Print, parcel, profits: Exploring new models for savings in higher ed

Cost-cutting has always been a goal of higher ed leaders, though the current market shakeup is forcing many to slash any spending that doesn’t serve core functions. The bigger challenge is cutting costs without sacrificing benefits to students, staff and other stakeholders — a feat on par with pulling rabbits out of hats if one hopes to attract and retain audiences who increasingly demand benefit-rich, friction-free experiences.

For many, one solution lies with bringing external specialists to manage on-campus functions, starting with some of the most wasteful campus operations: print, parcel and mailroom management. Joe Polizzi and Heather Strange, both Regional Account Managers with FedEx Office, share how they’ve helped universities eliminate hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual expenses while adding benefits to the campus community.

Uncovering money drains and blind spots

Schools running on-campus print, parcel and mail operations tend to have a few things in common. For starters, they typically have hundreds (or thousands) of multifunction devices spread out around campus, often occupying large spaces. For every device and location serving print, parcel and mail operations comes a slew of added expenses including long-term equipment leases, supplies, maintenance, payroll and utilities.

“In the past couple years, we’ve seen universities expand their online course offerings, which might reduce their on-campus foot traffic. If you have 3,000 multifunction print devices at various facilities around campus, that’s a lot of underused machines that come with fixed costs, even if no one’s using them,” Polizzi points out.

There’s also an issue of performance: In-house print operations often suffer with limited office hours, aging equipment, limited staff expertise and production capacity. In that scenario, it’s common for various departments to deem on-site shops unequipped to handle large print projects, resorting to disparate vendors with varying service terms, fees, inconsistent quality and support.

A similar story plays out with parcel and mail operations. With the rise of online shopping and delivery services, campuses have been flooded with packages in the past year or two. Delivery delays, hiccups and frustration are also more common as students struggle to track and retrieve packages.

“Putting it all together, most university leaders are shocked to learn their total cost of running these in-house operations,” says Polizzi. The good news is that areas of recurring overspend can be sources of recurring savings.

Offloading costs and upgrading efficiencies  

Mindful of the shortcomings of in-house print and mail centers, leaders from institutions have arrived at an unconventional solution: offloading the costs and responsibilities of print and parcel management operations to an external specialist who’s perfected those services. That’s where Polizzi and Strange come in, assisting universities with a complimentary assessment by the FedEx Office team. That assessment reveals gaps, opportunities and potential solutions in light of the unique dynamics and goals of each organization — that’s critical insight institutions can use no matter what solution they eventually land on.

One prominent university had its largest college suffer a nearly 25% budget cut following the onset of the pandemic. Looking to make the most of its shrunken budget, leaders concluded it was no longer feasible to keep the in-house print shop open. “The college ran a massive on-site print operation with heavy overhead and equipment leases. The print shop also managed copyright releases and employed a full-time team,” Strange recalls.

Following an assessment, FedEx Office proposed taking over those operations. “We took a massive amount of annual expenses off their shoulders. The university’s operations and finance teams significantly streamlined operational expenses with a single decision,” says Strange. The college was then able to redirect those funds to other priorities and clear considerable square footage for other uses. Just as significant, these are sustainable savings, year after year.

Some universities opt for opening one or more FedEx Office stores on campus, while others use nearby stores. Either scenario benefits from user discounts and access to the nationwide FedEx Office print and logistics network — a saving grace when staff needs materials printed or shipped while traveling, or when one store gets overloaded.

For students, the advanced capabilities, online access and support of FedEx Office print experts are welcome perks, as are automated package tracking notifications. As an added bonus, enrollment teams appreciate the PR boost that comes with touting a national brand on campus.

Discerning next steps

As you consider what’s possible in your organization, you might wonder how outsourcing print and parcel operations might align with the goals and challenges unique to your institution. A three-point inquiry can help clarify next steps. A novel approach to print and parcel management is worth exploring if: (1) You’re looking to free up funds or redirect workers to other priorities; (2) your institution is short on real estate or workers; or (3) faculty, staff and student needs have outgrown your in-house capacity.

Cutting wasteful spend in print and parcel operations could be one of your most profitable upgrades to campus efficiencies and experiences this year. To learn what’s possible, contact FedEx Office for a complimentary assessment.

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