Mailing Systems Technology MAGAZINE

As we enter a new century, Mailing Systems Technology renews it's commitment to being the mailing industry's premiere magazine. We will present state-of-the-industry information on all facets of mail center operations. We will provide the information you need to deal with current production demands, alert you to industry trends and introduce methods and technologies to deal with the changes our industry will face. We'll make it our job to be a leader of information exchange in the mailing industry.

 

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Editorial Articles November 2000

 

Prevention Begins with Conditioning: Developing more power for safer lifting

By Juan Carlos Santana

Power is by far the most predominant expression of human movement. In sports, as well as in the non-athletic arena, everything we do can be expressed as a power output. Therefore, it is important to understand what power is, how it is generated, what factor it plays in human performance and how to develop it.

There are many ways to express power. The two most common ways to express it are the rate at which work is performed (power = work ÷ time) and the speed at which force is applied (power = force x speed).

The Need for Power

What we do to make ourselves perform and feel better, whether it is dropping weight or starting an exercise program, is done to inevitably improve our capacity to generate power. You may think you have no need for power because you never participate in any power-dominated events, however, here are five power-dominated events you probably participate in on a frequent basis.

  1. Athletic activities (e.g. tennis, golf, softball, running).
  2. Playing with children (e.g. picking up a small child, wrestling with the little ones at home).
  3. Reacting to a loss of balance on a slippery or uneven surface.
  4. arrying items from the ground to high shelves.
  5. Outdoor chores (e.g. yard work, loading vehicles, cleaning the pool).

Now, if you asked any person what is necessary to develop this sought-after quality, you would get an array of answers. Some will say upper body training is most important for power development. These individuals are easy to spot in a gym because they are occupying the benches or bench press machines for hours at a time. Others will tell you that training the legs will guarantee you’ll get more powerful. These characters load up the leg press with all of the gym’s 45-pound plates and allow no one to work out until their legwork is finished. Or, they like to permanently bend the gym’s bars and wear mouthpieces and Viking hats while squatting half a ton of steel. Last but not least, there is still another group who tries to develop power doing arm curls. The perennial, leg hiding long pants and standard tank top with 22-inch pipes easily gives them away.

My question is who’s minding the store? Who is training the center that connects all of these important parts? Who is training the core of the body, the area between the chest and the legs? Then, the follow-up question is how is it being trained?

Driving Power

Most people think the core of the body is the abdominals — you know, the muscles all Calvin Klein models sport when posing for the fabulous billboard shots. They also think they properly address the abdominals by doing sit-ups or crunches. Perhaps this manner of thinking is the result of many years of an old prescription, “sit-ups and crunches for the washboard.” Few entertain the idea the lower back plays an equally important role in stabilizing, rotating and extending the trunk. Even fewer realize the importance of the other major muscles of the core in connecting the shoulders and hips during multi-planar movement. In fact, the main function of the body’s core is not merely to flex and extend the trunk along a single plane, but to rotate and stabilize along multiple planes of motion. It is this multi-planar, rotational capacity that is behind all powerfully executed moves we praise in and out of sports. Yet, we rarely train these muscles or movement patterns. Sampras’ 130-mile-per-hour serve, Tiger’s 300-plus drives or a shipping clerk moving a package from the floor to a shelf over the shoulder, all have the same thing in common. These moves are made possible by the rotational power generated at various joints, especially between the hips and shoulders.

In all of these moves, as with all other powerful human movements, the power comes from the ground. Then, the legs transfer the energy to the hips. The hips rotate and create torque between the hips and shoulders. At this point, the core muscles increase their activity to bring the shoulders around to face the same direction as the hips. The extremity(s) usually serves only as an extension of the core, a distribution mechanism. Finally, at this distribution center, an implement (e.g. racket, club or package) is accelerated through in the direction the hips are facing. The sequence of events I have just described is one possible way to express power in a variety of daily tasks.

The various muscle systems involved in the event I described are collectively called the kinetic chain. It stands to reason that if there is a weak link in the kinetic chain, there will be a breakdown in technique, timing and thus a reduction in force production. In my many years of experience, it is the core that is usually the weak link in the chain. Most of the time it is not due to pathology, but rather to a lack of proper conditioning.

