Informed Visibility®

The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is introducing Informed Visibility (IV®), to provide the mailing industry with more powerful insight into the USPS mailstream. This new program is designed to provide a one-stop shop for mail tracking data, consolidated into one system, as opposed to tracking the data via IMb Tracing® and PostalOne!®. The key to the success of this new program is the near real-time expanded visibility into mailings as the mail moves through the mailstream, that is much more powerful than the tracking data that exists today which can sometimes be delayed. Another benefit is a user-friendly data provisioning and data delegation, so it is much easier for mailers to specify what data they want, when they want it, and who receives the data. The result is increased value of the mail, enabling mailers to better plan mailing campaigns and resources.

Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

What’s In YOUR Barcode?

Barcodes, barcodes, barcodes – they are everywhere you look these days. Especially in the mailing industry. You really can’t even talk about mailing without the word “barcode” slipping into the conversation. In fact, we see and talk about all these barcodes so much, we sometimes forget exactly what data is in those barcodes and what the barcodes are used for.

IM Piece Barcode

The first requirement for Full-Service is to place a unique barcode on the individual mailpieces. Even if you don’t claim any Full-Service discounts, you still need to print the Intelligent Mail® barcode on your mailpieces in order to claim any automation discounts. Due to the various types of processing equipment used by the USPS® to sort different types of mail, the barcode for Letter and Flat-sized mail (IMb) is different than the barcode for parcel size mail (IMpb).

Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Better Manage Spoilage and Shortage in eDoc

We all know that “stuff happens” during the mailing process, and when it does, you may need to pull some pieces from your mailings. There are lots of words to describe these pieces…pulls, deletes, mutes, rejects, spoils, shorts…sound familiar? Whatever you call them, these are pieces that get pulled from your mailings for a variety of reasons. Perhaps some of the mailpieces get damaged during processing, or you may run out of some of the mailpiece components before the job is finished. So the question becomes, “How do I make the adjustments to report these types of spoilages or shortages in my eDoc?” And that’s a very good question because in the eDoc world, you not only need to submit accurate postage statements, but the Mail.dat® files that represent the mailing job also need to be adjusted.

PostalOne!® accepted reporting methods
Within the Mail.dat file set, there are three (3) different files that may be used to report Spoilage/Shortage: the Piece Detail Record (PDR), the Piece Barcode Record (PBC) or the Postage Adjustment Record (PAR). A Guide to Intelligent Mail for Letters and Flats from the USPS provides information on four (4) methods for reporting spoilages or shortages using PostalOne! The acceptable methods vary depending on the type of mailings you are processing – and only Method 4 (below) is allowed for postage-affixed mail. Here are the four current acceptable methods:

1. Available for situations where the postage for wasted and shorted pieces is paid as part of the total postage detailed on the postage statement. This method is used if the mailer wishes to re-use the unique Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMB®) from the spoiled or shorted pieces and the postage has already been paid. In this case, the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces, however, the only way to obtain a refund for the spoiled pieces is to submit a hard copy PS-3533 (yes, hard copy!) along with documentation of the spoiled pieces. Important note: refunds are not granted for shorted pieces.

2. Available for First-Class Mail® and Standard Mail® only: The postage is adjusted on the postage statement so postage is paid for only the pieces that actually get mailed. As in Method 1, the unique IMB from the spoiled or shorted pieces may be re-used, and the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces. In this case, because postage has not yet been paid, the Mail.dat files may be edited and submitted to PostalOne! as an updated release, so the postage is not paid for the spoiled or shorted pieces.

3. Available for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail only: The postage adjustment is reported as a dollar amount and piece count for the entire mailing. For this method, the PAR file is used. In this method, the unique IMB’s may not be re-used, and the spoilage is reported as a percentage or number of pieces rather than reporting each individual spoiled or shorted mailpiece. Since this method does not tie back to the individual mailpiece ID, it CANNOT be used for manifest mailings.

4. The electronic documentation in either Mail.dat or Mail.XML™ states only the pieces mailed. This method is used when there is either no spoilage or shortage to report, these pieces have already been identified and removed from the Mail.dat files before they are submitted to PostalOne!, or the mailer plans to request a postage refund using PS-3533 and does not need to make any count adjustments in PostalOne! This method may be used for any class of mail. Currently this is the ONLY spoilage method available for postage affixed mailings, such as metered mail, stamped or precancelled stamp mailings.

Note: For Periodicals mailings, spoilage/shortage may be reported, but is ignored by PostalOne!

