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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Custom Envelopes and "Overs"

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 16, 2017 10:29:58 AM

One of the most persistent questions posed by customers ordering specialty envelopes is, “why am I being billed for more (or fewer) envelopes than I ordered?”  Ah yes, the dreaded “over/under” question!

Annoyed designer gesturing in front of her laptop in her office.jpeg 

On custom envelope jobs, most envelope converters and printers will mention the possibility of more or fewer pieces being produced on the customer’s order.  Many customers tend not to pay attention to this; especially ones who are new or not familiar with the process.  Then, when the job or invoice is received, the howling begins.  It’s understandable for sure.

Despite what might seem to be a brazen attempt to increase the order under a dubious pretext, there is a very sensible reason why envelope converters maintain this policy. That reason is centered on the waste involved in the process. 

Let’s say a customer is ordering 5,000 special double window envelopes on a special stock.  There are two main processes in the manufacturing of envelopes. One is die-cutting of the paper (and maybe one of the windows) and the second is the actual folding and gluing of the paper to create the envelope. 

Setting up the paper to be cut involves placing a die in just the right position. Whether it’s done manually or automatically, it takes some trial and error before the cuts come out just right.  Until that point there are numerous sheets that are cut and discarded.  Then, once the paper is cut, setting up the folding machine and getting the specs exact also requires a lot of “make ready” paper.  Lastly, once the machine is running, constant fine adjustments must be made to keep the job running properly.  This can involve numerous stops and restarts which waste more paper.

In order to have enough paper to allow for possible contingencies, a company must order a significantly higher amount which adds cost to the job.  Being able to bill for a reasonable amount of “overs” allows a company to cover these added costs while providing extra envelopes that a customer will more than likely be able to use.  The alternative is for a customer to specify at the quoting stage that they do not want an overage on their order. What most companies will do in this case is simply include their extra costs into the price.  Under this scenario, the customer will pay the same overall cost for his job but without the benefit of more envelopes.  

“Unders” or receiving a quantity less than the amount ordered is also a possibility. It is less common however as getting less is generally a bigger problem to customers than getting more so companies will try to buy more than enough paper to ensure that the count is met.

What is a “reasonable” amount of overs or unders?  In the envelope world, generally the figure is up to 30% on minimum quantities and then the percentage declines as the quantity of the order goes up.  The higher percentage of overs would apply to more expensive specialty envelopes like custom Tyvek envelopes, bubble mailers and poly mailers.

Topics: bubble envelopes, tyvek envelopes, specialty envelopes, envelope converting, custom envelopes, overs/unders, envelope converter, poly mailers

New Year’s Envelope, Print & Mail Wishes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 5, 2016 10:18:34 AM

 Happy_New_Year.jpg

 

Random comments on where we sit in 2015 and some hopes for 2016:

2015 was a pretty good year for envelopes and print. Each company has its unique story and set of circumstances but it seems that the print market contraction, greatly exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008/2009, has leveled off with fewer players which was an unfortunate necessity.

The demand for direct mail components is a big part of where the business is coming from these days.  In the past, the ease and negligible cost of e mail led many marketers to believe that they could solicit new clients on the cheap. In most cases, the results confirmed the adage that “you get what you pay for”.  Despite the higher cost, the ROI for direct mail is greater than e mail which has led to an “all of the above” approach with direct mail firmly in the mix.

Social media has become a big part of business marketing – some say an indispensable part.  While I think that’s true for some companies, I don’t think it’s as true in the envelope, printing and direct mail world at least in my experience.  I’m open to being persuaded that Elite Envelope & Graphics should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But I have yet to hear a good argument that takes into account how we (and thousands of companies like us) actually do business on a daily basis. I still believe that my time is better spent speaking to a customer on the phone or meeting or even e mailing with them than Tweeting something out.  Social media stresses a personal connection to the audience. While establishing those close connections where possible and where appropriate have always been a part of building customer loyalty, it isn’t essential in our business.  There’s also the lack-of-time factor: both the time I’d need to spend posting interesting content and the time required by my customers to be checking Facebook or Twitter during work hours in the course of their mostly very busy days.

A noticeable trend in our industries is the movement toward smaller quantities.  The information age allows everyone to be their own corporation with their office in their pocket.  At the same time the revolution in digital printing has “lowered the entry bar” just as the advances in personal and mobile computing have done for start-ups in general. We all need to adjust our business models to be able to produce smaller quantity jobs profitably.

Another boon to the envelope industry in particular related to the many small “Etsy –type” businesses out there is the need for shipping materials.  The demand for heavy duty envelopes like Tyvek and Herculink along with bubble envelopes and board mailers has increased dramatically in the past five years or so.

What end of year blog column would be complete without a New Year’s wish?  Mine is for the Post Office to be reformed in a meaningful way which would allow it be more streamlined and cost effective for the demands of the new century.  As readers of this blog are aware, I favor a complete break-up of the first class mail government monopoly. I think it’s an outdated model and its bloat and inflexibility is a real danger to the direct mail industry which relies on it to move things efficiently at a reasonably competitive cost. While even partial privatization seems like a pipedream, perhaps the younger generation moving into Congress will look at this in a new way and can come up with a compromise that would help ensure the health of direct mail and the envelope and printing businesses that rely on it.

In any event, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016. Happy New Year!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelopes, post office, tyvek envelopes, smart bubble envelopes

Envelopes for Small Business

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 22, 2014 3:01:00 PM

small business photo

As we’ve been told forever, small business is the prime driver for economic growth in our economy. While the numbers employed by the Fortune 100 are huge, they tend to plateau at those exalted heights and remain relatively stable once they get there taking into account new hires and layoffs on a net basis.  Large companies tend to grow by buying smaller companies which often results in a net loss of jobs due to the consolidation of resources.   

