Nuts & Bolts: Postal
Sophisticated mailers triple bid printing and lettershop services, buy paper direct and seek out volume discounts, but often stop short at maximizing, or even fully understanding, logistics methods, tools and techniques. Here are six places to tap for unrealized savings:
1) Deliver directly. The closer mail is delivered to its ultimate destination, the deeper the discount. For instance, if you can deliver your mail to one of 29 Bulk Mail Centers nationwide, or even one of the 400-plus Sectional Center Facilities (SCFs), it saves the post office time and money—and it will pass those savings on to its customers. There are more than 38,000 Destination Delivery Units, and for large mailers—especially those with regional or “saturation” mailings—it may even be worthwhile to deliver mail to the DDUs directly, depending on what the mail is and when it needs to be in the home. It’s called zone-skipping or drop-shipping, and it can maximize your entry-point discounts.
2) Cooperation and communication. For a postal logistics company to do its job most efficiently, cooperation and communication between its representative, the list supplier, the printer and the mailer is essential. The lettershop should work with the mailer to ensure that production and distribution schedules are met or, if there are delays, that they’re communicated. Communication with the post office is essential. Drop-shipments, for instance, require appointments and paperwork. Working closely with your point-of-origin post office can save significant time.
3) Establish priorities. With planning, it is often possible to achieve cost savings, time savings and efficiencies all at once. But it’s important to set priorities. For instance, if you’re gearing up for a huge onslaught of holiday orders, it may be more important to be able to predict in-home delivery (remember, experts say that 80 percent of your orders will come the first day) than it is to save that extra cent or two per piece. Determining these priorities requires accurate and timely information.
4) Participate in “workshare” programs. Workshare programs can help to ensure that mailers qualify for additional discounts and cost savings. In addition to drop-shipping, techniques include co-binding or online co-mailings, offline co-mailing, commingling, and co-palletization. Even smaller mailers can benefit.
5) Ensure accurate reporting. Quite simply, a 3602 form is not enough. To save, large mailers need information that starts with the list providers and ends with in-home delivery. Reporting is key for accurate planning of mail-drop dates and fulfillment. Every step in the mailstream should be tracked, including the initial schedule, the distribution plan from the logistics carrier, confirmed delivery to postal facilities, and an accurate and detailed breakout of freight charges.
6) Tightly control in-home delivery. Effective postal logistics offers other advantages, including more predictable in-home delivery dates. Increased predictability allows mailers to schedule fulfillment operations and call center staffing more efficiently, as well as maximize sales and customer response. PLANET coding can be an effective tool for tracking and controlling in-home delivery. In this process, barcodes are lasered onto individual mail pieces. The barcodes are scanned at postal facilities, and the data is then passed into a USPS system called Confirm, which provides information as to when mail is processed at SCFs closest to customers’ homes. This enables the mailer to estimate in-home dates with reasonable accuracy.
Richard Opp is vice president of postal affairs for LogDog, a postal logistics consultant and service provider based in Louisville, Ky. He can be reached at (502) 271-4995. For more information, please visit www.log-dog.com.