Preparing for Move Update Changes

As we mentioned earlier, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is implementing Move Update price and classification changes, effective in March 2018. The Move Update postage assessment for non-compliance will increase from $0.07 to $0.08 per piece, but the Move Update verification method will also be changing. What exactly does this mean for your mailing operation?

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Where Is Your Mail Headed?

Mail Service Providers (MSP’s) spend a lot of time and money making sure that mailings are addressed and presorted properly. They also check that their mailing facilities have bundled and trayed/sacked the mail according to postal regulations. Finally, MSP’s understand the need to be sure mail is palletized properly, all the tray/sack/pallet tags are correct, and that mail was shipped to the correct entry points. Or was it?!

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FTP Package Shipment Transmissions Ending in August

Just another gentle reminder that the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is eliminating the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) method for transmitting package shipment files to comply with recent audit findings, and to provide more secure data transmissions. FTP is currently one of the acceptable transmission methods for submitting shipment files to the Product Tracking and Reporting (PTR) and Electronic Verification System (eVS) systems, but this option will no longer be available effective August 31, 2017.

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No More FTP Package Shipment Transmissions

As we mentioned awhile ago, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is eliminating the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) method for transmitting package shipment files to comply with recent audit findings, and to provide more secure data transmissions. FTP is currently one of the acceptable transmission methods for submitting shipment files to the Product Tracking and Reporting (PTR) and Electronic Verification System (eVS) systems, but this option will no longer be available effective August 31, 2017.  

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Accessing Your Mailer Scorecard

With all the talk about the upcoming assessments that the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is planning to begin in November 2016 (based on October data), we are strongly encouraging mailers to review their Mailer Scorecard data frequently. So, what if you have never accessed your Mailer Scorecard data before? Don’t feel badly, you are not alone! Today’s e-Tip is a primer on how to access your Mailer Scorecard so that you can be analyzing your mailing performance and taking corrective action before those assessments kick in.

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Powerful Reporting Options With Post-Presort Software

One of the more intriguing uses of Post-Presort software with Mail.dat is to pass postage information from a presort program to another system that manages lettershop operations and performs business management.  Ideally, your Post-Presort software should provide the link between your presort software and the business management software that you use for project, production, and warehouse management.   For example, your Post-Presort software should generate the data to update the final postage to your postage accounting system.  Although postage information is not usually stored directly in the Mail.dat® file itself, postage is implied and can be calculated by good Post-Presort software in compiling, completing and printing the postage statements for any given job while at the same time updating your postage accounting system.

Regardless of whether your internal applications are home-grown or commercially available products, your Post-Presort software should be able to output the final postage information, saving you time on data entry and increasing the overall accuracy of the postage statements you present to the USPS®.  Post-Presort software should also ‘verify’ postage statements as they are returned from the PostalOne!® system.  This prevents accidental changes and deletions, and triggers the output of the final postage statement data.

Your Post-Presort software should also help you keep track of everything you mail – from both Mail.dat and non-Mail.dat presort data.  Your software should store your postage data and make it easy for you to print reports and export that data for use in other internal systems, or to share with other partners in the mailing supply chain.  Direct mail customers who are spending millions of dollars on postage per month need to know exactly what was mailed on their behalf, and on which postage permits for a particular date range.  In order to be competitive in today’s market, direct mail production houses should be able to report this data to their customers in both print (PDF) and electronic (CSV or XML) format, allowing the mail owner to reconcile their postage accounts to make sure that the Postal Service™ is withdrawing the right amounts from their permit accounts.  The electronic format is essential because it allows customers to import their postage usage data into their accounting systems for postage reconciliation, thereby avoiding re-entering data from the postage statement PDF’s or hard copies, and saving time and becoming more efficient.

Become More Efficient using Mail.dat®

As mailers and mail service providers face tighter turnaround times and rapidly approaching in-home delivery dates, they are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient and get the mail processed and submitted to the Postal Service™ faster than ever before.  One sure way to help improve efficiency and increase your chances of hitting those in-home dates is by incorporating the use of Mail.dat files into your processing.

When your customers give you their presort data in Mail.dat file format, you can reduce the cost and time it takes to process the associated postal paperwork by as much as eighty-three percent over manual data entry. With Mail.dat and the appropriate Post-Presort software, mailers report that two people can now accomplish what they formerly needed twelve people to do.  Free up your most valuable assets—your employees—to be able to concentrate on other value-added services for your company and your customers.  Also, with the right post-presort software you can edit Mail.dat files and easily generate professional postage statements for all of your mailings.

