Technology can be a doubled-edged sword when it comes to the workplace. Terms like automation and artificial intelligence make some people jittery. They conjure up images of impersonal robots taking over the jobs of hardworking people. They may even associate artificial intelligence with movies like “Blade Runner,” “Ex Machina,” and “I, Robot.” Suddenly, they’re in a dystopian nightmare defending their status as a mere human on planet Earth.
But when it comes down to how technology affects workers on a day to day basis, many people readily acknowledge its all-important role. In a Zen Business survey of 917 employees who reported working with outdated technology:
- 60.4% reported a moderate to major effect on productivity
- 57% reported a moderate to major effect on job satisfaction
- 33% said they were likely to look for a new job due to their workplace’s outdated technology
So now let’s talk mailrooms. If, for you, technology equals a handheld scanner and manual input, let us bring you into the here and now. There’s a world of possibilities for improving your mailroom, and, yes, it might even involve a very accessible and, thankfully, non-dystopian form of artificial intelligence. These technologies are available in mailrooms all around the globe—and they’re making for happier, more efficient employees and more profitable property management entities.
Whether you manage a dorm or some other residential or commercial space, here’s a closer look at some of these game changing technologies and their applications in today’s mailrooms.
- Machine vision. Machine vision is technology used to get information from an image on an automated basis. In essence, you’re taking a picture and getting data from it.
Mailroom application. Welcome optical character recognition (OCR) to the stage. This machine vision process is able to extract textual information from an image. So essentially, you can point a device with an OCR app on it at a mailing label and turn that into data that can be used for efficient mail processing. No more clunky, hand-scanning or manual data entry.
- Artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a branch of computer science dedicated to developing smart machines to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. Thanks to pop culture like the movies we cited above, some people think of AI as being synonymous with robots. And while robots are one form of AI, there are many others that you see in your everyday life. If you unlock your phone with facial recognition, you are a beneficiary of AI. It maps out your face with infrared dots and then uses machine learning algorithms to measure the results against the data that it has stored about your face. Checked your social media feed lately? AI powers those feeds, learning what has interested you in the past and feeding you more of the things that you like.
Mailroom application. AI is alive and well in high-functioning mailrooms as well. Consider a mailing label on a package or letter that has been obscured or is partially missing. Software can be used to scan the label and then extrapolate the most likely destination for that piece of mail.
- Computer vision technology. This technology overlaps AI and machine learning. It uses algorithms to automate visual understanding from images, videos, or text images. Essentially, computers are taught to “see” the world around them and then make sense of and react to what they see.
Mailroom application. “Smart package rooms” rely on this technology. Couriers enter these secure mailrooms with a pin, scan package labels, assign packages accordingly, and then place the packages on an open shelf in the smart room. Recipients are notified, and when they go to pick up the package, computer vision technology kicks in. It locates the package and communicates through a digital map on the recipient’s app, telling them where to go to retrieve their package. Audio guidance can kick in here to alert residents if they accidentally pick up the wrong package.
- Imaging. This involves capturing images that can be transmitted through cloud-based systems.
Mailroom application. Apps can be used to snap pictures of packages, verifying that they have been delivered and/or received. This can go a long way in resolving disputes about whether mail completed its journey. A recipient says you didn’t come through with a package? You have photo proof that it was delivered yesterday at 11:55 am. Those images can be transmitted using automated systems for optimal convenience. Read on to learn more about automation.
- Automation. Though this term is often used interchangeably with artificial intelligence, automation is slightly different. While AI is designed to simulate human thinking, automation refers to software that follows pre-programmed steps. Automation can take clunky, time-consuming, error-prone processes and turn them into automatic, computerized steps that negate hassle, guesswork and mistakes. This frees employees up to worry about those things that need a human touch.
Mailroom application. Once a mailroom takes in a package, then comes the hard process of alerting the proper recipients—and hoping that they come pick it up in a timely manner. Can’t you just see things falling through the cracks? Getting lost or forgotten? Ending up in the wrong place?
Enter automation. Once a recipient’s name is scanned (thanks to machine vision), computer software can send an email to the recipient through an automated package notification system. Special features can then allow recipients to indicate with a simple button what they want to do with the package or mail (forward it, dispose of it, etc.) This is especially useful during the pandemic when contactless delivery is key. People can sort their mail while sitting at their home computer.
- Computer processing. Computer processing occurs when your computer receives data and follows a set of instructions to process that data in a certain way. In simple terms, you can feed a computer a bunch of disparate information and have that computer turn the data into something cohesive and useful.
Mailroom application. Software used to power mailrooms can track all types of data, process it, and turn out very useful analytics. It might reveal the number and sizes of packages received at certain times to help you allot space accordingly. Or perhaps it can tell you how quickly people are picking up their mail—or how many packages are never picked up. This information can help you use your manpower and space as efficiently as possible and also create policies and adopt technologies that will improve your current processes.
At PackageX we’re always thinking of new ways to use technology to make your mailroom management easier and better. And speaking of technology, check out our new ROI Calculator. This automated form allows you to enter your current mail/package management process and location size. Based on the inputs, our system will generate an online summary that tells you how efficient your current processes are compared to what they could be. Jump on the technology bandwagon and check it out! No space age robots here—just cutting edge advances to make you faster and better at what you do.