Manolo de la Fuente

Digitising inbound mail: expensive?

27 October 2011, by Manolo de la Fuente
PostNL is receiving an ever growing number of requests for digitising inbound mail, which is scanned with the main aim of cutting post-processing costs. We are also receiving many requests from start-ups and fast-growing businesses who are trying to digitise as much as they can.

Outsourcing costs money

Scanning and processing an incoming invoice costs €7 to €10 per item. For us, but also for our peers, taking on this work only becomes profitable from a certain volume. Below that volume, businesses are less likely to pay the price we are looking for, which we understand.


When is outsourcing relatively cheap?

The table below describes situations where it would be either relatively expensive or cheap for an organisation to outsource inbound mail.


More expensive to outsource

Cheaper to outsource


Lots of mixed mail, such as complaints and direct mail delivered to one address.



Uniform stream of similar mail such as invoices, insurance policies, surveys and reply cards.  

Mail and parcels delivered to the same address. (Parcels have to be forwarded)


Mail that has to be sent to many different departments.


Mail that needs to be sent to one or a few departments only.

Mail that still needs a high level of attention and processing, such as removing staples, flattening the paper and dealing with varying paper thicknesses and sizes.


Similar mail items printed on relatively sturdy paper with few staples, like most invoices (one A4).

Digitised mail for which streams have to be prepared in many different formats for processing in varying systems, such as ERP and CRM packages.

Stream in one output format for one system.

Many small mail streams.

One or only a limited number of large mail streams.



Expect a relatively high price if the inbound mail stream has the features presented in the left-hand column. It will be cheaper if your mail matches the descriptions in the right-hand column. So before you contact your suppliers, you should first consider how you can fit as much of your mail as possible into the categories on the right.


What can you do to lower the price?

Invoices often form a company's biggest mail stream, accounting for 20 to 25% of the total in the Netherlands. You can separate your invoices from other mail just by opening a separate PO Box for them. All you then need to do is "educate" your suppliers into sending their invoices to the new address in the future. It's even simpler for surveys and reply cards: get a business reply number and use it purely for these response streams.


What can we do for you?

PostNL has a minimum threshold of 50,000 inbound mail items a year. Below that number we refer businesses to our partners, such as Digicountant, for their inbound invoice processing. They handle invoices for many small and medium-sized companies in collaboration with PostNL.


Manolo de la Fuente