Middlesex University digitises snail mail

Middlesex University has digitised paper mail delivery with a digital mail service provided through a managed service from Canon partner, CDS

Middlesex University has digitised paper mail delivery with a digital mail service provided through a managed service from Canon partner, CDS.

The university needed a radical solution to the problem of providing an internal post service distributed across several sites. 

Hillary Morris, deputy head of contracts, estates and facilities management service at Middlesex University, said: “We had post rooms filled with post trays. The digital service has freed up the space. 

“A couple of these rooms have been transformed into offices, which has helped us to make better use of the space in the university."

Morris added: “Digital Mail has given us a fully traceable mail service – from the time it comes out of the mail bag to when it is handed to the recipient. There is great confidence in the service.”

All mail comes into the university and is delivered to CDS where it is scanned. The scanned post is delivered to the recipient by noon the next day.

Managing the change

Change management was a key aspect of the project, since the academic world relies heavily on internal post. 

Morris said: “Digital mail was contentious in terms of how it was received by our academics. There was a degree of reluctance to part with physical mail, so we had to go through a huge engagement process.” 

She said the team rolling out Digital Mail had representations and champions to feedback user concern into the project team.

The project also required changes to business processes outside the mail room function.

Morris said that if an item of post is unidentifiable, it is automatically flagged. “We got university departments to create generic mail addresses. We worked really closely with the schools to get a list of these. Our IT department set up a shared email account [for generic post].”

Digital Mail also needed to handle leavers and starters. “For leavers, HR have to nominate someone to receive the post,” she said.

Morris said Middlesex University is now working on next stage of the project, which will look to provide a digital encryption facility over Digital Mail. “We are also working with HR to provide an encrypted repository so the HR team can store staff records,” she said.

Link to offshore back-office

Digital Mail helps the university link its offshore back-office functions in India with the UK. 

“Letters can be scanned into Digital Mail so they can easily be accessed,” Morris said.

Along with Digital Mail, the university has also been tackling print management using multi-function devices from Canon to replace individual printers.

Roger Fox, operations group manager at Middlesex University, said: “We are an academic institution, so people have to print.”

We are an academic institution, so people have to print

Roger Fox, Middlesex University

CDS has also been used to provide a one-stop-shop for all the print services the university needs. Printing and Digital Mail are provided as a managed services, billed monthly.

The print strategy has involved replacing individual printers with MFDs, reducing colour output, offering secure printing via users’ ID cards and supporting mobile working. Fox said the project has helped the university dramatically cut the amount of paper waste.

Through a management console, Fox said staff can see the amount of manual print job deletions on the Canon devices. 

"We are actually seeing a downward trend in output – 609,000 pieces of paper have been manually deleted by users. We have noticed a cultural change where users manually delete, even though the system will automatically delete jobs every 12 hours."

The university was printing 11 million pages a year. As of July 2013, it has reduced this to 7.5m a year. 

The print management tools helps admin staff monitor trends and Fox said the tools can be used to understand trend in behaviour.

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"The scanned post
is delivered to the recipient by noon the next day." seems a bit on the slow side as I would guess that an item of mail properly addressed to the correct name, room and building would have previously got to the recipient the same day with the paper only process.

The large company I work for (several buildings, 1000s of staff) has a similar system run in-house using 3rd party software form a large vendor and a lot less staff than the mailroom staff it replaced. If we don't get critical mail to the recipient by midday and all mail (even badly addressed mail) to the correct individual by 3pm questions get asked.

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