Tian Horn, executive GM responsible for direct sales operations, including production printing and software at Ricoh South Africa, explains why Mailrooms and print rooms should be run together.

Mailrooms and print rooms form an integral part of any large organisation. Yet despite their importance to the smooth running of the business many are not managed to their full potential in terms of a strategic operation. Despite obvious advantages of them being run together, many are still seen as separate entities by senior management. Businesses could benefit from combining mail and print services in order to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and improve service delivery.

The beauty of mailrooms and print rooms is that they share similar characteristics and complement each other in terms of workflow. Both facilities involve the management of documents as correspondence flows into, out of, and within the organisation. Yet despite all this activity, the peaks and troughs of both functions occur at different times of the day. Mailrooms are busy first thing in the morning – as determined by the delivery and sorting of post – whereas print rooms warm up later with work submitted by staff. With the completion of each print job, documents flow back through the business with the help of the mailroom. When viewed together like this, it makes sense to streamline work in order to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

Operations involve people as much as processes and just like the natural flow of work between both functions; mailrooms and print rooms have the same staffing requirements. Again, if taken together, there are clear benefits of cross-training staff in each department. Individuals would be given the opportunity to acquire new skills, while the business would benefit from more knowledgeable and motivated employees. The bigger picture need not confine itself to the likes of job-shadowing, but a whole new approach that involves one strategy around all documents – inbound, outbound and within the organisation.

By having an integrated approach the mailroom and print room would become a centralised communications hub for the whole business. This central point of contact would streamline operations and enforce best practice within the business. It would also bring more immediate benefits of saving office space and utilising resources through shared services. It all starts with in-bound correspondence and delivery. This may be as basic as post and print being delivered by the same person, using the same trolley, to automatically scanning and sending documents electronically.  

 At a time when costs are being scrutinised like never before, post and print are still treated as operational overheads. Senior management often have no idea how much is being spent on these areas, let alone the potential savings that could be made. It’s estimated that organisations could save up to 30% on their print costs alone through better management of devices. Logically, the print room is only an extension of a fleet of printers and copiers on each floor so it makes sense to roll all this into one.

A single contact would help to better manage the fleet and ensure maximum uptime for all copiers and printers. If the mail and print rooms were run in unison, the same person who walks the floor with deliveries could be checking devices and consumables at the same time. Basic break-fix operations could also be carried out in-house with escalations to the supplier made through just one area of the business. Before long, a more strategic relationship with suppliers would develop along with all the benefits from economies of scale and streamlined delivery.

 It’s important to keep as much control as possible when budgets are tight so having a centralised approach would help ensure best practice. For example, some jobs may be deemed too big for the in-house print room so staff may look for professional printers themselves. But by enforcing all jobs through the dedicated mail and print room, outsourcing could be kept to a minimum and managed centrally using preferred partners. 

With their newfound experience of dealing with suppliers, the print room could offer consultancy on the best route per job. This may include outsourcing the work or simply advising on different formats. Print formats, such as printing in smaller sizes, have cost implications so they could really add value by feeding this information back to the business. As part of this service the print room could offer basic creative services such as design and on-the-spot corrections.

The pro-active management of print would also extend to mail under a new umbrella of document services. The aforementioned floor walker, who delivers mail and checks on devices, could also be on the lookout for best practice around outbound mail. Most organisations have a plethora outbound mail trays dotted around various departments. Often there are many different envelopes and parcels placed in there with little regard for the most cost-effective option.

Postage prices have changed widely over recent times and it’s difficult for everyone in the business to keep up. Equally, not everyone who sends out correspondence is aware of the latest innovations in mailroom management, such as electronic delivery and variable data. A simple shoulder-tap by our friendly floor walker to see why people are posting A4 instead of A5 and you begin to benefit from a campaign to educate employees on best postal practice.

Taking best practice a stage further and large-scale mail jobs – such as direct marketing campaigns – could be managed in-house by a dedicated team of experts from across post and print. Software such as PlanetPress exists that can sort customer databases by those who have an e-mail address and those who don’t. Communications can then start to be automatically sent to e-mail addresses by default and posted to those without one.

This would bring obvious savings in paper, print and postage. It also allows for better monitoring of direct marketing campaigns. An advanced mailroom could also handle postal runs, where addresses are automatically sorted by postal area before being sent to the post office or courier for delivery. This kind of mail management typically saves around 20% of postal costs alone.

A more integrated document strategy could also include barcodes being attached to all documents as they pass through the business. This would enable them to be given a unique identifier for tracking and retrieval, similar to those used by professional couriers. Tracking documents allows a cost to be attributed to each document for cross charging across the business. This enables businesses to put a price on their document management once and for all, as it’s one of the last hidden costs in an organisation.

 The ability to store and send documents in this manner not only improves customer service but also ensures compliance. Legal commitments and corporate responsibility requirements rear their head with regard to disposal of documents and information. The combined efforts of a mailroom and print room working together to manage documents would better control this process. 

They would also help with environmental targets by facilitating the move to more paperless correspondence, setting devices to print duplex and educating users on digital alternatives. They could also be the recycling standard bearers for the business as they oversee the whole paper process, both in and around the business.