The first mile is as important as the last mile for the postal ecosystem, but it is often overlooked by mailers. There is a substantial amount of planning required of commercial mailers in the first mile: they must figure out if they should line-haul or use an LTL to drop their mail, if they should give it to a consolidator or a co-mingler, or a co-palletizer. At every point along the chain, service and cost matter. Many consolidators have frequent, consistent pickups from Postal Service because they pay full price and have enough volume that individual mailers lack, but understanding the advantages and trade offs of every link in the first mile is essential to identifying efficiency opportunities.
View the Video: Focus on the First Mile: The Efficiency Opportunity
Presenter: Shariq Mirza, CEO and Founder of Assurety Consulting
Postal Service Involvement in the First Mile
The Postal Service has created a win-win situation between itself and mailers through its use of incentives. The Postal Service wants more mail volume and has implemented labeling lists and drop-ship mechanisms, which allow mailers to discern how to prepare mail for the best service and where they can drop their mail according to the option they select.
The Postal Service utilizes CSAs—Customer-Supplier Agreements—to outline the rules for mailers in the First Mile. The Postal Service wanted to move away from the proliferation of customized contracts it was creating for mailers and towards a more standardized set of guidelines and requirements for various mail incentives. One of the goals of Full-Service Mail was to standardize all aspects of commercial mail and create a single platform for every step in the commercial mailing process. CSAs were also created to figure out what kind of mail a mailer is preparing and for which ZIP code(s), and the Postal Service created contracts that exchange volume guarantees for the ability to mix destinations and quality of service.
The idea was to help the Postal Service deliver mail faster, cheaper, and better while also ensuring that the mailers are getting the services that they need. Lots of planning goes into the first mile.
There are several potential workflow inefficiencies within the first mile:
- In the logistics world, much communication is still done through faxes and emails and even walkie talkies, which is a manual process that leaves no records or traceability; although smartphones are slowly taking over
- B2B (business to business) solutions platforms don’t exist that allow mailers to communicate their transactions between a mailer and a co-mingler or co-palletizer or transporter
- 3 different workflows that could be automated
- Business rule engines could be developed that would remove manual labor from processes
- Payment systems: pay each party in the supply chain automatically as a mailer works to get its mail to the Post Office
- Improving the labels, culture of scanning, and now RFID technology’s availability (where it makes sense, especially with a $0.05 – $0.06 cent cost) can all be used to track mail, parcels and improve resource management and cost management driven by volumes or lack thereof.
An electronic communication and payment platform can solve most problems within the first mile. The majority of workflow inefficiencies are related to outdated processes that are manual labor intensive and/or lack consistent data visibility and insights.
AIMS Platform Mitigate Cost Inefficiencies
The AIMS™ Platform was developed by Assurety to allow mailers to manage the production changes tied to commercial preparation, containerization, transportation, and tracking. Also, to provide a single workflow interface with the Post Office. It allows mailers to see and manage their Mail.dat data across plants, sites, and presorts so they can merge it all to create the best optimal option for across the first (and last) mile. AIMS™ MailAssurety™ is the only online Mail.dat editor that allows editing across Mail.dat jobs and for entire entry points for those managing larger volumes with both origin and dropship drops. Pre-planning for drop shipments is a critical part of AIMS that allows users to view fuel costs and mileage and postage discounts to decide if it’s worth it to take mail closer to a destination versus dropping off the mail directly in the first mile. AIMS also helps mailers to increase volume to qualify for volume incentives and discounts. By optimizing data visibility, identifying efficiencies, and helping track mail across partners from co-minglers to co-palletizers to transporters to the Post Office, AIMS helps reduce costs and increase customer service across the postal supply chain.
Assurety’s Postal technology Consulting Organization can help you answer your difficult questions related to USPS programs and our onshore and offshore Custom Software development team can help you with custom software development and integration needs at low costs to your organization.