USPS announces sweeping changes to processing facility network

During a press conference on September 15, 2011, the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced plans to greatly reduce its current network of processing facilities. The number of processing facilities could be cut by as much as half, which equates to approximately 250 facilities. This would result in a 50% reduction of mail processing equipment and a possible reduction in workforce of up to 35,000 employees.

This move would save the USPS approximately $3 billion per year. The USPS is experiencing substantial drops in mail volume and revenue, and has been implementing a number of cost-cutting measures. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe cited in the September 15, 2011 press release, “Since 2006, we have closed 186 facilities, removed more than 1,500 pieces of mail processing equipment, decreased employee complement by more than 110,000 through attrition and reduced costs by $12 billion.”

Making these types of reductions would obviously have an impact on the level of service, so the USPS is also proposing to adjust the First-Class Mail® delivery standards from the current 1-3 day range to 2 to 3 days. The USPS published a Federal Register Notice on September 15, 2011, detailing the plans for the adjustment in the delivery standards.

Donahoe also noted during the press conference that this move is based strictly on the need to cut costs in the current financially challenging period the USPS is facing, and has no reflection on the dedicated USPS employees commitment to service.

Stay tuned for further developments regarding this announcement. This process will require a great deal of study and will undoubtedly become politically charged as members of Congress try to save postal facilities (and jobs!) located in their districts.

For all the details, visit the new USPS web page  introduced just for this topic.

PMG Potter to Retire

From the October 26, 2010 DMM Advisory:

Postmaster General John E. Potter to Retire

To Be Succeeded by Deputy Postmaster General Donahoe

            

WASHINGTON — After nearly 10 years as U.S. Postmaster General and CEO of the U.S. Postal Service, John E. Potter today announced that he will retire on Dec. 3, after 32 years of service.

The Governors of the Postal Service named Patrick R. Donahoe, currently Deputy Postmaster General and Chief Operating Officer, to succeed Potter.

A New York City native, Potter is credited with modernizing management, introducing long-term, strategic thinking necessary in a complex and changing marketplace, and transforming the Postal Service into a service-driven customer-focused and cost-sensitive organization.

Potter’s accomplishments include:

  • Eliminating more than $20 billion in costs during the last 10 years, with cumulative savings of more than $50 billion.
  • Building a leaner, more flexible workforce and increasing efficiency and productivity through technology and the expansion of automation in mail processing and delivery.
  • Reducing career employment from 787,000 positions in 2001 to about 584,000 today through attrition, using strong and focused management practices.
  • Leading the Postal Service and the nation through the anthrax terrorist attack following 9/11.
  • Creating a 10-year action plan that is a blueprint for necessary operational, legislative and regulatory changes to the current business model to ensure a viable Postal Service for decades to come.

 

Potter expressed his pride in the performance of the men and women of the Postal Service, saying its accomplishments resulted from the thousands of employees who dedicated themselves to meeting customer needs in a rapidly changing technological and communications environment.

“I fully appreciate their support in maintaining the tradition of trust that dates back to Benjamin Franklin and the founding of our nation,” Potter said. “It is our people that define our organization and it is their dedication and sense of purpose that drives our business.”

Louis J. Giuliano, Board of Governors chair, noted Potter’s many accomplishments in thanking the Postmaster General for his years of service.

“You have been a steadying and far-sighted leader throughout a period of dynamic change in America’s use of the mail and during times of economic uncertainty,” Giuliano said. “The hallmark of your success was your ability to build respectful relationships with all stakeholders, customers and employees that built a trusted level of credibility. We unreservedly regard your tenure as one of great accomplishment.”

Donahoe, currently Deputy Postmaster General, will become the 73rd Postmaster General in December. Potter credits Donahoe and his entire service team with regularly exceeding demanding performance goals and setting new records for on-time delivery and operational efficiency.

