Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

The Unstoppable Move to Less Paper, and the Upcoming Upheaval of the Mailing Industry

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 12, 2017 6:30:12 PM



Roaming through a used book store, I came across "Writing with a Word Processor" by William Zinsser. Written in 1983, the book chronicles Zinsser teaching himself how to use an IBM Displaywriter – one of the first office word processors. More than just a look back to the adoption of modern technology, the book provides some insight to what we can expect in the future – less paper.

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Industry Vendors / Operations Management / Technology / Outsourcing / Strategy

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

Selecting the Right Software

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 4, 2017 5:00:00 AM

Back in the 1990s, I developed a presentation entitled “Information Technology for Mail Center Managers.” The section on purchasing software was pretty basic. Were your applications on a mainframe, a server or desktop? If a server, what version of Microsoft? If desktop, were you Microsoft or Apple? In the main categories – document composition, address management and package tracking – there were just a few vendors to consider.

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Industry Vendors / Operations Management / Technology

Who's On First?

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 28, 2017 9:15:59 PM

Last week saw the announcement of another merger in the print/mail industry. Two national document outsourcing companies will form a new entity, with an interesting new name.

Using LinkedIn and Twitter, plus Google alerts and subscriptions to various industry newsletters, I try to stay up to date with the latest news. Lately it seems that even this isn’t enough. Product offerings, corporate structures and company brands change more frequently than the roster of the Boston Red Sox. I look out at the field, see a lot of unfamiliar names and wonder, “Who’s on first?”

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Industry Vendors / Technology / Outsourcing

A Culture of Service – Still Indispensable After All These Years

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 31, 2017 5:01:00 AM


This weekend, I had to search through some records from the 1990s. Among the papers was the first speech I ever gave for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The District Manager for Boston asked me to present to a gathering of his postmasters and station managers. In particular, he wanted to hear about how my company was impacted by the service we received from the USPS.

While I wrote this speech over 2 decades ago, the message holds true today. The industry and the USPS must work together to provide the best possible service to our mutual customers.

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United States Postal Service / Industry Vendors / Operations Management

Trends in Print and Mail - The Top 10 Posts from 2016

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 3, 2017 5:00:00 AM


Exigent postage rate increases were repealed. The upcoming rates changes will have some positive impact for First Class Mailers. Selecting vendor-partners, for technology or outsourcing services, remains a challenge. And legislative reform was seriously considered by Congress – before ultimately deciding to do nothing. These were just a few of the major stories impacting our industry over the last year.

We here at The Berkshire Company can't predict what changes 2017 will bring, but we do know more changes are on the horizon – from the implementation of “USPS Marketing Mail” to new technologies to reinforcing good management practices. We plan on covering those, and other issues, in the coming year. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see covered, leave a note in the comments, or send me an email at mmf@berkshire-company.com.

In case you missed them, here are the 10 most read posts from 2016:

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United States Postal Service / Industry Vendors / Operations Management / National Postal Forum / Technology

The Trip Worth Making

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

Selecting the right business partner for customer communications is an important task. Savvy organizations use the Request for Proposals (“RFP”) process to make the best decision. After receiving vendor responses and calling references, an important step before your final selection is to conduct a site visit to the finalists’ production centers.

A well-crafted RFP will help gather information about the prospective vendors. Technology, performance standards and pricing can be compared. Calls with references will reveal how relationships are managed and sustained. Follow-up meetings show how well the vendor responds to special requests and handles tough inquiries.

A site visit adds important insight about the vendor. Seeing the actual equipment, layout and work environment allows one to compare what is written in a bid response to what takes place at the facility. More than one RFP has been won or loss during a visit.

It’s important to bring the right members of the RFP team along for the visit. As a minimum, the project sponsor, sourcing manager and a print/mail subject matter expert (“SME”) should attend. The vendor will have a team of folks on hand to impress the prospect, so multiple attendees helps level the playing field. The SME’s focus will be on the equipment and processes used in production.

A tour of the production floor is mandatory – don’t settle for a view from a conference room or balcony. As you walk through the facility, takes notes on how work is staged, the make and models of equipment used, and the general atmosphere of the workplace. Look for security controls, including cameras. While the vendor has probably taken extra preparations for the visit, the truth is right below the surface. And easily spotted.

Take a moment to talk to the employees. Not just to the people who the vendor has hand-picked for briefings, but any employee you pass. Don’t conduct an interrogation, but just carry on a conversation. “Good morning.” “How are you, today?” “What are you working on?”

At the same time, the SME should be talking with machine operators. Do they understand how the system works? What is their awareness about printing technology and postal regulations? How do they handle jams or misfeeds? As in the example above, don’t just have discussions with the operators at the machines the vendor spotlights, but talk to as many people as possible.

When the visit is finished, the RFP team should discuss what they learned. Specifically:

  • Does the processing equipment live up to the description in the RFP response?
  • Does the facility have the proper security measures in place to protect personal information?
  • Is the work culture at the facility consistent with your company?
  • Do the employees reflect the values you’re searching for in a business partner?
  • Is this a facility that you would trust to produce critical communications for your company?

The business partner awarded the outsourcing contract will impact the relationship with your customers for the length of the contract. RFP responses will provide a lot of information, but not everything you need to know about the vendors. Site visits take a commitment of time, resources and funding. The investment is minimal when compared to the knowledge gained in helping you make the best possible decision.

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Industry Vendors / Operations Management

Twenty Questions To Ask When Purchasing Equipment

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 15, 2015 5:30:00 AM

A successful operation is built around people, process and technology. In print and mail operations, the equipment used to process inbound and outbound documents is becoming faster, more accurate and more expensive. Upgrading your systems will mean a significant investment in dollars and other resources.

In past posts, we’ve encouraged the use of a Requests for Proposals (RFP) for major purchases. Companies can use the RFP to fully explain their existing situation and challenges, as well as the goals to be met with the new technology. We recommend that our clients provide as much detail as possible about their current operation – volumes, file formats, processing times, paper types, information technology infrastructure, etc. If possible, give vendors physical samples of the “typical” documents in their final form.

As with RFPs for outsourcing, most companies have standard questions from the purchasing, procurement or legal departments. In addition to those questions and pricing information, here are 20 questions you should ask when purchasing equipment:

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Industry Vendors / Operations Management

20 Questions When Selecting a Print/Mail Service Provider

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

Choosing a vendor for print or mail services (or both) can be similar to buying a new car. First, a lot of research on the internet. Checking out vendor websites, searching for news stories and reading online reviews. Next you reach out to people you know, and ask for their recommendations and experience. Then, you start contacting vendors.

After you’ve narrowed your selection, it’s time to start finding out more the finalists. If your company is looking to find a long-term partner, your best tool would be the Request for Proposals (RFP) process. For a “one-off” project, you may request bids from the vendors. In either case, you still need to learn more about the vendor than just their pricing.

When we help companies draft RFPs for outsourcing, there may be dozens of questions. Usually, there are standard questions from the purchasing, procurement or legal departments. There are application-specific questions – file formats, service-level requirements, postage costs, presort availability, materials, etc. Then there are questions that appear in almost every RFP.

In addition to pricing, here are 20 questions you should ask when selecting a print/mail service provider:

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Industry Vendors / Operations Management

The Myths and Realities of Outsourcing

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

Outsourcing may be the most emotionally charged issue facing print and mail operations managers today. If it's a knee-jerk reaction by companies desperate to cut costs, or to get rid of bothersome employees, outsourcing will probably result in failure.
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Industry Vendors / 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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