Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

Fire! Ready! Aim!

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 25, 2015 5:30:00 AM

One of our clients recently received an interesting direct mail marketing piece from Cliff Rucker, the Vice President of Sales for the US Postal Service (USPS). The letter explained that the new dimensional weight (DIM) pricing policies of their competitors makes Priority Mail even more attractive for shipping. In the “P.S.” paragraph, the letter gave the name of the local USPS representative who would be contacting the recipient directly.

This sounds like a standard direct mail piece designed to raise awareness and provide an introduction for the sales representative. Just a few issues:

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United States Postal Service

2015 Postage Rate Case Update

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 18, 2015 5:30:00 AM

There have been several events that will impact mailers as the US Postal Service (USPS) implements the first rate case of 2015. These include a filing for price changes for competitive products, and a clarification on rate increases on market dominant products.

Less than two weeks after filing for an increase for market dominant products (i.e., mailing services), on January 26, 2015, the USPS filed for a rate change on its competitive products – shipping services. In the filing to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), the USPS only requested increases for some products. Notably, they plan to keep prices for Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail at the current level. After a successful holiday shipping season, USPS management want to build on the goodwill created with customers – a sound business strategy.

The timing of the filing was to align the implementation of all price changes to occur on one date – April 26, 2015.

In the initial rate filing for market dominant products, the USPS used the “pre-exigent rate increase” pricing in their charts. This meant that the posted increases didn’t reflect current pricing, and caused confusion for mailers as they tried to calculate what their actual rates were going to be. On February 6, 2015, charts with the new rates were published on the Postal Explorer web page.

For First Class Mail, the retail price for a one ounce letter remains the same. The highest percentage increase for most business mailers will be for customers that sort mail down to the 5-digit level – an over 2.6% rate hike. And the savings for presorting mail compared to just metering mail drops by a half cent.

With its many different classifications, Standard Mail is more difficult to display. Rate changes are dependent upon subclass, entry points and sorting levels. Even just one subclass can have 22 different rate changes.

The PRC is expected to hand down its decision on the rate cases in the next few weeks – March 6, 2015 for the market-dominant prices and February 26, 2015 for the competitive product pricing. As we noted in our previous post, mailers shouldn’t wait for the PRC decisions, but start taking steps now for the probable rate change. Most importantly, stay informed.

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Mail and The National Postal Museum

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 11, 2015 5:30:00 AM

For many reasons, I was excited when the Smithsonian Institution and the US Postal Service (USPS) announced the creation of the National Postal Museum in 1990. I’d been a supporter of the Smithsonian for years, and loved their monthly magazine. My father had been a clerk for the USPS for 25 years. More importantly, he was an avid collector of First Day Issue stamps, going back to 1939. We were both happy to see this museum launched.

In 1993, the National Postal Museum opened their doors to the public. Fittingly, the museum is located in the historic City Post Office Building, which was the Washington, D.C. post office from 1914 through 1986. The museum’s exhibits celebrate philately (stamp collecting) and postal history. Over the last two decades, I’ve been able to visit several times, including as a guest for special USPS events.

But mail is more than just stamps and the US Postal Service. The letters and packages that are delivered each day represent the work of the mailing industry – an industry that supports over 8.4 million jobs and generates over $1.3 trillion in annual sales revenue. An industry with a story that needs to be told. The National Postal Museum agrees.

In the last year, the National Postal Museum has launched an initiative to tell the story of the mailing industry to the public through online and physical exhibits. The project will show how the USPS network helped to build the mailing industry and how the mailing industry adapts and changes to serve the American public’s business and personal communication needs through the Postal Service’s network

My good friend, Karen McCormick, is the liaison between the museum and the industry. This is good news, as Karen is someone who knows and understands our industry. In 1986, Karen founded a mailing company, Fulfillment Express, in Waltham, MA. For 28 years, Karen and her employees printed, stuffed, packed, labeled and metered millions of letters, brochures and packages for their clients. In 2014, Karen integrated her operations with The Field Companies Fulfillment Center Inc., also in Waltham.

Karen gave back to the industry by serving on association boards. She’s been the president of the New England Direct Marketing Association and the local chapter of the Mailing and Fulfillment Services Association. Since 2001, I’ve served on the Greater Boston Postal Customer Council Executive Board with Karen, including the 4 years she was our Industry Co-Chair. She’s the right person for the job.