Conditioning for Power

Now, lets take a look at how to approach your core conditioning for injury prevention and improved performance. The most important consideration for safe and effective · exercise is “proper progression.” Don’t run before you walk! Check with your primary care provider, or specialist, to make sure you do not have any existing health conditions of which you may not be aware. If you have any questions as to what you are doing, consult a professional who is properly certified (NSCA certification is tops in the field of conditioning and performance).

I may start some of my sedentary or rehabbing clients lying down, gradually progress them to the kneeling position and then to the standing position. The tempo of execution is also important to maximize your training. The tempo starts very slow and then, over weeks of training, progresses to a more dynamic nature. The final goal is to end up as explosive as the target activity (e.g. golf swing, lifting tasks) is performed in real life. I have three favorite pieces of equipment that I use on an everyday basis with most of my clients. These are the stability ball (24 inches or 55 centimeters), various medicine balls (one to three kilograms) and rubber bands (light, medium and heavy).

One of my beginner programs with the stability ball consists of a crunch, hip bridges and rotations. Start with just one set of 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise and progress to three sets of 15 repetitions per exercise. Take three to four weeks to progress from one to three sets if you have not been very active. You may perform this routine from three to five days per week. This routine will give you the foundation to handle more challenging routines. This routine alone has helped many of my clients eliminate their chronic backaches.

One of my favorite intermediate routines involves the use of Lifeline’s JC band. This routine moves the individual to a standing position. The protocol consists of diagonal woodchop, a reverse diagonal woodchop and a side chop. These exercises can be performed three to five times per week for three sets of eight to 12 hard reps. Step away from the anchor point to regulate the tension on the band. Stick with this program for three to four weeks. As a warm-up to this routine, use one set of 10 to 15 repetitions of the stability ball routine. By the time you finish this four-week program, you are ready to go ballistic!

Medicine balls are one of my favorite tools for developing functional power in athletes and non-athletes alike. Today’s medicine balls are made very durable and can be thrown against walls. This next routine will really “transfer” all of that dynamic strength we have been developing with the two previous routines. It involves three different throws, which can be performed against any cement wall. An overhead throw, side throw to each side and a back throw.Depending on the size and physical conditioning of the individual, a one to four kilogram medicine ball can be used. One can perform three sets of six to 10 repetitions for each throw, two to three times per week. Make sure you use your whole body when throwing the ball. Think of “conditioning yourself from your toenails to fingernails.” One should warm up thoroughly before attempting these dynamic throws. One set of the stability ball exercises and one set of the band exercises would make a great warm up to the medicine ball routine.

Go ahead and give these three routines a try. Don’t try to advance too quickly. Remember, going through this complete progression will give you time to develop the proper foundation of core strength before advancing to the more dynamic exercises. It’s common for tennis players, golfers and baseball players to notice considerable increases in their power within two to three weeks after starting this progression, along with their resistance training routine.

 

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The Open Me Factor

Thermal inkjet offers precision, quality, security and low cost

By Leo Shen and Dan Briley   

Contrary to popular predictions, the advent of electronic mail has not put an end to hardcopy mail. In fact, the electronic technology once viewed as a threat to the mail-printing industry has proven to be a boon. Competition from electronic mail has focused the mail-printing industry on doing its job better while lowering costs. Demand for these improvements, along with new postal requirements to prevent fraud, is driving the industry to adopt more flexible addressing and metering machines using thermal inkjet technology.

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are part of the digital revolution in mailing. Though not the only option, they are a cost-effective way to print sharp, clear addresses, company logos and messages, postage and postal indicia in black and/or color. These non-impact, electronically driven printers generate bubbles that eject small drops of ink through nozzles, placing the ink drops precisely on a surface to form text or images.

