Efficiency Key to Lettershop Success

Productivity will be the key element in excelling in the lettershop business in the coming years. When your company concentrates on stuffing and sending envelopes, efficiency and organization is crucial to success. With competition continually increasing, lettershops cannot afford to lose focus of what's most important to their clients: quick, accurate service.

Although the primary job of a lettershop seems simple — stuffing envelopes — when your company processes 1.5 billion pieces of paper a year, keeping the process organized and fine-tuned is of primary importance. There are three important steps to maintaining efficiency: processing the names, running the equipment and managing and organizing the inserts.

Processing names for presentation to the U.S. Postal Service is most often done using Group 1 software. Although this software is a great addition to the world of name processing and postal discounts, it still falls short. Programming specialists must tweak the software to create optimal performance. Finding new ways to solve age-old problems is a sign of a progressive company. With competition increasing each year, the lettershops that are the most creative problem-solvers will survive and grow.

A competitive part of today's lettershop market is the business of processing financial statements. These statements are highly personalized, which makes printing and inserting more difficult. Accuracy is crucial when sending financial statements. Imagine the problems if financial and investment portfolio statements were sent to the wrong households. In fact, the New York Stock Exchange's new rule, known as NYSE 409A, is an extensive list of requirements with which investment firms and their lettershops had to comply with earlier this month. The rule regulates how statements are mailed and processed as well as specifics about inserting, balancing of counts, quality of printing and other details pertaining to control procedures for statements.

A competitive lettershop must search for ways to increase the productivity of financial statement processing. One option is to develop a method that isn't restricted by the use of expensive, intelligent inserting equipment. Processing can be done more quickly when the job is run on more standard and less expensive equipment machines at one time, again, while maintaining quality.

Finally, management information systems are crucial to the success of a large processing project. Online, PC and mainframe capabilities can save a great deal of time in tracking information. The ability to schedule and track the production, postage reconciliation and inventory of a project all online is a great boost to the time it takes to get the information from the beginning stages of printing the statements or inserts to the final stage of delivering it to the USPS. Automatically being able to monitor each component of the kit or package going out, we've found that we are able to save time and money. Being able to instantly alert a client as to the status of a project with merely a few key strokes on the computer is simultaneously a luxury and a necessity. Clients feel more in control of their projects because they can get immediate answers and be involved in the projects all along the way.

Accuracy and urgency are a priority. Even before NYSE 409A, regulations required that investment companies process, print and distribute their statements within five days of a close. Proper use of sorting, bursting, folding and inserting equipment is crucial to an efficiently run business.

The business of processing mail and creating packages is not mind-boggling. It's simply stuffing tons of paper into more than a billion envelopes, but details are everything. A package that gets sent out without one of the key pieces of paper may be useless to the client and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in handling questions and complaints. The key to a job well done is quick, accurate and traceable management systems.

Don McClowskey is vice president of production services at Communication

Concepts Inc., Ivyland, PA, a fulfillment house and lettershop.

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