Thirty-two years ago, in January of 1977, I was hired at Pitney Bowes, the Fortune 500 Corporation that invented the mailing machine. I had never seen a mail center before and did not even know what a postage meter was. I soon learned that mail centers processed envelopes â¬" they didnâ¬t ship â¬" and warehouses processed parcels.

Shipping is very different in a mail center than it is in a warehouse. Shipping managers ship products in cartons or on pallets and the charges are passed on to the customers, so generally, they donâ¬t worry about budgets.

In todayâ¬s world, mail managers are not only responsible for incoming and outgoing mail, but FedEx, UPS and DHL and couriers as well. They not only process envelopes, but also packages and expedited documents.

According to the survey in the November 2008 issue of Mailing Systems Technology, the biggest challenges faced by mail managers are budget and financial issues. They are responsible for figuring out how to allocate costs and reduce shipping charges and do it faster and more accurately with fewer people.

I understand the challenges. I have the unique position of having been in both mail centers and warehouses for all my adult life. Thirty-two years of my life has been dedicated to learning efficient and cost-effective shipping strategies and tactics. I have personally consulted on-site with thousands of mailing and shipping managers on the challenges they face and best practices to save money. My clients have included the U.S. Postal Service and Deutsche Post.

My intention is to share with other mailing and shipping managers what I have learned. My forte is technology. Iâ¬ve written the only book on shipping systems, Computerized Shipping Systems: Increasing Profit & Productivity Through Technology.

In the past 20 years, I have been an attendee and speaker at industry trade shows such as the PARCEL Forum, National Postal Forum, Mailcom, DOCUMENT Strategy Forum, National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment, Council of Logistics Management and others.

I will offer tips, thoughts, comments, opinions and suggestions in this column that can help companies save money on shipping and run their mail operations more efficiently.

This is an exciting time in our industry. The Postal Service has just increased shipping rates, which went into effect on January 19. This was the first time we have seen a separation between shipping and mailing rates â¬" which will probably increase in May.

Cost Saver
My tip today is to check out the new USPS Commercial Plus pricing plans, with upfront discounts for Express Mail and Priority Mail users. On average, Commercial Plus prices for Express Mail are 14.5% less than retail prices; Priority Mail Commercial Plus prices average seven percent less. The minimum volume for Priority Mail is 100,000 pieces per year, or 400 pieces per day. The Express Mail minimum is 6,000 pieces per year or about 25 per day. This program replaces the volume-based rebate program introduced last May.

I want to hear from you. Please feel free to send me your questions and suggestions to This column is your column and I would like to address the issues you face today. Your name and company will be held in confidence.

Mark Taylor, MBA, DLP, is the nationâ¬s leading authority on parcel shipping, with 32 years of experience consulting for thousands of organizations. He is a writer, speaker, business consultant and entrepreneur. Taylor has been featured as the industry expert in the New York Times and has been interviewed on ABC News. The American Society of Transportation and Logistics has named Taylor a Distinguished Logistics Professional (DLP) in recognition of the contributions he has made to the field of logistics during his 30-year career.