Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

20 Trustworthy Tips

Posted by Mark Fallon on Sep 19, 2017 7:23:13 AM


Continuous improvement leads to continued success. Small, incremental steps can have significant and long-lasting impact on your operation.

Here are 20 tips to consider along your path to excellence.

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Operations Management / Technology

Support Your Local Postal Customer Council 2017

Posted by Mark Fallon on Sep 12, 2017 5:00:00 AM


For mailers across the United States, the next best educational opportunity is National Postal Customer Council (“PCC”) Week, which takes place September 25 – 29, 2017 at multiple locations throughout the country.

PCCs have a variety of events scheduled – from luncheons, to half-day seminars to full-day conferences. At almost every event, a senior representative from the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) will be present to discuss upcoming postal initiatives and field questions from the audience. Their presentation will be supplemented with training on subjects like networking, quality control and professional management.

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United States Postal Service / Postal Customer Council

Postage Budgets Await No Agency

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 22, 2017 4:36:00 AM

Sometime in the next month, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) will complete their review of how the United States Postal Service (USPS) sets postage rates. There have been strong protests from several mailer associations against allowing the USPS to increase rates for Market Dominant products beyond the rate of inflation. On the other hand, the USPS has argued that the existing rules prevent them from establishing the rates necessary to cover their expenses.

As the prospects for legislative postal reform remain dim, the USPS needs more flexibility in setting rates. The CPI is a poor standard to use for postage rates, as most of the USPS expenses are for transportation and personnel. The price index for gas has consistently risen higher than CPI, as have health insurance rates. Ending the CPI cap will put the USPS on a stronger financial footing.

The PRC hasn’t indicated what their decision might be. They could leave the cap in place, they could modify the cap, or they could remove the cap altogether. Whatever they do, the USPS will then develop the proposed rates for 2018, probably releasing the pricing in October.

For most companies, October is too late in the planning cycle. Many of our clients are already submitting their preliminary 2018 budgets. For the past decade, managers could look up the CPI, add a few points as a buffer, and calculate their future postage costs. With no PRC decision, there are no guideposts to follow.

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand. Especially when it comes to political bodies like the PRC. However, not planning for the future is the hallmark of a fool. What’s a manager to do?

It’s probable that the PRC will lift the price cap on Market Dominant prices, with some type of controls. Postmaster General Brennan has repeatedly stated that the USPS want to grow the business of mail. A drastic rate increase won’t help them reach that goal.

A reasonable rate increase would be 5%. This would bring rates close to where they would be if the Exigent Rate Increase wasn’t rolled back in 2016. Also, it’s consistent with the annual rate increases of both FedEx and UPS – not including the holiday surcharge both companies recently announced.

Most managers are asked to reduce spending, and a significant rate increase will be unwelcome news. Savvy leaders will need to look for other methods of limiting the impact. That starts with taking advantage of the heavier weights allowed for machinable letter mail. Mailings should be combined and householded to a single envelope. Wherever possible, flats that weigh less than 3.5 ounces should be redesigned for 6 x 9 letter envelopes.

Mailers need to take a second look at the Promotions & Incentive Programs for First-Class & USPS Marketing Mail. Savings that seemed small before will be key to offset additional expenses. Mail service providers can add value to relationships by finding ways to easily enroll customers in these programs.

While no one knows the amount, postage rates will increase in 2018. Managers should budget and plan accordingly.


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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

USPS Financial Woes Won’t Deliver Postal Reform

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 15, 2017 5:00:00 AM

The United States Postal Service (USPS) released their 3rd Quarter 2017 Financials last week, and as expected, the news wasn’t good. While the USPS continues to reduce expenses – down 2.4% – they weren’t able to generate enough income due to slumping mail volumes, resulting in a “controllable loss” of $587 million.

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United States Postal Service

Mail Center Security: Handling With Care

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 8, 2017 5:00:00 AM

“Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge.” – Ben Franklin

Recent incidents involving suspicious mail highlight the need for an effective mail center security plan, paired with ongoing training. In Kansas City, MO, a suspicious package that smelled like ammonia sickened several people at an IRS building. In Queensbury, NY a suspicious package delivered to the courthouse was sent through an X-ray machine, and officers observed an object that appeared to be a hand grenade.

Security in your mail center is always important, 365 days a year. Increased volumes in packages due to internet shopping can lead to a lax attitude. Managers must take a proactive approach towards security and awareness by reinforcing the basics, reexamining current plans, and increasing the amount of training.

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Mail Security / Operations Management

Not Every Proposal Wins

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 1, 2017 5:01:00 AM


For most of my career, I’ve been involved with requests for proposals (RFP). First, as a customer looking to purchase equipment and services. Next as a consultant, guiding my clients through the RFP process. Also as a vendor, responding to companies looking for a consultant.

Two things I’ve learned – first, there’s usually only one vendor who wins the business. Second, not every proposal submitted will be successful.

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Operations Management / Outsourcing

US Postal Service to Increase Costs of Non-Compliance

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jul 18, 2017 5:01:00 AM

While many people were celebrating Independence Day with an extra-long weekend, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) filed a price adjustment request with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on July 3, 2017. Under Docket No. R2017-7, the USPS seeks approval for changing how it verifies compliance with Move Update and to increase the assessment charges for pieces that don’t meet the standard.

Move Update, the process for updating names and addresses, is required by USPS if mailers want to receive discounted postage rates. Mailers who use the exceptional address format (e.g., Jane Doe or Current Resident) do not have to meet this requirement.

The Postal Service offers mailers four approved and two alternative Move Update methods:

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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

Selecting an Outsourcing Vendor

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jul 12, 2017 10:23:00 AM

After reviewing several options, a client decided to outsource the production and mailing of certain documents. We helped them identify vendors who had experience with their industry, and with their purchasing department, published a Request for Proposals (RFP). Using the weighted scoring approach, the team further narrowed the list of vendors to 3 finalists. References were called, site visits were completed, and the vendors made their final presentations.

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Industry Vendors / Operations Management / Outsourcing

You Can’t See the Big Picture If You Have Tunnel Vision

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 13, 2017 5:00:00 AM

“You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction." - Alvin Toffler

There are many business books that emphasize “focus”. Focus on your strengths. Focus on your core business. Focus Daniel-san. Okay, that last phrase was from “The Karate Kid” movie, but the message is the same one many consultants and gurus exhort to their customers and audiences.

But what happens if you’re too focused? People may direct so much attention on a particular problem, and miss everything else. If you have tunnel vision, you can’t the big picture.

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Operations Management / Strategy

USPS and Big Data: Are You Informed?

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 6, 2017 12:58:42 PM

Since the arrival of the ZIP Code in 1963, mailers have worked hard to meet the addressing and sorting requirements established by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Then came the ZIP+4, the Postnet Barcode, the Delivery Point Barcode and the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb). Each upgrade promised streamlined processing, consistent delivery and low postage rates. For most mailers, the USPS delivered on those promises.

Many mailers have held out on moving from the Basic IMb to the Full Service IMb, with accompanying mail.dat file and eDocs. Tracking MIDs, CRIDS and mail piece IDs often require a significant investment in software, databases and customer buy-in. For smaller mailers and mail service providers, the extra work required wasn’t worth the $0.003 per piece discount.

That’s about to change. For 2 reasons – Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility.

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United States Postal Service