Package Tracking Provides Efficiency and Improved Operations for Barnes & Noble Education

The Organization

Barnes & Noble College offers educational content and tools to more than five million college students and faculty members in 770 campus bookstores nationwide. In August 2015, Barnes & Noble College became an independent, publicly traded company under the umbrella of Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., in order to focus on the broader educational services market. At a few select universities, the company is also uniquely contracted to run the mail office and handle inbound packages from United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), FedEx Corporation, United States Postal Service (USPS), etc., for students. Included in those select universities is Long Island, New York based Hofstra University, who contracted Barnes & Noble College to manage its student post office and bookstore more than 10 years ago.

The Challenge

Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore had a manual package process in place which was time-consuming and tedious for employees. Each time a package would be delivered by its carrier to the university, Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore employees would be required to fill out the name of the student, their email, ID number and campus address on carbonless copy paper (CCP) package forms. One sheet of the paper would be kept for the mail office’s records while the other would be used for the notification process. The extremely slow and frequently interrupted process required the mail office to send an email to the student to notify them that their package had arrived. Once the student arrived for pick-up, additional time was needed to find the correct package, sort through the forms and have the student sign for it.

Steve Babbitt, general manager, Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore says:

“The first days of classes being back in session is our busiest time of the year. Due to the
manually intensive process we had in place, it would take more than five employees and 15 payroll hours to handle the 200 to 300 packages received. My employees were stuck handling packages instead of helping students with book sales, which meant the bookstore was losing potential revenue. It was chaotic.”

When issues would arise, such as a student claiming they did not receive his/her package, Hofstra University student Post Office and Bookstore employees would have to sift through stacks of unorganized paper delivery receipts to check if the package was signed for and delivered. The forms were often lost or misplaced, which meant there were no records and packages couldn’t be tracked. Additionally, the slow and cumbersome procedure of handling packages had begun to take a toll on the employees. Employees dreaded the manual process of sorting and processing packages, especially on Monday’s when there would be an influx of packages as well as voicemail messages from students inquiring about their packages.

The Solution

Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore sought a simple, cost effective solution to automate its mail
office’s receiving and delivery process. The company turned to IntelliTrack, Inc., a leading developer of affordable software applications for inventory control and asset tracking. IntelliTrack assessed Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore’s needs and implemented its Package Track solution. Package Track- a software solution designed to automate and organize the package delivery process- enabled the mail office to have overall management and accountability for all packages.

Comprehensive Package Tracking Features
  • Locally hosted on Hofstra University’s servers to protect data.
  • Use of three mobile, handheld devices – Datalogic’s Elf PDA – feeding data to local university computers.
  • Simple, user-friendly out-of-the-box solution that employees quickly learned how to operate.
  • Database of student information can quickly be updated prior to each semester.
  • Automated emails generated to notify students once a package barcode is scanned.
  • Solution captures electronic signatures as well as time and date stamps when packages are delivered.

Due to a lack of students on campus, the implementation took place during the university’s summer break in May and June of 2014. This allowed Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore to set up, customize and test the solution, as well as train employees without too many incoming packages.

IntelliTrack brought on its partner and value-added reseller, SAB Solutions Inc., to assist with the implementation, onsite training and ongoing assistance and support. Toby Burrell, president, SAB Solution- provider of affordable inventory management software and solutions conducted a full-day of in-person training in order to educate and answer employees’ questions to ensure a higher level of user adoption.

Together, IntelliTrack and SAB Solutions designed and integrated the following modifications to meet Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore’s specific needs.:

  • Added Data Entry Fields
    Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore required the ability to add different delivery or carrier companies into the system. Employees also need to be able to manually add new student names into the recipient field in case they were not in the database.
  • Data Upload Time Frame
    Once the data has been successfully uploaded from the mobile computer to the SQL Server database, the application generates email notifications every 12 or 24 hours, automatically. The modification allowed the devices to automatically upload the data and generate the email no matter the time frame. Emails are sent out to the students as soon as the packages are scanned, alerting them that they can pick it up.
  • Email Template
    The reminder email notification template was customized so that it displayed differently to the student. This allowed students to quickly see that the package was still available for pickup if it wasn’t delivered within 24 hours.
  • Prevent User From Accidental Incomplete Deliveries
    This modification was designed to prevent a delivery from being left incomplete by employees. Prior to this modification, mail office employees could accidentally close out of a delivery transaction screen that required the student’s signature. Because of this, the software would show that the delivery was not finished. The modification required the employee to either finish the transaction completely or void the process and start over. This enabled the mail office to quickly see if deliveries were being made, if the correct student picked up the package or if the system needed to be corrected because an error was made.

The complete Package Track solution was fully launched prior to the beginning of the fall 2014 semester.

The Results

Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore and its’ employees noticed the benefits of implementing the solution right away, especially when fall semester started. Those benefits include:

  • Reduced manual tasks and delivery errors, which resulted in increased package tracking and delivery efficiency.
  • Better resource allocation. Employees staffed in roles that would allow for more potential revenue.
  • Increased package trace-ability and mail office accountability with chain of custody audit trails.
  • Eliminated time required tracking down missing packages.
  • Improved package notification in a timely manner.

Babbitt added, “IntelliTrack and SAB Solutions were able to make the changes to the system so that it met my technology requirements. What used to take at least five of my employees three to four hours to manually handle all of the packages can be completed in half the time with Package Track. My employees are happier and the process is faster, which means the students and the university are happy as well. It’s a win, win for everyone.”

Looking to the future, Hofstra University Student Post Office and Bookstore, IntelliTrack and SAB Solutions plan to add additional modifications that will enable the barcode scanners to scan student ID numbers and/or names to speed up the process.