Reporting spoilage/shortage
If you are submitting your mailings electronically (eDoc), you can no longer just edit the postage statements for spoilage/shortage, rather you need to adjust the Mail.dat files themselves. The reason for this is that PostalOne!, not your mailing software, generates the electronic postage statements and qualification reports. PostalOne! generates these documents based on the information submitted within your Mail.dat files. The only way PostalOne! can generate accurate documents is for the Mail.dat files themselves to be accurate, which is why being able to edit these files is so critical.

So, how do you go about making these types of Mail.dat file edits? The easiest way to perform these edits is by using post-presort software, such as Window Book’s DAT-MAIL™ software. Using post-presort software, mailers are able to enter a percentage or number of spoiled pieces to update their files and documentation for Method 3 above. Mailers also have the opportunity to enter individual mailpiece ID numbers, or to import a file containing these ID numbers for the shorted/spoiled pieces so that the Mail.dat files can be accurately flagged with the appropriate spoiled/wasted indicators for the other methods. DAT-MAIL even allows users to scan the IMB’s from the spoiled pieces and import the scanned barcode file into the software to automate the process of making the necessary adjustments. Once these adjustments are made, the edited files can be submitted to PostalOne! and users may use DAT-MAIL to generate numerous reports to document the spoilage/shortage claimed.

Timing
Unless you rarely have any edits to make to your Mail.dat files, it is a good idea to submit your files first as an Original Release to PostalOne! This allows you to make any necessary edits or changes to the file prior to paying for postage. In the case of reporting spoilage/shortage, it is necessary to make the Mail.dat file edits and submit the edited files BEFORE the file has been submitted as Ready to Pay or been finalized by the USPS. Once the files have been submitted as Ready to Pay, the only way to alter them is to cancel the job on PostalOne! and start over. Once the USPS has finalized the statements the only way to make any changes is to request that PostalOne! cancel the job or reverse the postage payment and re-submit.

As always, we STRONGLY recommend that you practice submitting jobs with spoilage/shortage, including cancellation of jobs, using the TEM environment of PostalOne! prior to going into production. This practice allows you to become familiar with how this process works and iron out any bumps in your internal processes.

Postage Refund Requests
Mailers who are not able to make spoilage or shortage adjustments electronically must use hard copy form PS-3533 to request a postage refund from the USPS. These forms were revised a number of years ago to be uniquely barcoded, which is why these forms are no longer available online or through mailing software. Mailers may request these forms from their local post office and follow the instructions on the form for completion. Keep in mind that mailers may be required to provide specific documentation of the spoiled pieces in order to receive a postage refund. This documentation is outlined in the form instructions, or may also be included in any agreements mailers may have in place with the USPS, such as Optional Procedure agreements.

Resources
The PostalOne! Help Desk is available to provide assistance to mailers who need help in understanding the various methods of reporting spoilage/shortage or to help them trouble-shoot errors in submitted Mail.dat files.
Window Book has various spoilage/shortage methods available in our DAT-MAIL software. We also offer educational webinars on the spoilage reporting process, and even offer FREE Mail Optimization Analyses to help you get your mailing operation optimized to submit mailings, including those with spoilage or shortage, electronically.
Don’t miss out on our educational mailing webinars! Log on to our webinar registration site to sign up.

Window Book’s newest smart postal solution, PostalWeb™, completes the PostalOne! automation circle by providing easy downloading of finalized PostalOne! postage statements directly to your servers, and includes options for email notifications and even emailing of these finalized postage statements! (Coming soon: automatically download your confirmation pages!)

DMA Appeals Postal Regulatory Commission Exigency Decision

Direct Marketing Association
Post Date: January 23, 2014

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) on Thursday joined with partners representing nearly the entire mailing community in filing an appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, seeking relief from the recent Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) decision to allow an exigent postal increase set to take effect on January 26.

In December 2013, the PRC announced that it would grant the United States Postal Service (USPS) request for an exigent postage increase of 4.3 percent (Order No. 1926 in Docket R2013-11). The 4.3 percent exigent rate is scheduled to be implemented simultaneously with an inflation-based rate adjustment of 1.7 percent approved earlier by the PRC.  Thus, mailers are facing a total price increase averaging 6.0 percent. Read more.

Via DMA

News Byte: USPS Appeals the PRC’s Intelligent Mail Barcode Decision

In its decision approving the CPI postal rate increase in early December, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) simultaneously shot down the U.S. Postal Service’s request to expand full-service Intelligent Mail barcode requirements. As a result, mailers emerged from the holiday season with at least one gift from Postal authorities, but now even that’s not so sure.  Read more.

Via Direct Marketing News

 

USPS pushes for IMb requirement.