Karen and the leadership of the National Postal Museum have been reaching out to different industry associations to garner their support for this project. So far, they’ve met with representatives from the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee, Volume Mailers Group, PostCom Board Parcel Shippers Association Board and the National Postal Policy Council. Over the next year, Karen will be contacting more associations to gather information and artifacts that represent the history of our industry. This May, they’ll also have a presence at the National Postal Forum in Anaheim, CA.

This is great development for our industry. Too often, mail is marginalized by businesses and society. This project will help tell the important story of how the US Postal Service and the mailing industry are essential parts of our national economy.

You can learn more about the National Postal Museum at their website, or tour the exhibits at 2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, DC 20002.

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United States Postal Service

Let's Build an RFP – Part Two: Analyze, Award and Accept

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 4, 2015 5:30:00 AM

In our last blog post, we discussed how to prepare and publish a Request for Proposal (RFP). This week, we’ll cover the rest of the process, including:

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Operations Management

Let's Build an RFP – Part One: Prep to Publish

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 28, 2015 5:30:00 AM

The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is an excellent method to use for selecting vendors and products. You may need to use an RFP for many reasons. The equipment in your shop may be outdated and in need of replacement. New software programs may mean a digital solution to a manual process. You may want to analyze whether outsourcing a particular function will bring savings to your company.

No matter what you purchase – equipment, software or services – how you purchase is more important. You can improve your chances for success by following these steps:

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Operations Management

Preparing for the First USPS Rate Change of 2015

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 20, 2015 5:30:00 AM

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) announced the first rate change for 2015. The rate adjustment was filed just days after the Postal Regulatory Commission (“PRC”) published a notice outlining the steps the USPS needed to follow when removing the exigent surcharge they approved in December of 2013.

In August, we published a blog post recommending that mailers budget for a 2% postage rate increase in 2015. A few months later, the USPS announced they wouldn’t file for a January increase and many mailers reduced their 2015 postage budgets accordingly. Those mailers will be facing budget shortfalls as the new rate case brings a 1.9% to 2.7% increase for commercial First Class mailers and an average 1.9% increase for Standard Class mailers beginning April 26, 2015.

Many of the pricing tables in the rate case can cause confusion. The figures in the rate case are based on what mailers would be paying without the exigent rate increase. As such, the tables include pricing that is actually lower than the current rates. For example, here’s the First Class Mail breakout:

Current stamped single piece mail is priced at $0.49 and AADC Automation mail costs $0.406, not $0.47 and $0.389 as shown in the charts. This difference makes it more difficult for mailers to accurately assess the impact of the increase on their budgets. We recommend ignoring the prices and using the percent changes for each category of mail that your company produces. Here’s the chart for Standard Mail:

While better charts will be forthcoming (we hope), mailers need to act now to prepare for the April rate increase. Here are 5 steps every mail operations manager can take now:

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United States Postal Service

Impact of the US Postal Service New Standards

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 14, 2015 5:30:00 AM

On January 5, 2015, The United States Postal Service (“USPS”) implemented new delivery standards for First Class Mail. The new standards mean slower delivery times. For single-piece mail, the delay will be at least one full day, and for metered and permit mail, the average delay will be anywhere from a half-day to a full day. Since most companies only receive mail once a day, the “half day” translates into a getting mail a full day later. And if there’s a holiday involved, there will be even more delays.
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United States Postal Service

Checklists – Simple & Powerful Tools

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 7, 2015 5:30:00 AM

US Airways Flight 1549, The Miracle on the Hudson. On January 15, 2009, CPT Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, landed a jet on the waters of the Hudson River after it had lost both engines when it hit a flock of birds. 155 people were on that plane, and not a single life was lost.
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Operations Management

Trends and Technology - Top 10 Posts of 2014

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 31, 2014 5:30:00 AM

This has been an interesting year for the print and mail industry. The US Postal Service (“USPS”) has rebounded, with Commercial First Class and Standard Mail volumes remaining steady. Congress didn’t pass a postal reform bill, and didn’t confirm President Obama’s nominees to the USPS Board of Governors. And for the first time in almost a decade, postage rates won’t be rising in January 2015.
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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

Quality Control Survey – Thoughts

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 17, 2014 5:30:00 AM

Last month, we posted the results of our quality control survey. While none of the responses were surprising, the patterns and differences were thought provoking. The areas that are most notable are:

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Operations Management

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The Berkshire Company improves business processes in your print & mail operations, helping you solve real problems.

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