Loyola University Maryland was able to cut wait times significantly with new software and a reconfigured mailroom.

With the holiday shopping season heading into full swing, college mailrooms are bracing for a deluge of packages for students shopping online.

Last year, package volume increased 32% year over year in November and 43% in December, says Jennifer Wood, director of campus services at Loyola University Maryland.

Growing package volumes prompted Loyola to change its mailroom by installing new software and redoing the layout so it could handle the increased flow and keep up with demand without inconveniencing students picking up packages. “We were seeing a 15% increase overall year to year, which is why we were in a bad spot because we had run out of space,” Wood says.

Loyola uses a system from Ricoh Americas Corp. that includes software to automate mail sorting. The vendor also helped the university change the mailroom’s layout.

“When a student gets a package, it’s put into a system so it will say whether it’s FedEx or UPS so there are identifiers on it,” Wood says. “It alerts the student (via email) that they have a package.”

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Loyola’s not alone when it comes to handling more packages.

“We’re seeing a shift from standard flat mail to packages,” says Renaud Rodrigue, vice president of higher education for Ricoh Americas, which specializes in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services. “Packages are increasing year over year.”

And simply put, packages require more space than regular mail, which means colleges need more room.

At Loyola, reconfiguring the mailroom included getting rid of traditional mailboxes.

“We converted over to a high-density mailroom with Ricoh last year because our package density was out of control,” Wood says. “We literally had carts full of packages lining the college center. Wait times were horrible. When they have to wait 30 minutes to get a package, you’re impacting them going to class or eating lunch.”

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When students come to the mailroom, they’ll stop at a kiosk and log in with a swipe card, which will give staff a heads up that they’re coming.

Wood, who plans to add up to six employees to keep up with package volume, says the results, so far, have been staggering. “Our wait times went from 30 minutes to two minutes during peak times,” she says. 

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