the package. The enterprise database is updated as each step of the delivery occurs, providing a master view of delivery status.


Imagine you are an employee in building B, and you are waiting for a package to arrive. Youve been online and confirmed that the package was delivered to the building, so you call the mail center to find out where it is located. The mail center is now feverishly hunting for the item. They cant find it because the original delivery address was headquarters building A, which is 20 miles away. The package has been returned to building B using the inter-office courier, but the staff at building B has no visibility to the receipt or transfer. An enterprise tracking system would eliminate the lost productivity caused by this scenario.


4. Tracks multiple items in a single shipment. If the right internal tracking system is in place, items going to the same intra-company site can be grouped into a pouch, master carton or bag and still be tracked individually. This system feature reduces the amount of data entry required, reduces shipping costs and provides more security since pouches can be locked for special items.


For deliveries to other company sites made by an external carrier, the pouchs tracking number can be linked to the individual pieces it contains. For intracompany shipments made by an internal delivery agent, individual items in the pouch can be tracked as a group, which reduces the need to scan each item during handoffs while ensuring visibility. Logging the pouch at the receiving site can also create a confirmation of delivery for the pouched items, eliminating a popular reason cited by employees for using more expensive carrier services.


5. Supports internal hub and interfacility routing. The most cost-effective way for companies to manage facility-to-facility deliveries is to identify preferred delivery routes and agents between facilities as well as appropriate transfer hubs. A companys internal mail and parcel distribution system should provide alerts and routing labels that identify hub locations at interim stops along the preferred route. If a package is addressed to someone at a different site, that persons location can be identified and a label produced that indicates the next hub on the route. This feature will eliminate guesswork about where an item goes next and will ensure items destined for less-traveled routes arent delayed.


Solutions That Fit Today and Tomorrow

Managing mail center operations continues to become more complex and challenging. Global expansion, new carriers, more services and expectations of immediate access to information have set new standards. Fortunately, the new generation of enterprise mail management solutions provides the tools that managers need to optimize efficiency and provide exceptional service to their internal and external customers.


Ray Mather is senior product manager of Systems Products for Pitney Bowes, Inc. For more information, you can visit