Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

Postal Reform Act of 2016: July Update

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

In what must be a speed record for the 114th Congress, the Postal Reform Act of 2016 (H.R.5714) was filed, marked-up and passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in just two days. And with bipartisan support.

Most of the provisions introduced in the draft version published last month remain, including:

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United States Postal Service

Ignore the Experts and Pay the Price

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

I was in New York City last week, having coffee with my good friends, Ray and Marv. After getting caught up on personal matters, we started to talk about what we’ve been seeing lately in the industry. We shared stories about misfortunate mailings that seemed to become more commonplace. Departments with address lists so bad, they needed manual coding. Improperly formatted letters that were returned to sender, because the bottom lines of the address didn’t show in the window. A marketing mailing that included a Business Reply Mail envelope, with the Courtesy Reply Mail post office box.

Ray observed, “Everyone is so focused on digital, it seems that no one can do physical mail correctly anymore.”

Interestingly, we shared almost 100 years of industry experience between the three of us. Ray and Marv have run successful projects for physical billing and e-billing for their company. Some of the other companies in the stories had certified mail center managers. However, in each case, the professionals weren’t consulted. The experts were ignored. And the results included thousands of dollars in misspent print and postage.

In the world of digital natives and Customer Communications Management (“CCM”), physical mail doesn’t get the respect it deserves. However, most customers still prefer to receive their bills in their mailbox. Marketing campaigns are more successful when they include a postcard or a letter. Many industries are required to use mail to prove compliance with government regulations.

So, why the disconnect? Probably because people are more attracted to what is new. The latest software or mobile device. Hosted solutions that bring together multiple platforms. The buzz words and acronyms used by consultants and pundits (anyone else remember when “CRM” was the mantra of the day?).

Besides, physical mail is “just mail”. There isn’t anything magical or exciting about printing a piece of paper, inserting it into an envelope and putting a stamp on it. Anyone can do that. The mailroom is down in the basement. Surely, no one important works down there.

The preceding paragraph may slightly exaggerate how the rest of the business world views print and mail operations. But it’s closer to the truth than many of us care to admit. We must work to be recognized as experts in order to prevent bad decisions before they’re made.

Steps to take to create the change in perception include:

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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

Developing an Employee Training Program

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

Training is something that I’m very passionate about. And you should be too. Unlike many management initiatives, the benefits of training are easy to explain for everyone involved:

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Operations Management

Postal Reform Act of 2016: Optimistic Outlook or Skeptical Cynicism

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 21, 2016 5:00:00 AM

Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (“Committee”) released the draft Postal Reform Act of 2016. The draft bill has already received praise and criticism by the postal community. Both fans and critics of the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) will find parts of the bill to support and oppose.


For people without the time to read the complete 188-page bill, the Committee has published a 4-page summary of the major provisions. Several key aspects of the bill:

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United States Postal Service

Developing a Technology Investment Strategy for Print and Mail Operations (Part 2)

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 14, 2016 5:00:00 AM

With the rapid changes in the print and mail industry, it’s important to build a sound technology investment strategy. That strategy should consider:

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Operations Management

Developing a Technology Investment Strategy for Print and Mail Operations (Part 1)

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 7, 2016 5:00:00 AM

When I started working in the mailing industry over 30 years ago, postage amounts were set by turning small dials on a meter. The latest model copiers included two paper trays, instead of the standard single tray. Word processors produced output using a daisy-wheel printer. Fax machines, cell phones and personal computers were unknown to the general public.

Back then, it was easy to make technology purchasing decisions. There were few choices, and many of the products were so expensive, few companies could afford to make the change. It was difficult to make a business case for changing. Why would an attorney ever want to edit something with a keyboard and a screen, when they could mark up paper copies with a pen, and then have their secretary retype the document?

It may feel good to have a laugh at our attitudes in the early1980’s, but none of us know what awaits us in 2046. In fact, few of us know what new technologies will hit the market in 2017. With so many unknowns, it’s important to build a sound technology investment strategy. That strategy should consider:

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Operations Management / Technology

Planning for Tomorrow with the USPS

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jun 1, 2016 9:02:33 AM

Recently, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) filed a request with the Postal Regulatory Commission to establish the 2017 Promotional Program. The first of the 2017 promotions will begin Jan. 1, 2017. There are six (6) proposed promotions:

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United States Postal Service / Operations Management

The Value of Integrity

Posted by Mark Fallon on May 25, 2016 8:06:56 AM

I was talking with the president of a company that provides statement processing for the healthcare industry. He’s put production controls in place, including barcodes, scanners and internal audits, to ensure the integrity of every mailpiece. Taking it a step further, he’s hired external consultants to review his entire process.

The process he’s established means a higher cost-per-piece than some of his competitors. The external review will be expensive. But, in his words, “very necessary to ensure patient confidentiality.”

Substitute the word “patient” with “customer”, and his words can be applied to everyone who processes mail. It doesn’t matter if you work for an insurance company, bank, school, the government, or any type of firm; you should be installing controls to make sure your system provides the highest level of integrity. The correct piece, with the correct address, goes into the correct envelope, with the correct postage, at the correct time.

The products to improve the integrity of the mailing process have been available for several years. Used with barcodes, scanners can track every piece as they move through the process. Cameras can be added to equipment to check for print quality, logos and keylines. Software products allow you to monitor what is happening on the shop floor in real time.

Audit controls add expenses to your bottom line. Scanners, cameras and software mean spending more money to run your operation. In an industry where people focus on “cost-per-piece”, is it worth it?

I toured a laboratory that produces eyeglasses. The senior vice president of manufacturing walked me through the entire process – from receiving the order through the shipping department. The process included:

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Operations Management

Nor Gloom of Night

Posted by Mark Fallon on May 18, 2016 5:00:00 AM

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United States Postal Service

A Modest Proposal for the United States Postal Service

Posted by Mark Fallon on May 10, 2016 5:00:00 AM

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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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