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July 25 2006 10:48 AM

Chargebacks. Returns. Wrong carriers. Paying more in postage than you should and having less time than youd like to get the job right.


These are just some of the headaches faced by shipping pro-fessionals as they try to get parcels out the door and en route to their proper destinations. Fortunately, there is some effective relief out there medicine in the form of efficiency-enhancing, cost-reducing software technology. Adding mailing software to your current arsenal of shipping applications can dramatically improve your overall service, productivity and bottom line.


Start With Proper Hygiene

Efficient parcel delivery begins with a clean address database, one thats free of errors and duplicates. Software solutions are readily available to help streamline database maintenance functions, verify addresses and improve package deliverability.


One of the biggest problems for the modern shipping industry is Undeliverable As Addressed mail bounce-back pieces (everything from simple letters to incorrectly addressed parcels) that cost the industry an estimated $1.5 billion every year and toss a painful wrench into shipper workflows. Database management software can help reduce this problem using Delivery Point Validation, a United States Postal Service product (available only via USPS-certified vendors) that verifies that each specific address record actually exists as a deliverable mail destination. By weeding out invalid addresses, mailing software reduces returns and chargebacks and makes for happier customers. (Happier shippers, too.)


Todays software resources also help reduce shipping costs by determining whether an address is a residence or business. Interfacing with the USPS Residential Delivery Indicator database, a software package can help shippers make educated and cost-effective choices about which carriers to use. In doing so, it can reduce potentially costly residential surcharges, lower shipping rates and improve overall efficiency.


Sort It All Out

The game of chess teaches us not to move pieces randomly all over the board the best players plan their moves in advance. Strategic planning is equally important in business; in the field of parcel distribution, that means planning out deliveries by presorting your delivery addresses.


Software that presorts according to ZIP Code lets you organize your warehouse in the most efficient manner, grouping pallets by destination and distance. You can then schedule the furthest deliveries for early in the week, closer deliveries toward the end of the week and allocate resources accordingly. You can also set scheduling to make sure you fill that truck on Tuesday, instead of sending it off half full. And if you want to sort your packages by USPS class Parcel Post, Bound Printed Matter, Library Mail or Media Mail hand sorts are no longer necessary. You can use software to presort according to these categories and easily take advantage of maximum postal discounts.


Plus, larger companies that ship from multiple locations can select the point of origination that ensures the fastest delivery and lowest rates. Use your warehouse in New York City to ship to Connecticut and your Los Angeles facility for Seattle mailings.


Automate Redundant Tasks

Certain tasks will always come up repeatedly sending out identical parcels on a daily or weekly basis, for instance. With the right software, you can automate and streamline most of the steps involved in this regularly scheduled shipment, reducing time-intensive labor and limiting the need for operator supervision time. Information like custom order-packing instructions, delivery/carrier information and shipment documentation can be saved in the software and then readily accessed or printed out.


Tag. Youre More Efficient

Todays new label- and-tag printing software is more flexible and functional than ever, · allowing easy creation and printing of unlimited quantities of pallet labels, barcoded tray tags, sack tags and more. This software can even interface with a shipping departments inkjet printers, diverters and conveyor belts, assisting stacker control by automatically determining package size and sending instructions to the stacker to create one stack or move on to the next one. Stacks of differently sized pieces no longer have to be counted out and created by hand.


Users can also generate different mailing label types simultaneously creating a customized return label at the same time as an address label, for example. All sorts of useful data can be automatically incorporated into the label design, every-thing from package contents to dynamic custom designs and logos or special marketing messages to information required by private carriers.


More To Report

Enhanced report generation capabilities help the latest generation of mailing software assist with both customer and internal communication and documentation. These reports include everything from parcel-packed shipment lists and invoices to internal finance reports (which can relay residence versus business data). The systems can also produce tracking reports, which use planning codes to gauge package arrival times and confirm receipt. Think of it as a way of providing backup to a sales team by letting reps know when to make that follow-up call.


No Matter Your Size, Your Shipping Software Has Come In

In a time when reducing costs and streamlining tasks is essential for every size and type of business, mailing software can be a powerful way to accomplish your shipping goals and brighten your bottom line. Not all software packages require a large capital investment, and there are enough different types of software and add-on modules to address your specific needs and cure your unique shipping headaches.


Postal rates are going up, and carriers are becoming costly, so theres no better time to check out the latest fleet of shipping software solutions and potentially make your job a lot easier.


Ted Seward is vice president of Marketing for BCC Software, a leading developer of high-performance, PC-based software and solutions for professional mailers. For more information, visit or call 800-453-3130.