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University parcel management goes digital

The proliferation of deliveries into university mailrooms across the country calls for a system upgrade

Posted by Charley Rogers | August 24, 2017 | Technology

By Ryan Higginson, Vice President Global SMB Solutions, Pitney Bowes 

As the summer warmth fades and the leaves fall from the trees, a new swathe of eager students joins universities and colleges around the country. Some will already be armed with student essentials from mobiles and mugs to tablets and towels, whilst others will wait until they arrive and will buy from physical stores or ecommerce sites. With 94% of us shopping online, students in their search for a bargain are more likely to look for digital discounts before spending any money. 

The rise in popularity of student-specific web memberships looks set to convert even more student shoppers from physical to digital shopping experiences: Amazon Student Prime provides free one-day delivery for all students, and UNiDAYS, with 4.3 million users, offers savings on popular brands such as ASOS, Missguided and Apple.  A 61.5% increase in paid social media spend across popular platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat is likely to further influence students’ online shopping behaviours, allowing them to make purchases on ecommerce sites directly from their social communities with just a few swipes and clicks.   

In line with this continued increase in online shopping comes a new challenge for university facilities managers and post room managers: managing the influx of parcels into student premises. By 2018, the number of parcels shipped is expected to rise by 20%.  Ecommerce is likely to generate the majority of these shipments, but universities and colleges must also manage a diversity of other incoming packages such as time-sensitive medical supplies, personal documents and packages from home.  Managing these for thousands of students often based across multiple locations demands streamlined, integrated, secure and efficient parcel management. 

In line with this continued increase in online shopping comes a new challenge for university facilities managers and post room managers: managing the influx of parcels into student premises. 

For many university and college mailrooms, the solution lies in the digitalisation of manual processes and tasks. Paper-based systems are transformed into digital using innovative, cloud-based platforms to manage incoming parcels. Handheld devices provide fast access to systems updated in real-time, providing clear visibility throughout a parcel’s journey. Recipients are alerted to the whereabouts of their package and its trajectory in reaching them.  This visibility and insight allows establishments to control, track and distribute high numbers of parcels, time-sensitive packages and seasonal fluctuations in volume.

Case study: the University of Connecticut transforms parcel management from physical to digital

In the US, the University of Connecticut comprises 30,000-plus students, more than 13,500 of whom reside on-campus. Multiple carriers were responsible for delivering tens of thousands of packages, with some going to mail service facilities and others going directly to dorm rooms. The result was delayed, incorrect or lost deliveries, and unhappy students. 

The university wanted to consolidate mail services and provide accurate, timely delivery so turned to intelligent package tracking software for a large-scale, multi-location solution. Made-to-order features such as a sophisticated notification system, security-driven technology, advanced reporting and an end to end audit trail addressed process challenges. Now, the solution sends email and text notifications to recipients informing them of their package deliveries. It automates receiving areas, provides real-time package updates, and facilitates re-routing requests. 

Students can be expecting multiple packages, and if they have something specific they’re waiting for, the ability to see an image of the package before they even come to the mailroom is valuable.

The University combined this with a data capture solution designed to improve parcel management efficiency by providing access to business critical information via a comprehensive data stream. Integrating the two systems provided the university’s mail services with an efficient solution to its parcel delivery problem, with accurate and timely parcel delivery, and reduced waiting time in campus mail rooms. Lori Nye, Manager Logistics Administration, University of Connecticut said, “Students can be expecting multiple packages, and if they have something specific they’re waiting for, the ability to see an image of the package before they even come to the mailroom is valuable.” 

Case study: The University of Manchester’s smart, sustainable solution 

The University of Manchester is the largest single site university in the UK with student population of 39,000 and 10,400 staff members. The Residences Directorate is part of the university providing a comprehensive service to all students, administering and allocating over 8,000 bedrooms in university-owned or managed accommodation. 

Managing student mail and package volumes for the University of Manchester was a growing challenge, both for facilities managers and for the students looking to receive those packages in a timely manner.  The university needed a digital solution to automate the communication and package tracking process which would save time and money, eliminate storage issues and increase efficiency as well as enhancing the student experience in halls.

SendSuite has eliminated the need for excessive storage of parcels and packages because the students are just more responsive to pick up when they get the digital reminder, so everyone is happy.

The University of Manchester turned to Pitney Bowes and implemented SendSuite® Tracking to streamline mail and package delivery. SendSuite Tracking software automates package handling for the university and ensures full accountability for parcels until they are picked up by students. Barcode readers, electronic signature capture, along with tracking and reporting functions, have brought post operations into the digital age to meet the expectations of today's students. 

The system is dramatically more efficient and boasts many overall improvements.  Queries are dealt with instantly by searching the database with student- or tracking-number.  An image of the signature can be provided along with the date and time for each delivery made by the Halls.

Time savings as well as a reduction in the number of staff needed to manage the process also have been great benefits for the overall management team. As Norma Daniels, Residences Administration Officer, University of Manchester, says, “SendSuite has eliminated the need for excessive storage of parcels and packages because the students are just more responsive to pick up when they get the digital reminder, so everyone is happy." 

From packages for homesick students to newly printed course textbooks, parcel deliveries at colleges will continue to rise. Pressurised post rooms and frantic facilities teams can integrate physical package management with innovative digital platforms to give them, and their students, a streamlined, efficient approach to deliveries. 

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