What is a Digital Mailroom and Why do You Need One?

What is a Digital Mailroom and Why do You Need One?

“Paper thin” is the de facto way to describe something so thin it’s practically non-existent.

How thin is paper, though? If an average ream of paper is about 2 inches thick, then each of its 500 sheets is only 0.004 inches.

How long do you think it would take to generate enough paper to stack high enough to reach from earth to the moon?

You may be surprised to hear that in the United States alone, we generate the 4 trillion sheets of paper it would take to stack from earth to the moon every 4 months.

Some of that paper goes to make unnecessary copies, distribute memos that nobody reads, and print magazines full of ads, but a surprising amount goes into sending hundreds of billions of pieces of mail each year.

A digital mailroom can help save you time, money, and space while also helping cut down waste. But what exactly is a digital mailroom, and why do you need one?

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital mailrooms digitize, standardize, and distribute incoming mail.
  • Paper and storage are major expenses for most businesses that digital mailrooms can mitigate or eliminate.
  • FileCenter can take your document management to the next level.

What Is a Digital Mailroom?

While so-called “snail mail” is decreasing in popularity, it’s no trivial matter. Although it’s dropped significantly since peaking in 2001, the U.S. currently sends and receives twice as much first-class mail as we did in 1950.

Last year alone, the USPS handled over 128 billion pieces of mail. Where does all this paper go?

A digital mailroom digitizes, classifies, and distributes incoming mail using document processing tools like optical character recognition and rules-based automated routing.

Digital mailrooms automate the process of receiving, sorting, and storing mail and have the added benefit of homogenizing physical and electronic mail so that you can receive and store paper letters alongside emails, improving consistency and productivity.

The need for this is apparent as email volume will eclipse 350 billion units annually by 2024, while physical mail is steadily decreasing. The transition from paper-first to digital-first mail is inevitable, and digital mailrooms are an important tool for bridging the gap as electronic mail takes its place as the new standard while paper mail is still too big to ignore.

Mail volume is steadily decreasing but still takes up a significant 128 billion units each year
Image Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/320234/mail-volume-of-the-usps/

Cut Down on Paper Usage

You can’t undo what’s been done—the sender already produced paper mail, so how does digitizing it as you receive it cut down on paper usage?

Paper is a persistent and pernicious expense for most businesses. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year, contributing to the total office use of over 12 trillion sheets. Americans consume 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year, so while individual pieces of mail may seem like an insignificant expense, it adds up quickly.

Digital mailrooms can’t turn back time, but they can help hedge against future expenses and encourage paper-free habits.

  • Reprinting and Resending – Once you receive a piece of mail, that isn’t the end of the paper journey—it’s just the beginning. Distributing and disseminating incoming mail requires copying and reprinting mail, an expense a digital mailroom can eliminate.
  • Responding – One of the unspoken rules of digital etiquette is to respond in kind: don’t text about an email, don’t call about a text, and don’t send paper mail in response to electronic mail. By digitizing incoming mail, digital mailrooms can help break the vicious cycle of mail begetting mail and encourage employees to use email rather than paper.
  • Setting a precedent – Perhaps most importantly, digital mailrooms set the tone for paper usage. Going paper-free isn’t about discouraging paper but encouraging better alternatives—digital mailrooms establish the precedent that your employees can be productive, connected, and engaged without relying on paper to communicate.
Although paper may seem inexpensive, 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year is a significant expense
Image Source: https://www.formstack.com/resources/blog-paper-statistic

Storage Wars

While the sender, not the recipient, primarily incurs the cost of paper, the same is not true of storage. Storage costs are another significant expense that digital mailrooms can help mitigate.

The reality is that paper storage is more expensive and less efficient than digital storage. A single four-drawer filing cabinet takes up around 17 square feet of office space (including the space required to access it). In Midtown NYC, that single filing cabinet could cost you over $24,000 a year in rent, not including the paper costs and extensive labor required to keep it organized and accessible.

Many companies erroneously believe that storing paper archives is the only way to stay compliant, but most digitized documents are admissible while also carrying the benefits of being cheaper to store and easier to manage. While there are exceptions (such as legal documents that require wet signatures), document management software can help you stay compliant without breaking the bank.

Additionally, digitized documents are indexable and searchable, which means that document management software has a huge advantage over paper storage systems.

Can Your Mail Do This?

Most people can comfortably read 200-300 words per minute. For the average 400-page book, The Book Buff says it should take an average reader 5-10 days to read it.

By comparison, it takes Google less than 1 second to retrieve over 16.5 trillion results for a search on “books.” 

Humans are smart. People are good at the things computers are bad at: companionship, tone, and socialization. The inverse is also true: computers are good at the things humans are bad at, including quickly processing large amounts of text, finding patterns in data, and near-permanent memory storage.

Digital mailrooms take advantage of these strengths by putting mail into a format that allows computers to do what they do best—by digitizing incoming mail, digital mailrooms enable computers to sort, distribute, analyze, and store data exponentially faster than the fastest human ever could.

This speed is a huge advantage to end users who are then able to search for pieces of mail based on their contents, analyze mail to find long-term trends, access their mail from anywhere around the globe, and even adapt mail into new formats like PDF, Excel, and Word documents.

Document Management Software

The future is digital. While paper mail is still a force to be reckoned with, smart businesses are incorporating the strengths of digital document management into their paper mail through digital mailrooms.

Digital mail is just one small piece of the document ecosystem, and document management software from FileCenter is turning the document storage world on its head.

FileCenter can convert scanned documents into fully editable PDFs through optical character recognition, transform PDFs into PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets, automatically sort and store receipts, and securely share encrypted files with external users.

Whether you’re looking for the next step in your journey to a fully paperless office or simply looking for an easy and efficient way to boost productivity and cut back on your paper expense, FileCenter has a full range of tools that can help.

To learn how FileCenter is changing document management, download a free trial or schedule a demo today.