Traditionally, university mail centres were established to manage mail services when volumes were at their peak, with space a dedicated to thousands of student and faculty mailboxes. Today, those once efficient designs, policies and processes are ill-equipped to accommodate the transformation in the postal industry. As the demand for transactional and social mail has declined rapidly through e-substitution, and package volumes have grown exponentially as internet shopping has become an integral part of our lives, mail centres are faced with the inevitable fact that they have no choice but to reinvent themselves.
Most universities and colleges today face many of the same challenges, regardless of their size or location. The most significant challenge is space utilisation. Space is a premium at universities and every square footage is being examined for its cost effectiveness and importance. At many schools, the largest space requirements come in the form of traditional mail receptacles and storage shelving for parcels pending pick up.
“The reduction in the time and personnel needed to process parcels allowed ETSU staff to implement new processes and pursue new services to generate additional revenue streams.” With package volume increasing exponentially each year, more and more schools are faced with moving away from this traditional way of working and embracing some of the latest and available technology options. Intelligent parcel lockers provide a great option for package management as they require substantially less storage space. However, the large capital investment involved in a parcel locker purchase means that colleges need to consider several things before making the decision, including where the lockers will be installed, in what configuration and what overall features and customisation options are available. Basic considerations are parcel volume, which will dictate the number of doors required, and the parcel size distribution, which will influence the door sizes needed to best support customer requirements. There are also several other important operational features to consider. At the very least, the locker system should allow multiple packages to be placed in the same door at the same time, saving valuable time and door space.
The system should have the ability to record and deliver packages that it cannot accommodate. It should have a seamless process for transferring packages between the lockers and the mailroom storage area. Above all, finding the right business partner can help modernise the entire operation. The term ‘business partner’ refers to a supplier willing to commit to making changes to their existing systems to help maximise the efficiencies of mail processes, rather than just selling a system, potentially with limited capabilities. ETSU chose TZ as its business partner, hoping for a partner that would listen to its concerns and suggestions, then provide a solution specific to college mail centres. By deploying TZ’s intelligent parcel lockers at ETSU, they completely overhauled the way packages are handled and delivered. The parcel lockers brought immediate advantages, among them 24/7 access for student package pick-ups, which reduced the need for shelving to store the parcels and means that they do not have to be handled numerous times before final delivery. More unexpected but equally welcome was the positive reaction of students. Today parcel drop off to pick up has an average turnaround time of 5.5 hours, and 94% of packages are picked up within 24 hours, greatly enhancing delivery throughout. The reduction in the time and personnel needed to process parcels allowed ETSU staff to implement new processes and pursue new services to generate additional revenue streams for the mail centre without increasing staffing levels.
To modernise the entire retail sales operation and to increase services, ETSU installed a postal specific point of sale (POS) system at the mail centre. ETSU was the first school in Tennessee to implement a packaging dimensioning system to help streamline the process of applying Intelligent Mail Package barcodes (IMPb) to achieve maximum discounts and increase accuracy.