IMb Services Update from the DMM Advisory

“Reaping the Benefits of Intelligent Mail®,” the next Postal Service™ webinar designed to assist mailers in transitioning from the POSTNET™ barcode to the Intelligent Mail barcode, will take place on August 30, 2012, at 1 p.m. EDT.

This webinar will cover Service Type IDs (STIDs) and how they can help you keep your address lists up to date, as well as various Full-Service feedback reports and where you can find them.

To join the online event:

1.      Click here. Or copy and paste the following link to a browser: https://usps.webex.com/usps/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=994338681

2.      Click “Join Now.”   (This event does not require a password.)

To join the teleconference only:

Dial toll-free call-in number (US/Canada) 1-877-668-4493; use event number 994 338 681.

 

 The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®) is available on Postal Explorer (pe.usps.com). To subscribe to the DMM Advisory, send an e-mail to dmmadvisory@usps.com. Simply indicate “subscribe” in the subject line.

IMb Services Update from the DMM Advisory

For those of you who do not get the DMM Advisory, here is today’s IMb Service Update:

IMb™ Services Update

Reminder: PostalOne!® Outage:  A major Oracle® database technology upgrade will be completed during an extended maintenance window from 6 p.m. Saturday, July 14, 2012, through 8 a.m. CDT Sunday, July 15, 2012. During this outage, PostalOne!, Mail.dat ® and Mail.XML® will be unavailable, including FAST® and eDOC Web Services.

Reminder: PostalOne! TEM Major Upgrade Outage:  The major database technology upgrade will be completed on the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM) during an extended maintenance window from 6 p.m. Saturday, July 14, 2012, through 8 a.m. CDT Sunday, July 15, 2012.

PostalOne! Database Maintenance Maintenance on PostalOne! servers is scheduled between 4 a.m. CDT to 8 a.m. CDT on Sunday, July 22, 2012. This will be done in a rolling fashion with no expected outage.  Users may experience brief connectivity interruptions but should be able to immediately log back into the system.  Web Services will remain available for FAST and eDoc processing.

FAST® Deployment – Oracle 11 Migration:  FAST Oracle 11 Migration will be deployed to the Production environment effective Sunday, July 29, 2012.  Please be advised that the FAST Online Application and Web Services messaging will not be available during the 2:00 a.m. CDT to 8:00 a.m. CDT deployment window on Sunday, July 29, 2012.  All FAST Web Services messages received during this timeframe will be queued and processed after deployment is completed.  Questions or requests for additional information should be directed to the FAST Help Desk (FAST@usps.gov or 1-877-569-6614).

 The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®) is available on Postal Explorer®(pe.usps.com). To subscribe to the DMM Advisory, send an e-mail to dmmadvisory@usps.com. Simply indicate “subscribe” in the subject line

New Federal Register Notices

From the DMM Advisory on Friday:

September 17, 2010

DMM Advisory

Pricing keeping you informed about the prices and mailing standards of the United States Postal Service

Published Federal Register Notices

The following two Federal Register notices were published today and are now posted on the Postal Explorer® website at pe.usps.com. We encourage you to check them out:

Intelligent Mail Package Barcode This advanced notice of proposed rulemaking incorporates standards for the optional use of Intelligent Mail® package barcodes (IMpb) no later than January 2011; and requires the mandatory use of IMpb on all domestic packages beginning in January 2012. The IMpb will provide valuable piece-level package information. We’re looking forward to receiving and considering mailing industry feedback on the proposed timeline before publishing the final standards. Customers are encouraged to respond on or before September 27, 2010.

Express Mail Open and Distribute and Priority Mail Open and Distribute — We are proposing to revise the service commitment for Express Mail Open and Distribute as a guaranteed end of day product to reflect the way it is processed. We are also proposing to add a minimum five-pound weight requirement for Express Mail® Open and Distribute and Priority Mail® Open and Distribute sacks so that they won’t be mistaken for empty sacks and delayed in handling. Customers are encouraged to respond on or before October 18, 2010.

The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) is available on Postal Explorer (pe.usps.com). To subscribe to the DMM Advisory, send an e-mail to dmmadvisory@usps.com. Simply indicate “subscribe” in the subject line.

Window Book Publishes New White Paper “Intelligent Mail Full-Service: Critical Steps to Understanding and Implementing”

In our ongoing efforts to educate mailers and the postal industry as a whole about critical changes happening with the USPS, we are publishing an informative, 29-page white paper titled, “Intelligent Mail Full-Service: Critical Steps to Understanding and Implementing”.

