New Research Examines In-house Mailing Operations
For more than half of all in-plants, printing and mailing services go hand in hand. Research conducted last year by In-plant Impressions shows that about 60% of in-plants handle mail for their parent organizations. Having print and mail in the same operation, they say, brings customer efficiency, a more streamlined workflow and dollar savings for the parent organization.
To get a closer look at which mailing services in-plants provide, how mail and package volumes are changing and which mailing technologies in-plants plan to install over the next year, In-plant Impressions conducted a survey in January, and we are in the midst of writing a research report with this data. Here are some of our initial findings.
Of those in-plants that provide mail services, the vast majority (more than 70%) have done so for more than a decade. Only 8% have added mail within the past 1-3 years. They list numerous benefits of a combined operation.
"We mail 95% of what we print," notes one respondent. "Combining the functions makes sense because they are so closely related."
"It adds value to the in-plant in the eyes of upper management as we are able to handle multiple functions for the company," adds another.
Three quarters of in-plants that provide mailing services handle both incoming and outgoing mail. Of the remainder, 23% provide only outgoing mail.
Mail operations are commonly part of in-plants' print facilities; 75% have co-located both in the same facility, with an additional 11% saying that some mail services are co-located and others are not. The mail operation is centralized at 81% of in-plants, with 19% having mail in multiple locations.
The top five mailing technologies used by in-plants — installed by more than half of respondents — are postage meters, variable data software, envelope sealing machines, presort software and inkjet address/barcode printers. Two of these, postage meters and VDP software, also top the list of mail technologies in-plants plan to acquire in 2019.
Half of in-house mailers say outgoing mail volumes are the same as they were one year ago, while the other half are split between those noticing an increase and those seeing a decrease in mail. Incoming package volume has increased over the past five years for 60% of respondents. For 12% volumes have increased substantially, and for 4% they have more than doubled.
This can result in influxes of higher volume in the mail area. The No. 1 way that in-plants cope with this is by cross-training print production staff to handle mailing equipment.
"Cross-training helps during vacancies, vacations and heavy workloads on both sides," affirms one respondent.
Cross-training also offers other benefits, as staff bring their expertise from other areas into the mail center.
"Because staff are completely cross-trained, they can offer insight and best practices that will make the project successful start to finish," remarks a respondent from a nonprofit. "We have been able to build relationships with our staff who are trusting us to handle their projects on time and accurately.
Our research also covers in-plants that do not offer mail services. Of those, 36% say the idea of adding mail has never been discussed, and 33% say it was considered but no action was ever taken. Only a third of those in-plants that don't offer mail services like the idea of adding them and feel it would be a good fit. This is in stark contrast to those who have both print and mail and feel the two are perfect together.
"The mail operation brings in more printing," points out one respondent, who credits mail with keeping the in-plant afloat. "If we didn't have the mail operation, the design and printing of mail pieces would be done outside."
"The two often need one another, so it's a benefit to our department to provide both," adds another respondent. "It helps justify our existence to our parent university."
Watch for our full research report next month.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.