With Mail.dat, mailers can not only generate postage statements that actually reflect a day’s mailing, but they are also in a better position to deal quickly with last-minute changes or circumstances.  Say, for example, that you do not get the final counts on a mailing until the end of the day.  With Mail.dat, you can tag only what is going to be mailed that day, and print the appropriate statements.  If last-minute work comes in, the software adapts to changes in the hardware configurations or schedules in order to get jobs out or make last-minute changes.  Another classic example is changing the piece weight after the presort is complete because the original weight used was just an estimate.  This happens all the time and is easily handled by using Post-Presort software to edit the Mail.dat files before printing the postage statements or other required reports, saving you countless hours having to re-run the presort job.

Without Mail.dat, you would never be able to process statements in time for postal verification.  Not only is it more efficient than non-Mail.dat processing, but it also allows you the speed and flexibility to deal with increasing volumes, which often come in the form of last-minute jobs.  When done by hand, processing statements for postal verification may not occur fast enough to get the mail out the door in time.  Mailers need to be able to accept these jobs to keep existing customers or capture new business, and Mail.dat makes it possible to meet seemingly impossible in-home deadlines on last-minute jobs with speed and accuracy.

Mail.dat® or Mail.XML™? Why Not Both!

A lot of people in the mailing industry are asking the same question recently:  which file format should I choose?  The answer is really quite simple.  Both!  We all know by now that a Mail.dat file is quite robust and contains large amounts of valuable mailing information.  This is very beneficial, except when you only need portions of the information that resides in the file.  In these cases, it can be time consuming and a strain on transmission and storage resources to send entire Mail.dat files back and forth between parties in the mailing supply chain. (We are not including the USPS® at this point. More on them later.)  This is when Mail.XML comes in handy.  When a full Mail.dat file is not necessary, you can use Mail.XML to transmit only the information that is being updated, modified or queried.

Breaking this down in English a bit more to help understand the differences between Mail.dat and Mail.XML, one can think of Mail.dat being the “encyclopedia” of a given mailing.  Then, think of Mail.XML as the “telegram” that you send to someone describing a portion of the encyclopedia.  If your recipient only needs a small segment of information, it is much easier (for both of you!) to send them a short telegram than to send them the entire encyclopedia.  That is essentially how Mail.XML works in relationship to Mail.dat.  Mailers using Mail.dat can continue to use it as a database, but use Mail.XML for communication, automation or business-to-business processing and get answers in near-real-time from other parties.

Mail.XML is designed to automate business processes and communication by reducing manual data entry labor, enable quick near real-time communication between business parties, increase efficiency and reduce costs.  One of the ways Mail.XML will be used in the future is conducting electronic transactions with the USPS.  For example, if you use PostalOne!® to transact business with the USPS, you will first upload a Mail.dat file for the mailing as a “planned” mailing.  Once all the final attributes of the mailing have been determined and all adjustments made to the Mail.dat file, you only need to transmit Mail.XML “telegrams” to the USPS to update your original Mail.dat file.  This eliminates the need to re-submit an entire Mail.dat file every time a change is made or a new transaction occurs.  It allows you to pay postage, make drop-ship appointments, and a variety of other transactions using much smaller chunks of data.

With the information presented here, it’s now easy for mailers and mail service providers to answer the “Mail.dat or Mail.XML” question.  Everyone should be able to conclude that “both” is, indeed, their final answer!

Seamless Acceptance

Intelligent Mail® Full-Service requires using unique Intelligent Mail barcodes on your mailpieces, handling units, and containers. It also requires you to transmit electronic documentation (eDoc) using the PostalOne!® system. Through these requirements, the Postal Service™ is taking one more step towards realizing a concept and implementing a system called Seamless Acceptance. This technology will help streamline and automate acceptance, verification, payment and induction of business mailings into the USPS® mail stream. By employing unique IMb’s on mail pieces, handling units, and containers, and by submitting eDoc to the Postal Service, you can locate and fix errors prior to the actual mailing. You will be able to improve address accuracy, mail preparation quality, validate correct postage, and track mail. Seamless Acceptance uses sample scanning at induction and Mail Processing Equipment (MPE) scans to evaluate mail quality, payment, and location. Currently, the Postal Service is conducting pilot tests for Seamless Acceptance by major mailers in New Jersey, Minnesota and Nebraska.

There are benefits to mailers of participating in Seamless Acceptance such as faster induction. There is also the potential of dramatic cost savings for the USPS. It is these cost savings that is going to drive very rapid adoption of Seamless Acceptance by larger mailers in 2014, whether they want to implement it or not. Mailers that are unable to accurately prepare and electronically document their mail will be subject to additional postage costs up to 30 days after the mailing takes place. It is important to understand what the USPS will be looking for and position yourself to meet Seamless requirements so you don’t have to worry about paying additional postage costs that you could otherwise avoid. By understanding and preparing for Seamless Acceptance you will be able to enjoy its benefits rather than having it become a financial burden.