Lower cost, higher quality
Although the technology has been around since the late 1970s when Hewlett-Packard and Canon pioneered it, only recently has it become practical for large-volume industrial users. Over the last dozen years, HP has improved resolution from 300 to 600 dots per inch (dpi) — most existing technologies achieve up to 240 dpi — and increased speeds from a maximum 250,000 drops of ink per second to nearly 6.3 million drops per second. Mailers using TIJ printers can process up to 25,000 envelopes an hour. During the 1990s, HP improved ink chemistry so that thermal inkjet can use pigmented inks, which makes it possible to print text and graphics on plain paper with exceptional print quality. As the technology gained acceptance, overall printer costs came down. Another important advance for industrial printing came in 1997, when HP introduced large-capacity inkjet cartridges that meant less-frequent replacements.

Over the past three years, several major mail equipment manufacturers, such as Neopost, Secap and Ascom Hasler, have licensed HP’s thermal inkjet technology for their new addressing and metering machines. Thermal inkjet has become the technology of choice for those seeking to personalize envelopes and other mailings.

Originally developed for desktop printers, thermal inkjet is designed to be inexpensive and easy to use. Those benefits continue in mail-printing equipment. The availability of high-quality printing at an affordable price gives mail and print shops large and small — and even home offices —more opportunities for profit.

A thermal inkjet printer may cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars less than some other printing equipment, lowering the cost of entering the market. Operating costs are less, too, because operators do not require special training and production downtime is minimal. Changing ink is as simple as snapping in a new cartridge. Anyone can do it quickly and cleanly. And many types of inks — pigmented black, fast-dry black, spot colors — are widely available.

The printers feature modular components that can be easily serviced and reconfigured to adapt to changing business or market needs. Printheads are inexpensive and disposable, so if they become damaged, they can be easily replaced. · And a company can keep extras on hand without tying up excessive capital. Moreover, thermal inkjet printers run quietly and have a small footprint, so they are not intrusive on the production floor.

Envelopes with eye appeal
Addressing machines featuring TIJ began to appear about three years ago when improvements in speed and resolution made them a match for industry needs. High-quality printing is especially important to the direct mail industry because it depends on consumer response for success. Direct marketers send an annual 45 billion pieces of mail, of which only about 1% gets opened. Any technology that increases that rate gives marketers an edge. Ultimately, higher response rates will enable marketers to send fewer pieces and target consumers better.

Research shows that consumers respond to print quality and color — two “open me” factors that are hallmarks of TIJ. According to research for the direct marketing industry, color sells products up to 80% more effectively than monochrome and improves consumers’ comprehension and recall. Because it relies on easily replaceable ink cartridges rather than ink drums and plates, TIJ makes color printing quick, easy and as affordable as monochrome printing. And with print resolution of up to 600 dpi, addresses and marketing messages look clean and crisp.

A third “open me” factor is personalization. If an envelope appears to have been addressed specially to the customer — instead of printed on a label or tucked behind a see-through window — the recipient is more likely to be curious. Thermal inkjet printers are ideally suited to personalization. It is also easy to add targeted ads, company logos or messages right on the envelope in one simple operation.

Protecting you and your money
Maybe you can’t print money, but mail metering is the closest legal thing to it. When you send an envelope or card through a metering machine to print the postage amount and cancellation, the cash you’ve programmed into the meter buys the right to send that piece through the postal system. Metering machines now entering the market are digital, requiring compatible digital printing technology.

Thermal inkjet technology is enabling the latest generation of metering machines to meet strict postal requirements for security and enhanced information on envelopes. With recent advances in scanning and copying technology, postal fraud has been on the rise. Imprints made by earlier meters are easy to duplicate in part because they look alike. To help protect against fraud, postal services around the world have adopted complex two-dimensional barcodes or postage evidencing techniques unique to each mailpiece.

Because these two-dimensional barcodes are compact, they require high-resolution printing technology like thermal inkjet. Also, for even higher security, thermal inkjet can use high-security inks invisible to the naked eye. HP cartridges containing these special inks are not available on the open market but only to qualified postage printing manufacturers.

The U.S. Postal Service has instituted its Information Based Indicia Program (IBIP), which includes a digital two-dimensional barcode that inhibits fraudulent duplication. With IBIP, each piece is “digitally signed” with an encrypted code that individually identifies it. The unique code is printed on an envelope or on a label. It encodes the postage paid, information needed to process the mail (such as the licensing ZIP Code) and security-related data elements.

