Last year, 154.2 billion pieces of mail were processed and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Even in the age of email and other digital communication, mail remains a critical channel for customer relationships, and the Industrial Internet is making sure it remains a useful, efficient tool. Marie-Pierre Belanger, Pitney Bowes’ vice president of digital solutions and delivery, and Lynda Hansen, manager of global product marketing, share how the Internet of Things has helped transform enterprise print and mail operations and industrial high-speed letter processing machines that can “insert at the speed of right.”
1. What’s one challenge to combining technological innovation with traditional production mail and postage machines?
Marie-Pierre: Innovation is a critical part of our transformation. We are a 95-year old company that is constantly adapting and transforming to better serve our clients. We manufacture large production mail systems that can measure up to 35 by 20 feet and can take months to design, develop and deliver to our clients.
Whenever we add a new layer of complexity to this process, there is an educational curve we need to take clients through. It is sometimes difficult to demonstrate the potential value of new innovations like Clarity™ since there are no similar solutions in our market. Fortunately, we have forward-thinking clients like HM Health Solutions who have already integrated this Industrial Internet application and have seen the tangible benefits to their operational performance.
Pitney Bowes engineers worked on breakthrough automation tech for its “Epic” machine that “inserts at the speed of right,” lowering costs for large mailing projects.
2. How has the proliferation of digital communications affected the mail industry?
Lynda: We see digital communications as a complement to physical mail rather than a threat. In fact, studies show that an integrated multi-channel approach that includes physical mail and one or more digital channels is better than any individual component on its own. This multi-channel approach will result in higher open and response rates. For examples, businesses and consumers continue to rely on physical mail for critical information like financial and healthcare statements because they trust it as a consistent reminder to pay bills and as an archive for record keeping. We are focused on what is best for our clients and continue to offer them a multiple options across channels.
3. How do you explain to customers how this cutting-edge technology can transform a service they think is traditional or simple?
Lynda: The operators running these machines have a lot of interaction with them: loading and unloading materials, essentially trying to make sure the machine is up and running as much as possible. Our solutions provide the data insight to maximize uptime and keep the machine running as efficiently as possible.
Without seeing this data, an operator might not realize how much of their downtime can be contributed to troubleshooting a specific issue. Through the data, we are able to isolate these problems and how much time they were spending to resolve them. That is what is allowing us to go back to the client and provide them with a recommendation to address the problem.
4. How is the Internet of Things impacting the Pitney Bowes Service model and your clients?
Marie-Pierre: On the industrial side, The Internet of Things is having a significant impact on the transformation of our service model. The IoT is opening opportunities for us to provide enhanced support for our clients.
For example, we are now able to be more proactive, find potential issues and resolve them before the client experiences any downtime. By leveraging a machine’s data history and the real-time data, we can leverage different service models. We are now looking at the potential to provide “outcome-based service.” The information collected by Clarity and analyzed by our data experts and professional services team is helping our clients optimize the performance of their print and mail businesses. By enabling our clients to be more productive, we are essentially availing them to new revenue streams that were not possible before.
(Top photo: Courtesy Getty Images.)
Marie-Pierre Belanger is Pitney Bowes’ vice president of digital solutions and delivery.
Lynda Hansen is Pitney Bowes’ manager of global product marketing.
All views expressed are those of the authors.