In most organizations, inbound mail presents two problems.
(1) The huge variety of formats (letters, flats, periodicals, newspapers) makes evaluating and sorting inbound mail a slow manual process.
(2) Routing the mail to the right people at their current internal mail stations is often accomplished by hand, using outdated lists, notes, employee knowledge, and trial-and-error.
When we talk to companies about mailing costs, they almost always focus on outbound mail. They want to discuss obvious expenses like printing, inserting, and postage. Those are important areas to assess, but incoming mail also contributes to the business cost of communications. For large or geographically dispersed organizations the challenges of sorting, routing, and distributing inbound mail are significant, as are the costs. Tritek Technologies has studied this problem and made several observations that have influenced our industry-leading inbound mail processing solutions.
Inbound Mail – Unique Challenges
Typical corporate mail centers have invested in automation for their outbound mail production with folders, inserters, tabbers, inkjet addressing machines, and sorters for letters or flats. The inbound side of things, however, is labor intensive. Per piece labor dollars for incoming mail far exceeds the labor costs of producing outbound mail, but it doesn’t have to remain so.
Advancements in text and handwriting capture systems combined with intelligent software can resolve addresses on incoming mail and route it to the correct recipients. Add innovative document feeding and transport systems and organizations can bring automation to incoming mail processing operations. Companies can lower labor costs while simultaneously increasing accuracy and speeding delivery.
Unlike outbound mail, where the mail producer controls the format and placement of postal addresses on the mailpieces, inbound mail has no standardization. Senders don’t abide by a common set of addressing rules. Some senders may include corporate mail station codes, building identifiers, or department names. Other mail arrives bearing only an individual’s name and the corporate postal address. Even worse, employees named on the mailpiece may have changed jobs within the organization or left the company causing mailroom employees to make on-the-spot decisions about where to send the mail.
Delivery to Recipients
Automatically delivering inbound mail to correct individuals requires sophisticated software. Specialized routines can recognize variations in spelling, connect individuals or job titles with departments and mail stops, and access current information on employee hires, departures, and transfers. This software must recognize that Robert Smith, Rob Smith, Bob Smith, R. Smith, and Smith, Robert might be the same person. If the organization employs more than one Robert Smith, inbound software must use additional information and rules to determine which Mr. Smith should receive a mailpiece bearing his name.
Before the inbound sorting software can make such decisions, the system must extract addressing information from the mailpieces. This is no small task as address labels are printed in various fonts, sizes, and print density. They may appear on the front or back of a mailpiece, and in any orientation. Address block capture systems like those built into Tritek’s equipment can pull data from address blocks regardless of print quality, format, or location without human intervention.
Material Handling Issues
Inbound material presents transport issues. Organizations will receive pieces as thin as a postcard or as thick as catalogs coming into the mailroom for distribution. The material may be enclosed in envelopes, bound on a single side such as a magazine, slipped into interoffice envelopes with buttons and strings, or encased in poly bags. Mailpieces may be smooth or textured, flat or irregular. Mechanisms that feed, separate, and transport this exotic collection of items must be versatile and forgiving.
The system handling incoming mail must locate and read address blocks on each mailpiece. The object is to match the extracted data with the corporate database of employees, and determine the internal courier route and mail stop. All these processes must occur in a fraction of a second as mailpieces move through the machine and exit into appropriate bins.
Justification for investing in automated inbound mail sorting and distribution extends beyond labor savings. Manual sorting takes time. Important materials may be delayed as couriers must leave on their routes at designated times. The mailroom won’t deliver the leftovers until the next run, which could be the following day. Such delays can cause lost business opportunities, customer satisfaction issues, missed meetings, or other negative consequences. Mis-routed mailpieces cause even longer delays as the pieces are returned to the mailroom for re-distribution. Choosing the right automated inbound mail processing solution can decrease the adverse effects of mail distribution inefficiencies.
Most mail center operations don’t account for inbound mail distribution and delivery costs separately. They may not know how much their inefficient operations are costing their companies. After careful analysis, many organizations realize a custom automated solution is a wise financial move.
See Tritek’s Multi-Level Inbound Mail Sorter in action. Watch the video HERE.
Download permanent and portable inbound mail processing equipment specifications HERE.