The Postal Service has mandated the removal of mechanical meters and no longer allows the placement of manual or counter-set meters that had to be taken to the post office to add postage. This is the beginning of a long-term strategy to rotate all meters to more secure technology that permits remote resetting of meters as well as digital IBIP.

Vendors support TIJ
Thermal inkjet printing prints cleanly and on more surfaces, according to Steve Pietz, vice president of Marketing at Neopost. No matter what the quality of the envelope, the printer can produce a quality imprint. Cartridges are easy to remove and install, and the machines operate quietly. “That’s not to say that traditional meter printing methods weren’t good,” he says, “but digital offers us more flexibility.”

Digital printing technology enables users to program and print up to eight slogans, for example, along with postal and user information, says Alain Normand, franking machine product manager for Secap. Like Neopost, Secap chose inkjet for its clear imprint, consistent quality and security.

As new meters are built to meet new postal regulations, manufacturers find thermal inkjet attractive. It offers a crisp imprint, even on very thick material that is not uniformly flat. For the most part, thermal inkjet meters are replacing electronic meters with rotating printheads that require a flat stamping surface.

The digital future
Many believe the mail-printing industry will completely convert to digital equipment within 10 years. Small and home-based businesses that previously would not have used metering equipment are also entering the market. E-service companies serve this new market with small-volume metering machines or the ability to print envelopes with desktop printers.

One trend that is clearly pointing to thermal inkjet technology is the trend toward more but smaller, targeted mail runs, as opposed to today’s mass mailings. As electronic technology delivers more information accurately and concisely in coded form, the Postal Service and mail industry will learn more about customers. Customers, in turn, will benefit by receiving more customized appealing mailings. TIJ’s immediate availability, with no power-up time, makes it ideal for short runs.

For sure, electronic mail will continue to grow. However, the mail-printing industry has a bright future. Direct mail is effective and will become more so as it can better target recipients. Marketers will want to spend their money on content, not technology. Manufacturers and mailers will remain competitive by gravitating toward technologies like thermal inkjet that drive down costs while delivering the quality that both consumers and the United Stated Postal Service demand.

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The 11th Annual Wage and Operation Survey Results-Part II

By Marll Thiede          

To view the graphics associated with the survey, there is a pdf link at the end of the article.

The Mailing Systems Technology Annual Wage & Operations Survey has tracked the industry’s development over the past decade. And to no one’s surprise, our industry has come a very long way. We have slowly but steadily climbed “out of the basement.” In Part I of the 2000 survey results (refer to the September issue), everything is looking positive in terms of the people side of our industry — wages are up, employment is up, workers are better trained. In this issue, we delve into the operations side of the mail industry. Thanks to the tremendous response by our readers, we were able to analyze the inner workings of 578 mail centers.

The Balancing Act

Mail center managers have the complex job of properly compensating employees while driving operational costs down. Based on our survey results, the task was not easy this year. The overall average cost per piece went up from last year’s 56¢ to 59¢. No doubt, the higher wages we reported in the last issue had an impact on the higher per piece rate. Mailpiece weight and delivery distance also could have affected the average cost per piece, since the greatest increase was in Standard mail operations. In a good economy, marketers have more dollars available to invest in direct marketing pieces; therefore, postage could be higher due to heavier weight pieces. E-commerce could also be affecting postage cost, since new Internet customers are more distant and geographically dispersed. Conversely, First Class mailers achieved a 1¢ decrease in the cost per piece, from 64¢ to 63¢.

Keeping a Watchful Eye

Efficiency is key to driving down operational costs. Mail center managers are monitoring productivity both of the overall operation as well as individual operators. In Part I, we noticed a trend in which those managers who monitored productivity had a higher turnover rate. In these results, we unveil that monitoring productivity, and of course reacting to it, has an effect on cost per piece. Those managers (only 28%) who do not monitor any productivity average a cost of 66¢ per piece. If just mail center productivity is monitored, the cost per piece drops to 60¢. If only operator productivity is monitored, the cost per piece decreases to 54¢. However, if both operator and overall mail center productivity is monitored, the per piece rate drops to 52¢.

