Mail Handling International (MHI) was established in 1996 and quickly evolved into a global business. By 1998 the company started by entrepreneurs Paul Brown and Alex Lawson, had become a specialist in international mail, 20 years later, their business is still evolving to meet the changing mail requirements of the digital age. MHI’s clients include household names within the banking and personal finance, but the company also work for UK publishers and top advertising agencies in the South West and across the UK to handle international fulfillment and mailing for magazines, direct mail and sampling programmes. The company’s in-house software has redefined the way mail is moved around the globe, providing its clients with an unrivalled range of global postal services and helping smaller companies reach international markets much more effectively and easily.
While many companies continue to invest heavily in digital marketing channels to communicate with their customers, one of MHI’s clients, a fast-growing social media site, is returning to more traditional methods, using printed direct mail to attract new members to its site. Alex Lawson, Director at MHI explains how the growth of their client’s requirement for personalised direct mail drove their investment in a Datalogic scanning solution; “When we first engaged with this particular customer, we were handling around 50 items of mail per day for them, with letters fulfilled into envelopes by hand. In under three years, that volume has scaled rapidly to over 100,000 items per day. In order to support this significant increase in demand, and ensure 100% accuracy for the customer, we needed to invest in new machinery to automate the enclosure of each mailer.”
MHI’s existing enclosure machine could insert letters into envelopes at a rate of around 4,000 to 5,000 per hour, a rate that fell short of the target. This initial challenge was quickly overcome by sourcing an insertion machine that could run at around 20,000 enclosures per hour but there was an additional level of complexity that had to be taken into consideration. At the point of insertion, MHI needed to ensure that the correct letter was inserted into the matching envelope.
“The body of each letter is personalised to the recipient at a number of different points,” explains Lawson. “Then to increase that element of personalisation, rather than insert each letter into envelope with a window displaying the address, each envelope is printed with the recipient’s address in a way that makes it look as though it’s been written by hand. Getting this matching process correct is vital to the success of the client’s mailer, so finding a solution that could ensure 100% matching accuracy at these volumes and speed was critically important.”
After working successfully on other scanning and data capture projects within the wider organisation, MHI approached data capture and vision system specialist ScanSys to identify the best solution for their matching application requirements. “As part of our previous engagement with MHI, we installed Datalogic Matrix 300N fixed barcode readers and were in no doubt that the same technology would be an excellent fit for this new application,” comments Rob Milson from ScanSys. “We regularly recommend Datalogic products as part of the solutions that we provide and, in our opinion, the Matrix range in particular is the best in the industry for decoding at high speed with precise accuracy.”
ScanSys installed two Matrix 300N readers on the upgraded mail insertion machine. The compact design of the Datalogic product meant that each of these devices could be positioned exactly at the point of insertion. Just prior to the letter being inserted into the envelope, the Matrix device captures a 2D mail mark barcode on the envelope. At the same time and in the same reading phase a 2D code on the letter is also captured.
The information captured from each code is transferred to Scansys’ own QV400 touchscreen control system, which runs a bespoke software application to verify an accurate match using unique identifiers contained within the two barcodes. If there is any mismatch at all, a signal is sent from the control system to the insertion machine to immediately halt production and prevent any errors. In addition to capturing the data for matching purposes, the barcode data is also logged to provide MHI and its clients with a complete time and date stamped audit trail of when each mail piece was enclosed.
In the two months following installation, MHI matched and enclosed 2.6 million envelopes using the system. On average, 4.16 matches are verified every second. “The Datalogic and ScanSys solution has already massively improved our productivity and given us a lot of confidence in the matching scenario,” states Lawson. Prior to the automated system, MHI’s staff were only able to carry out intermittent checks on the accuracy of the matches. If a non-match was found, a considerable amount of time would have to be spent going through each enclosed envelope to identify where the process went out of sync.
“On average we were sampling at a cadence of around every 500 items,” continues Lawson. “If the non-match was discovered at number 3 of the 500, then not only would it take a long time to identify the original inflection point, but it would also mean that every letter from that point would have to be reprinted and re-enclosed. Together the Datalogic readers and the ScanSys control system enable us to check and verify each letter to guarantee an exact match every time. The whole process happens within a fraction of a second and any non-matches can be quickly rectified.”
Jamie Dickinson, Country Manager UK&I, at Datalogic concludes, “It is fantastic to see that MHI’s innovative use of Datalogic scanning technology has already had an exceptionally positive impact on their business and hope that our continued collaboration with ScanSys will help them to keep pushing boundaries for their mail fulfillment clients.”
Mail Handling International (MHI)
In its Bristol headquarters, at its unique facility, MHI is one of Europe’s largest independent providers of international postal services, with access to an unrivalled range of mail and distribution options. They are the specialists when it comes to providing ‘all in one’ mail solutions and have been redefining the way that mail is moved around the globe for over 25 years. In that time, MHI has created market leading solutions for projects across numerous industry sectors. E-commerce daily dispatches, product marketing and sample campaigns, global loyalty mailings, publishing and periodical, client acquisition and DM communications are just some of the areas where their winning formula has been applied. Visit www.mhi.co for more information.
ScanSys UK is committed to delivering the very best Barcode Scanning, Barcode Verification, Vision Inspection and Label Print solutions for a wide range of applications in any manufacturing or logistics environment. With over 25 years’ experience and a detailed knowledge of barcode scanning and verification, ScanSys is able to integrate a wide range of standard or bespoke solutions tailored to each individual requirement. The company’s business model is not to offer a remote 'box shift' type service but rather to work closely with clients to provide full onsite pre-sales evaluation, installation and post-sales support. More information about ScanSys can be found at www.scansys.co.uk