Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

Details, details, details

Posted by Mark Fallon on May 3, 2016 5:00:00 AM

“Perfection is in the details” – Leonardo daVinci

magnifying_glass.jpgPerfection may be unattainable, yet perfection must be the goal we all strive for in our operations. Not 99% accuracy, or even 99.99966% accuracy (Six Sigma’s goal), but 100% accuracy.

Setting unreachable goals isn’t an exercise in futility. It’s a proven method for raising performance to a new level of excellence. Becoming a fanatic about details will help you achieve more.

To effectively use a detail-oriented approach in management, a manager must take on the role of a leader who:

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Operations Management

Deja Vu All Over Again

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 26, 2016 5:00:00 AM

“We’re not selling a product, but a process.” These words say a lot about the changes impacting the print/mail industry.

I first heard this comment in 2001 – 15 years ago – at an Xplor Northeast Region meeting in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The speaker was Roger Gimbel. At the time, Roger was the president of Xerographic Reproduction Center Inc. (XRC), one of six divisions that comprise the 500-employee parent company, Global Document Solutions. XRC was the largest on-demand printer in Manhattan. But as Roger explained, output isn’t the most important part of his business; process is. His company’s expertise extended beyond print to systems integration.

After hearing Roger’s talk I published this paragraph in a newsletter the following month:

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Operations Management

More than Mail: Celebrating the US Postal Worker: Part One

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 19, 2016 5:00:00 AM

Title 39 of the U.S. Code states that the mission of the US Postal Service is:

“…to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”

Before we had a country, we had post offices and post roads. For more than 375 years, dedicated men and women have delivered the correspondence and parcels that helped form and bind a nation together. Many of those same people helped our country in other ways – in business, politics and public service. This is the first in a series of occasional articles profiling their lives and contributions.

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United States Postal Service

Faster Isn’t Always Better

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 13, 2016 5:00:00 AM

In the mid-1990s, I was working at a financial services company. One of my internal customers was a department responsible for producing fund pricing reports. The company’s system would receive information from the stock exchange mainframe computer at the end of the trading day. Using the stock prices, the company could calculate the values of all the managed funds.

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Operations Management

Implementing the US Postal Service 2016 Rate Changes

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 3, 2016 12:08:34 PM

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United States Postal Service

Highlights from the 2016 National Postal Forum

Posted by Mark Fallon on Mar 28, 2016 5:00:00 AM

From March 20 through 23, 2016, over 3,500 mailing professionals gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville, TN for the 2016 National Postal Forum (NPF). Attendance was the highest in about 5 years, with about 30% first-time attendees. More importantly, there was a noticeably increased presence of mailing professionals under the age of 30 – a great sign for the future of our industry.

Classes were well-attended, with sizes ranging from 65 to 200 people. Even the last class on the last day at 4:30 in the afternoon, still drew a full house. Of course, the event with the most number of attendees occurred on Monday morning, when the entire NPF gathered to hear the Keynote Address from Postmaster General (PMG) Megan Brennan.

The theme of PMG Brennan’s speech centered on momentum and technology. She explained that there was never a better time to reinvent mail. Listening to their customers, the US Postal Service (USPS) will focus on:

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United States Postal Service

How Do You Measure Up?

Posted by Mark Fallon on Mar 20, 2016 5:00:00 AM

During most of our customer engagements, we usually hear variants of the same question:

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Operations Management

NPF 2016: Planning for a Productive Week

Posted by Mark Fallon on Mar 14, 2016 10:00:00 AM

The postage rate rollback. Rumors of restarting the network consolidation plan. Invoices based on the Mailer Scorecard. These are just a few of the issues attendees will be discussing at the upcoming National Postal Forum (NPF), March 20 – 23, 2016 in Nashville, TN.

The most anticipated moment of the NPF is when Postmaster General (PMG) Megan Brennan delivers the keynote address to the attendees on Monday morning. It will be interesting to hear her take on the continual financial and operational issues facing the USPS, and the lack of congressional action to fix the problem. PMG Brennan has been straightforward with mailers in the past, and we expect the same next week. We also look forward to the opportunity to ask direct questions to her and her leadership team. And receive direct answers.

For us, the NPF will start on Saturday, as we’ll be part of the crew working on the Habitat for Humanity project. Volunteers will be putting up trim, installing doors and painting. It will be a great way to give back to the Nashville community.  (Note: If you didn’t pre-register, but still want to participate, contact Mark directly.)

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National Postal Forum

Performance Measurements for Employees

Posted by Mark Fallon on Mar 8, 2016 7:51:48 AM

“What's measured improves” - Peter F. Drucker

Well documented policies. Quality control procedures based on lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Job information files that track piece-level information throughout the print and finishing processes. Full-service intelligent mail to trace pieces as they move through the US Postal Service.

All attributes of a high-performing operation.

All useless without a high-performing staff to execute.

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Operations Management

The Boomer Brain Drain at the US Postal Service

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 23, 2016 5:00:00 AM

Last week, I attended a seminar on mailpiece design hosted by my local Postal Customer Council (“PCC”). The presenter was a US Postal Service (“USPS”) employee whom I’ve known for decades. John has held a variety of roles, including an automation specialist, Business Mail Entry Unit (“BMEU”) supervisor and a Mailpiece Design Analyst (“MDA”).

I first became a customer of John’s back in the 1990s. One company I worked for redesigned statements to print the postnet barcode in the address block of our bills. John helped set up tests on the automated barcode evaluator – or ABE – as we were working through the design. Later, his staff provided training for my operators when we purchased a letter sorter. And we never ordered business reply envelopes without getting camera-ready artwork from John’s office.

When the USPS moved the MDA process out of the local districts, John didn’t let his customers down. He led classes on how to use the new online system. And if you got stuck, he would still take your calls. If he couldn’t solve your problem, he would find someone who could.

As I listened to John last week, I thought of the other USPS employees who’ve helped me over the decades. Not just in the Boston area, but wherever my business took me. People who not only knew the regulations, but who had built networks of experts within the USPS.

Lately, those networks have started to fall apart. A large percentage of USPS employees are “baby boomers”. Baby boomers is the term used for people born during the demographic post–World War II baby boom – generally considered between the years 1946 and 1964. That means their ages range from 52 to 70 years old. Many are deciding to leave the USPS – either to retire or to start the next phase of their careers. And the pace of retirement announcements seems to have picked up.

Consider the knowledge that’s leaving with these people. Letter carriers who built relationships with the people who live on their routes. MDAs who help business mailers prepare mail properly. Entry clerks making sure that the mail is compatible with postal equipment. Postmasters that are involved with their local communities.

The USPS needs to plan on how best to transfer this knowledge to their new employees. Replacements should spend time shadowing the veterans during their work day. Staff assigned to the business service network need to set up appointments with mailers and actively participate in the local PCC. New postmasters should introduce themselves to the local Chamber of Commerce and other community groups. And everyone needs to network with their fellow USPS employees – craft and management.

New blood and new ideas are good for any organization, especially large entities. At the same time, there’s distinctive value in the experiences of long-term employees. A good plan for the future will integrate these complementary strengths of the USPS.

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United States Postal Service

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

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