Overall mail center productivity is measured by 55% of all survey respondents, while only 29% monitor operator productivity.• Transaction mailers, lettershops and educational institutions lead the industry in watching overall mail center productivity. Lettershops, transaction mailers and manufacturers are the most likely businesses to monitor operator productivity.

Automating production scheduling should also help improve the bottom line. Having workers “stand around” or not processing mailpieces will not help drive down the cost per piece. Overall, only 17% of operations have such systems in place. However, that number more than doubles for the largest volume operations and for Standard mail, 35% and 36% respectively.

Following the Mailpiece

Managers are not only keeping a watchful eye on workers, they are also concerned about the flow of mailpieces throughout their facilities. Tracking software or systems ranked sixth in the items to be purchased by managers in the next 12 months. Transaction mailers (insurance, financial, utilities, communication and health organizations) were those most likely to invest in tracking systems, followed by educational institutions.

Not only do managers want to track mailpieces within the enterprise, but they also support tracking through the Postal Service. Sixty-eight percent of respondents would apply tracking codes for USPS monitoring.

Doubling Up Saves

Combining print and mail functions has been a logical trend in the industry. This year, the trend continues with another 4% of mail centers being merged with print operations, for a total of 41% of respondents having combined facilities. Lettershops, of course, are a natural leader in the trend. However, government and manufacturing operations are the next most likely to have print-mail facilities. Forty-seven percent of Standard mail facilities and 38% of First Class operations have taken the step to combine functions. Half of all operations managed by an outside facilities management firm have also brought together the two functions. The effort has paid off as demonstrated by the cost per piece. Lower volume operations have seen a 1¢ drop (from 71¢ to 70¢), while larger volume shops have reduced costs by 3¢ per piece (from 37¢ to 34¢).

Going Shopping

Topping the shopping list for mail managers are printers, from tabletop inkjets to high-speed lasers. Inserters are next on the list. The top buyers for the first two items on the shopping list are lettershops. Mailing machines come in third, followed by computing systems. Rounding out the top five are tabbing/labeling machines. The list also includes such items as scanners, vans/trucks and copiers. The biggest buyers are lettershops, closely followed by transaction mailers and educational institutions. •

Your Opinions on the USPS

Overall, survey respondents rated the Postal Service’s performance either good (62%) or excellent (24%). Only 14% gave it a fair or poor rating. Ironically, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations gave fair or poor ratings most often (17%). Next were transaction mailers (16%), followed by lettershops (15%). Managers in educational institutions and manufacturing companies were least likely to give the Postal Service a fair or poor rating. Managers’ opinions did not vary much based on the class of mail they processed nor the amount of mail they processed. Interestingly, no Standard mail manager gave the Postal Service a poor rating — the lowest rating possible.

To Privatize or Not

While the Postal Service gets the thumbs up for performance from our survey respondents, those who gave it a fair or poor rating were more likely to want the USPS to be privatized. Fifty-eight percent of those who gave a fair or good rating thought the USPS should be privatized. In contrast, only 27% of those who gave an excellent or good rating were pro privatization. Overall 32% favor privatization.

A slightly higher percentage (34%) believes the Postal Service should give up its private express privilege. Sixty-seven percent of those who think the USPS should be privatized also think they should give up the private express privilege. Only 17% of those who thought the Postal Service should not be privatized think it should lose its express privilege.

Who Do We Use

For express shipments, 40% of survey respondents count on FedEx, 26% use UPS and 20% rely on the Postal Service. Airborne and DHL were also used but to a much lesser extent — 12% and 2%, respectively. Parcels are shipped via UPS by 72% of mailing managers. The Postal Service is the next choice, being used by 17%. Parcel carrier choices didn’t change much from last year. A small percent switched their express shipments from the USPS and UPS to FedEx, and for parcels, from USPS and FedEx to UPS.

Let Us Know What You Think

Please let us know what you think about our survey. Do you want more or different information? Are there questions we should add? We spend endless hours analyzing the data, and we want the survey to be full of easy-to-understand information you can use to improve your mail center. Go towww.mailingsystemsmag.com, click on Talk to Usand give us your feedback.

