Over the years, mail room functions have emerged as perhaps the least automated business process at most enterprises. Typically, mail room operations have fallen outside the purview of IT departments and the CIO function. As a result, the mail room is often also the least integrated, from a technology standpoint, with the rest of the company’s operations.
Not surprisingly, many companies still rely on manual processes for handling the huge volumes of business mail they receive daily. Routine tasks such as receiving, opening, sorting, labeling, and distributing mail items continue to be heavily labor-intensive at both large and medium-companies. This has often resulted in substantial labor costs and huge inefficiencies such as slow processing times and mail getting delayed, trapped, misdirected or lost.
According to one industry estimate from Konica and Allgeier Computers, the total cost of opening, delivering, copying, forwarding, filing and retrieving each piece of mail, is upwards of $20 per document.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM) technologies can help bring order to the chaos in the same way it has helped control unstructured data in other business departments as well. Many companies have already implemented tools for quickly scanning and digitizing the mail they receive daily. Some even have integrated technologies for mechanically opening mail, extracting the contents, scanning the documents and storing it in electronic format. Such tools have helped companies substantially speed up mail processing times and cut costs by reducing the number of staff they need to serve in the mail room function.
Content management tools can help drive such benefits even further by adding an automated workflow element to mail room processes. ECM tools can add further intelligence to documents that have been captured electronically via the use of imaging and OCR tools. For instance, ECM tools can be used to route a document to the right destination and to specify the workflow path the document needs to take, where it needs to be stored, from where it can be retrieved and by whom.
The benefits are even greater if the ECM system can integrate with an ERP or a CRM system because documents can then be made available across business functions in a far more efficient manner than possible manually.
Such automation can speed up mail processing times, and ensure more reliable capture, routing and storage of key documents. Most importantly automation can deliver hard cost benefits as well. According to Byline Research, the hard savings from mail room automation include a 50% savings in labor costs and reduction in costs associated with searching for and retrieving documents. The promise of such benefits is attracting the attention of companies.
A survey of 102 managers of mail room operations by Zoomerang last September showed more than 90% saying there were under growing pressure from management to cut mailroom costs. More than half the respondents said they believed that automation would help improve mail room efficiencies.
Alfredo De Vanna is CTO of Yakidoo. He has over 10 years of international experience deploying over 80 critical information technology and enterprise content management systems. He is fluent in English and Spanish.