Trends in Print and Mail

The Berkshire Company Blog

Rethinking Postage Meters

Posted by Mark Fallon on Aug 26, 2019 1:56:36 PM


When I started as a mail clerk in the early 1980s, postage meters were clumsy mechanical devices. We’d use a fan scale to determine postage, and then turn dials by hand to set the amount. For postage refills, I’d pack the meter into a plastic case, and lug it to the post office .With a check in hand, wait in line for a window clerk, who would break the lead inspection seal, reset the meter, attach a new seal, and hand it back.

I was a mail center supervisor when “postage by phone” refills were announced, and scales were integrated with the meters. Several years later, electronic information-based indicia (IBI) meters became mandatory. Meters were then connected to the internet, allowing for remote monitoring and management. Instead of static slugs, users could add digital messages using their meters.

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Mail Security / Technology / USPS / U.S. Postal Service / mail / envelopes

Is Your Data Safe? - Data Security Policy Audits

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jul 22, 2019 12:28:54 PM

It seems that every day, there’s a news story about hackers stealing customer information from a computer system. Most publicized cases involve large companies being hacked for credit card information and passwords for millions of people. Small companies are hacked too, but those stories don’t seem to grab as much attention.

Physical mail is fairly secure and is protected by federal laws enforced by the US Postal Service Inspection Service (USPIS). With a heritage that traces back to Benjamin Franklin, the USPIS aggressively pursues criminals who use the mail to attach or defraud victims. Companies and individuals put great trust in a sealed envelope marked “First-Class Mail”.

In the past, creating transactional mail documents was performed by companies using internal systems. Printers were directly attached to the mainframe computer system. The mail services department was in the same building, if not in the same room. There were tight controls from data to print to insert to delivery to the post office.

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Mail Security / Industry Vendors / Technology / Outsourcing / Strategy / Quality Control

Prevention Not Panic

Posted by Mark Fallon on Oct 25, 2018 8:55:50 AM



In October 2001, an unknown terrorist sent envelopes containing anthrax through the US Postal Service (USPS). The intended targets were news broadcasters and elected officials. One envelope was misdirected, and ended up at the State Department, where several employees were seriously injured.

17 years later, another terrorist is using the mail to attack people. Instead of anthrax, pipe bombs were sent to a cable news company, past presidents and elected officials. One package was misdelivered to the return address on the envelope – the local office of a congresswoman.

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Mail Security / Postal Customer Council / USPS / U.S. Postal Service

Designing a Mail Center – Key Principles and Concepts

Posted by Mark Fallon on Feb 7, 2018 5:00:00 AM



There are diverse types of mail centers ranging from small inbound operations staffed by 3 employees to large production operations that print and mail a million pieces a day. No matter what type of work you process, the layout and design of your mail center has a direct impact on your effectiveness and efficiency.

The 5 key principles and concepts when designing a mail center are:

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Mail Security / Operations Management / Strategy

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

Disaster Recovery Planning – Do It Now

Posted by Mark Fallon on Dec 16, 2015 5:00:00 AM

It may be warmer than usual in New England, but weather in other parts of the country caused the temporary closure of several U.S. Postal Service facilities in outher parts of the country. Notifications helped alert mailers to adjust their outbound and inbound mail operations. But for many companies, these outages highlighted their own weaknesses and unpreparedness.
 
The lack of a disaster recovery plan is unacceptable in today's environment. It's futile to argue that any company won’t be impacted by weather, natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Everyone must consider what they will do if all or part of their operation can’t function due to outside forces.


Most companies have some sort of Information Technology (IT) recovery plans. These plans range from nightly back up with offsite storage of data; to fully redundant, mirror IT systems established at different locations. However, startling few companies have complete document processing disaster recovery plans.

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Mail Security / Operations Management

Mail Center Security: Handling With Care (Part Two)

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 16, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Someone asked Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, "Be prepared for what?" Baden-Powell replied, "Why, for any old thing."

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Mail Security

Mail Center Security: Handling With Care (Part One)

Posted by Mark Fallon on Apr 9, 2014 6:00:00 AM

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

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.

Review your security plan and make certain that it includes measures to protect your employees from harm and safeguard the mail that you handle. Examine the physical layout of your mail center. Ensure that all access points are secured from unauthorized entry. Prohibit non-mail operations employees from entering the mail center to pick up mail or packages. Construct a service counter to handle queries from your customers (an inexpensive and effective solution is to put a table in front of your mail center).

The service counter and all doors should be monitored by surveillance cameras – an excellent deterrent. However, surveillance cameras make some people uneasy. Inform your employees that the cameras are used to help protect them from harm. Open, honest communication is essential for a security plan to be successful.

You must train your employees to recognize a suspicious package or envelope. The characteristics of a potential hazard include:

  • No Return Address
  • Excessive Postage
  • Misspelled Words
  • Protruding Wires
  • Strange Odor
  • Oily Stains/Discoloration on Wrapper
  • Excessive Tape or String

If feasible, purchase an x-ray machine, which can easily detect the components of a letter bomb. Train all employees on how to properly use the x-ray machine, and how to react if they detect a threat. The best equipment is useless without a properly trained and alert operator.

Communicate and post procedures on how to handle an envelope or a package that contains either a threat of a biological or chemical agent, or an unidentified powdery substance. The United States Postal Inspection Service uses the acronym “SAFE”:

Safety comes first.
Assess the situation before taking action.
Focus your efforts on the hazard, avoiding contact and access.
Evaluate the situation and notify authorities.

Next: Steps to take when dealing with an emergency.

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Mail Security

Disaster Recovery – Vendor Selection and Testing

Posted by Mark Fallon on Jan 29, 2014 5:30:00 AM

When choosing a disaster recovery provider for print/mail services, all of the rules pertaining to selecting an outsourcing vendor apply. An important additional rule: actual experience in disaster recovery. An experienced vendor knows how to stay calm and react appropriately in times of crisis.

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Mail Security / Operations Management