For many universities, overhauling their package management system was not at the top of the priority list. However, when e-commerce exploded during the last few years and especially during the pandemic, many universities and student residences were forced to confront the challenge of handling numerous packages being delivered every day.
For example, Vanderbilt University reported an increase of more than 100% in the number of packages being handled between 2008 and 2016. With a volume of hundreds of thousands of packages coming in every year, a manual system didn't work for them.
Similarly, other institutions report that the pandemic has brought an unprecedented increase of more than 30% in the number of packages received.
Another case study highlighting the problems universities have been facing with package management systems came in from Columbia College. The school had already implemented a high-end digital package logging and management system from Pitney Bowes, one of the largest package tracking software suppliers in the country.
However, the system proved untenable for the school due to various issues such as a lack of user-friendliness, inability to operate from multiple devices, and poor customer service. Eventually, the school found a perfect alternative in Notifii.
This goes to show just how important it is for university mailroom managers to make sure that the package management system they choose will solve their unique problems.
As in the case of the system used previously by Columbia, a package management system that is confined to one desk or one type of device is a no-go. In the age of mobile technology, the right package logging system shouldn't be restricted to desktops and antiquated bar code readers.
Instead, a package logging and management system should be able to go with the mailroom staff where they need it most. For example, Notifii's mobile app allows staff to log packages by scanning barcodes and taking pictures using their mobile phones.
The Notifii app is cloud-based, which allows it to sync data remotely even with multiple departments located in different physical locations. The whole system can thus be administered centrally to ensure visibility and accountability.
University mailrooms tend to utilize student workers, and especially in peak seasons. A downside to that is that they experience a high turnover in the workforce, with new student workers brought in regularly.
For this reason, it is especially important to have a system that is intuitive and very easy to use. Students need to be able to get started immediately with minimum onboarding and training. A system with simple, straightforward workflows helps them start working at once with only a short briefing needed before they can "get it."
More importantly, having automated features takes care of many repetitive processes such as notifications and reminders. For this reason, Notifii also comes with a dedicated notification feature called Notifii Connect.
Notifii Connect allows automated alerts to be sent to package recipients automatically. These alerts can be scheduled to allow for staggered package collection times to allow maximum social distancing in the mailroom.
A unique feature of university mailrooms is that they are constantly under pressure. Even in off-peak seasons, it would be near-impossible to implement a disruptive package management system without bringing everything to a standstill.
That means the new system chosen needs to be plug-n'-play with minimum deployment time. From integration to training, migrating data, and testing, all implementation processes need to be conducted in as little time as a few days to ensure minimum disruption.
This is one of the biggest advantages that a cloud-based system has over other types of electronic package management systems. For example, electronic package lockers require extensive installation, while some on-premise systems require additional equipment such as OCR readers to be purchased.
Package management systems have a lot of hidden costs, even manual systems. From labor to the cost of hardware and implementation costs, it is easy to underestimate how much it costs to maintain any one system running.
For a simple software system like Notifii, the total lifetime cost during the period of the contract is easy to calculate. Depending on the scale of the system, the volume of packages handled, the number of staff involved, all one-time and recurrent costs can be approximated with a high degree of accuracy.
More importantly, software-based package management allows easy scaling even when the packages being handled increase in number. Apart from labor costs, the cost of using the system remains within the terms stipulated in the contract.
The same cannot be said of on-premise systems or smart lockers. A high initial cost of implementation plus the challenge of scaling means it becomes hard to put down the total costs of running such systems.
The very first package management systems were designed for commercial environments. From corporates to government agencies and post offices, these systems are designed to serve the unique needs of such large-scale clients.
The biggest vendors of package management systems, such as Pitney Bowes, work perfectly in that kind of market. However, they do not fit well into a dynamic and highly versatile environment such as university mailrooms. This is the number one reason why Columbia College experienced such significant problems in the first place.
As such, university mailroom administrators need to ensure that the system chosen is tailored for their unique needs. The ability to customize and tweak the system also goes a long way towards ensuring maximum efficiency for every kind of mailroom.
There is nothing like the perfect system, which is why prompt customer support is critical for ensuring a smooth implementation and operational experience. From the beginning, the customer-facing team from the software vendor should be enthusiastic, helpful, and willing to go the extra step to ensure customer satisfaction.
It is difficult to know just how good and prompt customer service will be after the contract is signed, so extra research is warranted. Some research on social media, inquiring from professional groups, or simply approaching other clients can provide the recommendations needed to find out what kind of user experience to expect from the system vendor.
The holidays of 2020 saw the highest number of packages handled by any institution to-date. The so-called Amazon Effect has been driving package numbers through the roof, and it is not likely to stop soon. As such, a package management system should be flexible and forward-thinking enough to handle future scaling and changes.
Software-based package management systems are perfect for mailrooms with fluctuating package volumes, which helps them handle low and high volumes equally well.
At Notifii, it has been our privilege to provide comprehensive package management solutions for the most distinguished universities. Part of what makes our software and app-based system so unique is that it is built around the same challenges found in university mailrooms: versatility, ease of use, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness.
Schedule your free demo to learn more about how Notifii Track meets your unique mailroom needs.