The Postal Team here at Window Book believes that in this white paper you’ll discover:

  • What’s going on in the Postal industry
  • The differences between the Full-Service and Basic options
  • What Full-Service will do for you (It’s not just about the discounts!)
  • The 3 ways to participate in the USPS PostalOne! System  
  • What steps you need to take, and in which order, to get going with IM Full-Service
  • And much, much more!

Click here to download your free copy of Intelligent Mail Full-Service: Critical Steps to Understanding and Implementing.

 

Wallace Vingelis

Director, Postal Industry Practice

Window Book, Inc.                

Phone:  (617) 395-4569

email:    wvingelis@windowbook.com

Mail Verification Changes for Intelligent Mail

The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced some modifications to the current mail verification processes during the recent Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meetings and in webinars presented to mailers last week. These changes to the verification processes became effective with the implementation of the Intelligent Mail® (IM) discounts on November 29, 2009.

 

For the most part, the USPS will conduct mail verifications using the same procedures as in the past. For IM Full Service mailings, the USPS has introduced hand-held scanning units, called FS-IMD’s, that will be used by acceptance clerks to collect data samples from mailpieces and tags on containers and mail handling units (sack tags, tray tags, pallet placards, etc.). These scanners have been deployed only to acceptance units with high volumes of mail, so not all acceptance units will be subject to these verification changes. It has not been made clear what, if any, mail verification changes will take place at acceptance units not provided with these scanning units.

 

The additional scanning steps that have been added to the verification process at these acceptance units equipped with the scanners are as follows:

 

Clerk identifies Full Service mailing on the PostalOne! system mailing dashboard.

Clerk uses the FS-IMD device to collect the following samples:

 

  • scans 3 container placards,
  • selects 1 of the scanned containers and scans 5 handling units,
  • selects 3 out of the 5 handling units and scans 30 pieces – 10 piece from each of the handling units

 

Along with the discounts that became effective on November 29, 22009, mailings with the following errors will be subject to loss of the IM Full Service discounts:

 

  • No electronic documentation submitted to the PostalOne! system
  • IMcb (Intelligent Mail Container Barcodes) container placards not placed outside of the container stretch-wrap
  • No IMb (Intelligent Mail Barcode) on mail pieces (>3 pcs) The initial verification sample size is 30 pieces. If the clerk identifies more than 3 of the 30 pieces do not have the required IMb on the mail pieces the mailing will be disqualified for Full Service discounts (this is more than 10% error)
  • No IMcb on container placards (>3) The initial sample requirement is 3 placards. If one placard is found to not have an IMcb on it then an additional 3 placards will be inspected. If more than 3 placards are missing the IMcb the mailing will be disqualified for Full Service discounts (this is more than 50% error)
  • No IMtb (Intelligent Mail Tray Barcode) on handling unit label (>3) The initial sample requirement is 5 tray/sack labels. If one label is found to not have an IMtb on it then an additional 3 labels will be inspected. If more than 3 labels are missing the IMtb, the mailing will be disqualified for Full Service discounts (this is more than 37% error)

 

In cases where the error rate exceeds tolerances and the IM Full Service discounts are forfeited, the USPS will process postage statements for such mailings in the following manner:

 

  • Acceptance personnel will process the electronic postage statement as submitted (discount applied)
  • Acceptance personnel will then conduct a manual adjustment transaction for the loss of Full Service discount.

 

Other Full Service benefits, such as mail tracking or ACS corrections, may be impacted when mailings fail the IM verification, based upon the type of barcode failure. What is not so clear is what exactly those impacts are. I guess we will have to wait and see!

 

Other IM preparation errors, such as non-unique serial numbers in the IM barcodes, or lack of container information in FAST appointments for drop shipments, will not be subject to forfeiture of IM discounts until March 2010. The USPS will, however, be sharing feedback to the mailing industry on the quality of IM mailings so that necessary adjustments may be made prior to March 2010.

 

According to the USPS, internal training webinars have been conducted so that the appropriate acceptance staff will be well versed in the new procedures. Based on past experience, however, there will likely be some acceptance issues that mailers will experience. There are many elements of IM that are confusing to say the least, and the acceptance and assessment processes will be no different. One of the primary concerns of mailers is the accuracy of the existing MERLIN® (Mail Evaluation Readability Lookup Instrument) testing equipment. The USPS has admitted that the software for the MERLIN equipment has not been updated to reflect the IM changes. As many flat-size mailers can attest, MERLIN testing for flat size mailpieces is prone to many errors, even prior to IM implementation.

 

For more details regarding these revised mail verification procedures, you should contact your local business mail entry unit, or refer to the USPS issued mail verification changes document on the USPS RIBBS site.