It makes sense that when you start a company with a staff of one, the potential for exponential growth is large. And in a country as big as the United States with the world’s largest economy (maybe second to China these days but if so, not by much) the sheer number of people starting businesses on a daily basis accounts for most of the new jobs created in the economy and it has been that way for quite some time.

What has changed however is the types of small businesses. While there are still plenty of gas stations,  hair salons, dry cleaners, café’s and the like, the new economy has spawned a huge number of start-ups which require little more than a home office, a computer and some software along with a clever idea.  Many of these need envelopes for sending or receiving products which they distribute; a t shirt, a candy bar, a greeting card, etc.

Elite Envelope gets many hits on its website each week from companies looking for a special envelope for a certain type of application – mostly some type of packaging envelope.  In my last post, I mentioned a company in New York City which was looking for something to mail diapers.  Just this past week I got a request from a company looking for something like a photo store envelope but for the purpose of returning used ink cartridges.  We’re in the process of putting together a template for him. The piece will have consecutive numbering in two different spots in addition to printing on both sides. The flap will have a tear off strip and will have a peel and seal strip to close after the tab is torn off.

There are many other envelope solutions for shipping, fulfillment and other applications that small businesses need.  Some examples:

Expansion envelopes:  These have a fold or gusset on the side which allows them to open in an accordion-like fashion in order to accommodate thick contents like papers or cloth material.  Expansion envelopes can be made in heavy-grade kraft paper (white, brown and grey are the most common colors) as well as in tear-resistant and water-proof materials.  (For more specific information on expansion envelopes, click on the keyword in the right hand column of this blog page.)

Tyvek, Herculink, Fiberkraft and Tri-Brite:  All of the items are virtually impossible to tear which makes them a good choice for sending bulky or uneven items through the mail or shipping channels.  On Tyvek the sizes range from a standard #10 size all the way up to jumbo sizes of 18 x 23 inches. All of these are durable and can be printed with just about any type of graphic design you’d like.  They are also water resistant and very light which can mean savings in shipping and especially postage if you send them through the US Mail.

Bubble lined envelopes:  These are also commonly used to transport fragile or odd-shaped items that require extra protection.  They come in paper or all plastic.  Elite supplies its own version called “Smart Bubble” which features a removable bubble sleeve that can be re-used to protect the item after it arrives or simply recycled.

Fiberboard – These are often referred to as “Fedex” envelopes but they come in heavier weights – very stiff, coated-one-side board which provides an extra level of protection as well as preventing the items inside from folding or creasing; very important for important documents.

Armorpac – This is a relatively new item on the market which combines the tear resistant features of Tyvek with the extra layer of protection of a bubble mailer but at a lower cost.  The product features a soft and light foam lining on the inside of the envelope; not quite as protective as bubble lining but more than adequate for many applications where bubble lining may be more than is needed.  They are also smooth on the outside and look great printed where bubble envelopes have a certain texture that doesn’t lend itself to a nice graphic presentation.

Give me a call anytime to discuss any of these or other possible custom solutions.

Topics: bubble envelopes, tyvek envelopes, shipping envelopes, envelopes for small business, packaging envelopes, smart bubble envelopes

Tyvek Envelopes Can Help Offset Postal Increases – (part 2)

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 14, 2014 11:35:00 AM

In my In my previous post, I recapped the current travails of our Postal Service.   It’s fashionable I suppose to regard the Post Office as some relic of a benighted past before all the wonderful digital machines were invented. Yes, there’s no doubt that the USPS suffers from the same type of bureaucratic/political sclerosis that infects most government-run entities.  There’s a built-in bias against change; especially as it relates to staffing levels.  This makes it less nimble and able to adapt to an ever-changing economy which in a nutshell is why they find themselves grossly in debt and struggling to make the necessary adjustments.

While all the political machinations can be interesting (or tedious), those of us in businesses that in some way rely on a functioning post office are, unlike government, forced to deal with the reality of pleasing customers and making a buck.  So how do we cope with increasing postal rates and still “get the mail out”?

One way is to incorporate Tyvek envelopes into the mix.  Now I hear you screaming, “But Tyvek is soooo expensive!”  Well, calm down my friend.  Yes, Tyvek is a lot more expensive than regular paper envelopes but it has one property that makes it well worth considering for mailings; it’s lighter than paper. It’s not only lighter, but a lot lighter; so much so that it can make up for all of the increased cost and then some in reduced mailing costs as the chart below shows.      

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 Dupont’s Tyvek has been around for many years and has a reputation for durability and functionality in the mailing world. It’s virtually impossible to tear which makes it ideal for mailing anything that has rough or sharp edges; like a spiral bound booklet for instance.  It’s also water resistant which ensures it will hold up and look better when delivered especially if it’s raining!

Tyvek also has a smooth finish and has a more upscale look and feel than regular paper. It carries a message for the recipient that the sender believes strongly enough in what he’s sending to have spent a little extra which can never hurt.

And, perhaps surprisingly, Tyvek is 100% recyclable. A nationwide recycling program collects used envelopes and recycles them into other useful materials. Tyvek itself is contains an average of 10% post-industrial waste content.

So while there may be nothing we can do to help the Post Office except perhaps contact our elected representatives and urge them to do something, you can take matters in your hands to improve the bottom line on your next large envelope mailing.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, post office, tyvek envelopes, post office problems, direct mail solutions, tyvek mailing advantages

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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