Donahoe began his career as a clerk in Pittsburgh in 1975, and in 2001, became responsible for all facets of mail operations, including processing delivery, retail, engineering, transportation and facilities. He has served in a variety of senior management positions in operations and human resources before becoming Deputy Postmaster General in 2005.

Giuliano cited Donahoe’s outstanding performance as one of the main reasons the Board chose Donahoe to build on the Postal Service’s achievements and lead the organization through a changing business environment.

“Pat and Jack have been a very effective team,” Giuliano said. “We’re very sorry to see Jack leave, but we’re grateful for the significant contributions his transformative approach to our organization and the nation it serves. We wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Donahoe said he appreciated the confidence of the governors in naming him the next Postmaster General.

“It’s been an honor to serve with Jack,” Donahoe said. “Our challenge going forward is to implement the ambitious plan now in place to assure the continued viability of the Postal Service in fulfilling its mission of providing reliable, self-supporting, universal mail service to our nation. While we are confronted by challenges, I am confident we will succeed.”

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of products and services to fund its operations.

 Monica Lundquist

Postal Affairs Manager

Window Book, Inc.

617-395-4570

mlundquist@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.

The Final Goodbye to the Red Round Stamp

As we’ve discussed previously in this blog, the red round date stamp from the United States Postal Service® (USPS®), which mailers have used for years as proof of mailing, is no longer available for electronically submitted postage statements. The USPS recently announced that the red round date stamp will also be discontinued for hard copy statements, effective March 15, 2010. This change will be effective for postal facilities that are equipped with PostalOne! Facilities without access to PostalOne! will continue to round stamp hard copy postage statements.

 

In lieu of the red round stamp, the USPS is asking mailers to obtain their receipts using the Business Customer Gateway to access PostalOne! Upon request, mailers may also obtain a hard copy receipt (Form 3607) from the USPS. The 3607 form, currently called the Weighing and Dispatch Certificate, will be reformatted and renamed in March to Mailing Transaction Receipt, Form 3607-R.

 

The mail verification and acceptance processes will not change, only the transaction receipt process. The acceptance clerk will verify the mailing as usual; however they will no longer complete the “USPS Only” section of the postage statements. In the past, the clerk would record the results of the verification process and manually apply the red round date stamp in this area. In the future, the clerks will enter this verification information into PostalOne! The wording on the postage statement form will change from “USPS Use Only” to “USPS Use Only—To Be Completed at Non-PostalOne! sites ONLY.” PostalOne! is the system of record and can be accessed to view postage statement details and print hard copies, if needed.

 

The Postal Service will modify the DMM® (Domestic Mail Manual) language regarding the return of a duplicate postage statement to the mailer, differentiating between PostalOne! and non-PostalOne! sites.

 

Here are the key changes:

 

  • If not submitting postage statements electronically, the customer must provide an original postage statement with the mailing.
  • Acceptance personnel will no longer complete the “USPS Use Only” section of hard copy postage statements for offices that enter postage statements into the PostalOne! system.
  • Acceptance personnel will no longer complete and return a “duplicate” postage statement (as defined in sections 244.4.1, 334.4.1, of the DMM).
  • Acceptance personnel will no longer round-date stamp hard copy postage statements.
  • Acceptance personnel will retain the original copy of the postage statement and attach the USPS Form 3607 (Statement of Mailing/Weighing and Dispatch Certificate)* to it on file, as prescribed by the Administrative Support Manual.
  • Upon a customer’s request, the acceptance personnel will print the USPS Form 3607 and provide it to the customer along with any duplicate copies of postage statements provided.
  • The only acceptable means of proof of postage payment for mailings will be an electronic version of a finalized postage statement, or the USPS Form 3607, generated from the Postal Service’s PostalOne! system.

 

*In the March 15 upgrade to the PostalOne! system, PS Form 3607 will be replaced with PS Form 3607-R (Mailing Transaction Receipt).

