Is Your Mail Headed in the Wrong Direction?

What kind of question is this? Of course your mail is headed in the right direction! Isn’t it? It was addressed properly, presorted properly, your mailing facility bundled it, trayed or sacked it according to postal regulations, palletized it properly, all the tray/sack/pallet tags are correct, and it was shipped to the correct entry points. Or was it????

When was the last time you updated your mailing and shipping software to the most recent destination data files from the USPS? Just where does all the ZIP code and postal facility data come from? You know… that first line of information that prints out on your tray tags, sack tags and pallet placards? And what about the facility information that prints out on your 8125 clearance documents for drop shipping? Where does all that data come from, and how is it kept up to date? What happens if you use outdated data?

You’ve most likely heard terminology such as Labeling Lists, Drop Ship Destination Data, City-State Files, Zone Chart Data, and so forth, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what all these terms really mean, and why they are important to your mailing operations. The short answer – the USPS provides mailers “Destination Data Files” which may be downloaded from the USPS web site. There are a number of different files included in this group, all of which are critical to insure that your mail is prepared properly and is labeled and routed to the correct postal facilities for processing and delivery. This data can – and does – change frequently, so it is critical that mailers pay attention to these changes and update their presort and post-presort software with the new data as soon as it becomes available.

Why is this important? Using out-of-date data can result in your mail getting held up at acceptance because it has not been sorted or labeled correctly according to the most current data. Even if it does get past USPS acceptance, if the destination data is old, all that mail that you so carefully prepared is going to end up headed in the wrong direction to incorrect postal facilities. This will cause delivery delays because the mail will need to be reworked and redirected to the correct locations. And this can all wind up as a bad mark on your Mailer Scorecard. Keep in mind, the USPS plans to start implementing postage assessments starting in July. Bad marks on your Mailer Scorecard will start costing you money later this year!

Labeling List Files
These files contain the Labeling List information, which is used to properly label bundles, sacks, trays, and pallets of mail. This information is used by presort software to correctly sort the mailing list and to correctly populate the destination data line on sack tags, tray tags and pallet placards. This information dictates which ZIP codes may be combined together into the handling units, such as trays and sacks, as well as which ZIP codes may be combined together on containers, such as pallets. These files are updated monthly, and are announced in the Postal Bulletin. Mailers often confuse the Labeling List data with the Drop Ship data (see below), but the two are used for completely different purposes. To avoid confusion, it is helpful to think about the titles of the data files: Labeling List data is used to sort and label the mail, while Drop Ship data is used to direct the shipment of the mail.

Drop Ship Product Files
These files are used to properly identify postal facilities which may be used by mailers to transport (drop ship) mail to facilities closer to the final destination of the mail. This is a group of files that include the postal facility listings along with detailed data such as the operating hours, classes and processing categories of mail handled by the respective facility, contact information, driving directions, ZIP codes serviced, and so on. Included in this group of files is the Mail Direction File, which is used to identify when postal facilities “re-direct” mail to other postal facilities. For example, if a postal facility is undergoing renovation, some of the mail classes or processing categories it would normally process are re-directed to a nearby facility during the renovation period. This is a temporary condition, so this information is communicated using the Mail Direction File rather than making short term changes to the actual facility listings. The drop ship data is used in both presort and post-presort software to identify drop ship entry points and to correctly populate the drop ship clearance documents – PS Form 8125’s. These files are provided from the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking System (FAST) and the Mail Direction Files are updated monthly. This update frequency is the required frequency for mailers to perform updates, but in actuality this data is being updated on a daily basis. For mailers who do frequent drop shipping, it is recommended to get this data updated daily rather than just the minimum required frequency.

Other Files
There are other files, such as the Zone Chart files and City State Files, which are also important as they are used to assign postal zones within mailings that are subject to zone-rated postage and used in combination with other destination data files to insure accurate assignment of city and state names. Zone charts are updated quarterly, while the City State Files are updated six times per year.

Timing of updates
The USPS establishes mandatory use dates for all of this data to help make sure that mail is prepared and routed correctly. Mailers should update this data in both their presort and post-presort software as often as possible, but certainly no less frequent than the minimum requirements. Failure to do these updates on a timely basis may result in your mailings getting delayed or even worse, stopped at the point of verification. It is recommended that mailers work with their software vendors and service providers to coordinate the timing of these updates so that any potential conflicts are minimized. Window Book recommends updating this data on a weekly basis, or if you do frequent drop shipping, on a daily basis.

Resources
The major release schedules for this data may be found on the USPS RIBBS web site. Information regarding the drop ship data may be found on the FAST web site. Window Book posts updated destination data files to our software downloads web page each Friday. These updates may be manually downloaded and installed to your Window Book software, but you can do these updates automatically at a frequency you can dictate by using the Automated PostError! Hyperlink reference not valid.al Data Updater plug-in of the Window Book Scheduler. There is no additional charge for this utility, so users should definitely take advantage of this convenient means to automatically update this critical data.

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Window Book can help you implement the destination data changes in your mailing operation and automate your processes using our software and service solutions.
Window Book offers a free Mailing Optimization Analysis.

Call us at 1-800-524-0380 for more details or to sign up for your FREE Mailing Optimization Analysis!

Don’t forget about the routine destination data updates

I hope you are getting all your mailing and shipping software updated to versions that support the new prices and the new Mail.dat® file format, 14-1.

While you are at it, don’t forget about the routine destination data updates that you should be doing as well:  Labeling List Files, Drop Ship Product Files, Zone Chart Files, City State Files, Timing of updates….

Download Updates Automatically

These updates may be manually downloaded and installed to your Window Book software, but you can do these updates automatically at a frequency you can dictate by using the Automated Postal Data Updater plug-in of the Window Book Scheduler.

There is no additional charge for this utility, so users should definitely take advantage of this convenient means to automatically update this critical data.

Need help installing this feature?  Email postalspecialist@windowbook.com