Reduce Printing, Handling And Postage Costs

Business technology systems offer economical alternatives.

Today, distributors face an ever-growing challenge to streamline operations and implement cost containment measures throughout the distribution channel. The daily process of mailing invoices and statements is one area where distributors have opportunities to reduce operating expenses. Existing business systems provide distributors with the tools for minimizing costs ranging from laser forms, document collation capabilities and outsourcing to faxing and e-mailing.

Can you believe that the cost of a first class postage stamp has increased from 10 cents in 1975 to 41 cents for the first ounce today? Mailing costs are up over 80 percent since 1999. Distributors spend thousands of dollars annually on printing and mailing expenses, where each ounce literally counts. Following are six easy steps to combat this growing expense.

Reduce printing costs by switching from pre-printed forms to laser forms.
Unlike pre-printed forms, laser forms use standard laser printers and stock paper. This saves you time, money and hassles from printer alignment issues, and prevents having to maintain an inventory of pre-printed forms at all locations. Laser forms look professional and offer greater clarity when faxed compared to pre-printed forms. Instead of faxing a customer quote on a pre-printed form, try a laser-generated form. The difference will be night and day from the customer’s perspective. All business systems should have this capability.

Use a detailed monthly statement instead of sending an invoice each time a customer places an order.
With a detailed monthly statement, the customer receives a single statement on a monthly basis containing a detailed list of each invoice generated throughout the month. This gives the customer a comprehensive overview of all transactions that took place during the month, much like a credit card statement. This important service allows customers to make a single payment that can be applied against multiple invoices in one easy step for streamlined back office operations.

Take advantage of document collation.
This capability is a win-win for you and your customer. Save postage and handling costs by collating multiple document types (invoice, rental, lease, statement, etc.) during the printing process. Your customer benefits by receiving multiple invoices in a single envelope, and you save money.

Eliminate in-house printing and handling costs by outsourcing.
On a daily basis, you can electronically transmit a file containing invoices and statements to an outsource provider who handles all printing, handling and mailing processes. Although you incur an expense for the service, the savings on labor and printing costs should be greater.

Reduce printing, handling and mailing expenses by faxing and e-mailing documents.
Cost savings are measurable, easy to calculate and include paybacks that increase with volume. Faxing and e-mailing match the benefits of outsourcing, as there is no handling on your end, offering a much lower cost structure. The cost per fax typically runs under 10 cents, depending upon the fax number (local or long distance). Also, depending on the locality of fax numbers, you may choose not to send a cover sheet with each fax in order to reduce the cost and time required to transmit a given batch of faxes. For high-volume environments, it is wise to use a multiple port fax card to take advantage of multiple fax numbers in order to minimize the total time required to send faxes.

E-mailing offers even greater savings than faxing.
Leveraging the power of an e-mail server and the Internet results in an extremely low per-transmission cost. Today you probably use e-mail to correspond with suppliers, colleagues and customers. Why not utilize this communication medium for sending invoices and statements? Attach multiple invoices to an individual e-mail as a PDF file and send to one or more contacts via this method. Adobe PDF documents are considered universal and are used by thousands of businesses every day. They are also easy to store and print using a free reader available from Adobe.

Regardless of which method you use, it is important that your business system include a utility to manage and monitor both fax and e-mail transmissions. In some cases, a fax transmission will fail or an e-mail will bounce. You need the ability to monitor these transmissions and be ready to resend them or, in some cases, revert to printing if the customer cannot be reached by fax or e-mail. Although not perfect technologies, many distributors save considerable amounts of money by switching over to faxing and e-mailing. This number will only grow as these technologies and infrastructure continue to grow and mature.

If you currently employ a third party to administer your e-mail system, confirm that the Internet service provider (ISP) allows mass e-mailing capabilities in order to avoid mass e-mail being interpreted as spam or, worse, being blacklisted. Many ISPs and independent organizations use blacklist databases as a reference filter applied to inbound mail servers to aid in preventing spam and to encourage Internet security.

Overall, business systems today must offer flexibility and various methods (print, fax, e-mail, outsource) for sending invoices and statements on a customer-by-customer basis. No company can afford to overlook ways to reduce and, in some cases, totally eliminate the cost of printing, handling and mailing expenses.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
David Schaer Meet the Author
David Schaer is director of product management and marketing for Computers Unlimited, located in Billings, Montana, and on the Web at www.cu.net.