On behalf of the industry, I thank those who filled out and returned the survey. Watch for the 2001 survey attached to the spring issues of Mailing Systems Technology and please participate.

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Editorial Articles September 2000

 

We Need Help!

Management By Denny Durst

One of the numerous challenges facing today's mail center manager is the hiring, training and retention of good employees. Let's face it, some of the best employees that start in the mail center end up moving up the corporate ladder to another position with additional responsibilities within the same company and others move on. This may be good news for the one receiving the promotion, but turns into bad news for the mail center manager who must start over again with the selection, training and retention.

In a way, this is not fair to the mail center, being a training grounds for other departments, but the old stereotype of a mail operation being a "basement operation" is still too alive and well in corporate America. All too often, mail center managers are dealt new employees from personnel or human resources without the mail center manager being involved in the interviewing process.

A closer examination of mail center expenditures shows that many companies are spending very large sums of money through their postage meters, their shipping systems and with other carrier companies. Since the fall of 1999, over 500 customers have been sampled at the Pitney Bowes Mail Management Seminars. Findings show that on average, each of the mail center managers is responsible for more than $1 million in postage and other carrier expenditures. Additional research from these seminars tells us that accountability for these massive expenses is at times, very lax. That's one-half billion dollars from a very small sample of corporate America's mail centers! Someone needs to get hold of this massive disbursement! Corporate America is crying out for someone to tame this monstrous expense, and the mail center manager is the right person.

The problem is getting a handle on all of teh multifaceted rules and regulations surrounding mail and expedited letters. The information is very complex. Just about teh time a mail center manager trains an employee to understandthese charges and manage them, the person is promoted or some other sort of turnover occurs. In addition to this, the problem can be compounded by today's low employment rates.

Corporate America must pose the following question: Who in our organization has responsibility for these large budgets and expenditures, yet is equipped with a low-paid workforce and experiences high turnover? Our findings again show that most the corporations assigning complete accountability to these departments offer higher salaries, liberal equipment budgets to manage the costs of all carriers and a staffing plan that includes promotions and recognition via bonuses or other forms of compensation, to those mail center employees who achieve certain goals. When employees have this kind of responsibility coupled with this type of compensation, turnover is reduced.

Another issue for the mail center managers is that the choice candidates for staffing is typically decided for them-leaving the managers out of the hiring process. Many departments do not understand the complicated functions in the mail center and believe quite simply taht "anyone" can move mail, therefore, just about anyone can work in a mail center.

MAil center managers should be given influence over the interviewing and hiring decisions for their employees. No one understands better how well a prospective candidate will fit into an operation. Some of the most essential qualities for a successful mail center candidate match those qualities of much higher recognized positions within an organization. Qualities such as computer literacy for operating computers and managing carrier operations; initiative to act on one's own; motivation to present one-self enthusiastically and to take on additional projects; ability to assimilate new and sometiems complicated information, such as speaking "postalese" and understanding USPS automation program; good judgement and decision-making skills; and building rapport to work as a team, establishing relationships with vendors, the United States Postal Service and other carriers.

These are just a few of the necessary elements fro a successful mail operationto run at peak efficiency and reduced costs. There are many more aspects to consider, and corporations should team with their mail center managers to define the best attributes for mail center employees.

In today's fast-paced, cost-center-driven business environment, exchanging a cost center for a profit center is clearly the choice. With teh right personnel, appropriate training and turnover at an acceptable yet managed level, our mail center managers can manage their company functions as a business and at a profit. Mail policy within an organization will educate all employees in a company. Formal policy for using the mail and overnight carriers can definitely get a controllable grip on the high cost of mailing and shipping. Improvement in past performance in this area can only be accomplished by the reduction of turnover and the retention of educated, well-trained mail service personnel.

Let's let the mail center managers of America be proactive in the hiring process. Give them the training they need to conduct successful interviews and allow them to participate. They know better than most the type of person that can help them manage the costs of mail and expedited package services.

MailingSystemsMag.com