The typical campus mailroom configuration in 2018 consists of a bank of hundreds, if not thousands, of mostly empty P.O. boxes, a desk for package pickup, and a long line of students waiting to be served.

Clemson University had one such typical mailroom, with average wait times exceeding 40 minutes for students to pick up mail. It’s a common problem: A mailroom designed decades ago to handle mostly letters is struggling to adapt to an era when text messages have largely replaced letters and e-commerce is flooding a plugged-in generation of students with packages in unprecedented volumes. By partnering with Ricoh USA, Inc., to redesign its mailroom around the types of mail today’s students actually get, Clemson slashed the average wait time to just over one minute. These changes came as Clemson reinstated its on-campus print shop, which has in turn driven enough revenue to cover nearly 90 percent of the costs of both the print and mail changes.

Clemson has implemented electronic kiosks that allow students to retrieve their packages quickly and easily. These kiosks double as point of sale terminals, providing a similarly streamlined experience for students shipping outbound mail. They accept payment via student card, credit card, check, or cash, and even allow users to compare prices across FedEx, UPS, and the USPS. The revamped mail center also extended its hours to better suit students’ busy and often variable schedules, staying open during lunch and the early evening.

In fact, Clemson could pair the kiosks with Ricoh’s Intelligent Lockers to allow for 24/7 package pickup, further driving down wait times. With Intelligent Lockers, students would be alerted immediately via text message or email when a package for them arrives. From there, a student just walks to the bank of Intelligent Lockers, locates the locker identified in their message, enters a unique access code, and grabs the package.

Nearly a decade ago, Clemson discontinued its print center and decentralized print services across 100 different off-campus print providers. Through its work with Ricoh, the university brought print services back to campus, generating more than $500,000 in savings and more than $2.5 million in new revenue. Clemson’s new on-campus print center boasts five-color print capabilities, which include using specialized toners for eye-catching applications or security features for things like event tickets. At the same time, Clemson has worked with Ricoh to implement its vision for print sustainability, centralizing monitoring and management of its everyday print fleet to drive efficiencies and enforce paper-reducing print policies.

These savings, combined with the new print center’s revenue, have offset nearly 90 percent of the costs of the improvements, which is great news for a public university like Clemson, where budgetary matters often receive added scrutiny. The case of Clemson’s mailroom—and its roughly 40 times faster service—could serve as a blueprint for institutions looking to take their mail operations from 1958 to 2018.

About the Author:

Ellen Ullman is editorial director, content services, for eSchool Media.

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