 

Mailers may obtain more information regarding electronic postage statements by referencing the User Access to Electronic Mailing Information and Reports Guide: Business Customer Gateway Information, On-line Services, and Full-Service Tools. In this document, Appendix B, Access to Hard Copy Postage Statements, provides information on how to access the Business Customer Gateway and retrieve postage statements.

 

For more information about the Business Customer Gateway and how to access it, visit ribbs.usps.gov.

Intelligent Mail®: Understanding MID’s and CRID’s

 

Anyone who works with the United States Postal Service® (USPS) knows their penchant for using acronyms, and the Intelligent Mail (IM) program is no different. One of the areas that causes confusion for mailers is the registration for and use of Mailer Identification numbers (MID’s) and Customer Registration Identification numbers (CRID’s).

 

The Mailer ID is a numeric identification number which is used by the USPS to identify a mail owner or mailing agent. The MID must be included in the IM barcode and in the electronic files and documents that are submitted to the USPS for IM. The MID is either a 6-digit number or a 9-digit number, based on historical mail volume or the need to maintain the 45-day uniqueness requirement. For example, mailers can manage the 45-day uniqueness requirement for 1 million pieces of mail using a 9-digit MID (9-digit MID’s allow for 6-digit serial numbers in the barcode), whereas it can be managed for 10 million pieces with a 6-digit MID (6-digit MID’s allow for 9-digit serial numbers in the barcode). Alternatively, multiple 9-digit MID’s can be assigned for increments of 1 million pieces as another method of managing the uniqueness requirement.

 

The Customer Registration ID is also a numeric identification number (up to 15 digits) which is used to uniquely identify a USPS customer at a location. Essentially it identifies the various physical locations of customers. For example, if a USPS customer has five different mailing facilities, they will be assigned five CRID’s, one for each physical location. The CRID’s are used in the electronic files and documents for IM, but are NOT included in the IM barcode.

 

These MID’s and CRID’s may be applied for using the Business Customer Gateway. Mailers should allow for 2 to 5 days for this application process. There are some situations which may require that these applications be made manually using hard copy forms; if applicable this will be specified on the Business Customer Gateway.

 

As part of the IM program, the various participants in a mailing are uniquely identified using these MID’s and CRID’s in the electronic files and documents, and also by specifying the relationship between the various participants. This is known as the “By/For” relationship.

For example, a mailing may involve a mail owner, a mail preparer, and a logistics provider. The mail owner designs the mailpiece and pays the postage, the mailing is printed, sorted and mailed BY the mail preparer FOR the mail owner, and the mail is transported and drop ship appointments are made BY the logistics provider FOR the mail owner to drop ship entry points. Since each of these participants is involved with some portion of the electronic transactions with the USPS for the mailing, they must all be identified.

 

Every mailer has their own unique needs, so it is important that mail owners work with mail service providers to determine which MID to use for the barcodes, and to correctly assign the BY/FOR relationships. In addition, delegation of data can also be done using what is called “Cast of Characters.” For example, if a mail owner utilizes a fulfillment bureau to handle their address corrections from the USPS, the mail owner can delegate the receipt of the Address Change Service (ACSTM) data to this fulfillment bureau.

 

The real key is to map out your process flow for your mailings, including all of your service providers. You can then use this information, along with mail volumes and frequencies, to help manage the uniqueness and to properly register for and utilize the appropriate MID’s and CRID’s.

 

The USPS has numerous guides and checklists available on their Rapid Information Bulletin Board Site (RIBBSTM), and has recently added a PowerPoint presentation specifically explaining MID’s and CRID’s. Mailers should access these resources and devote some time to reading and understanding these documents. Although this may seem tedious, it can actually help save you time as you go through the IM integration process.

Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs Manager, Window Book, Inc.

Intelligent Mail®: More Than Just A Barcode

 

If you have been working on integrating Intelligent Mail (IM) your mailing processes, you already know that there is much more to this program than just a new barcode. In fact, printing the barcode may be the least complex part of the whole integration!

 

If you are just getting started with IM, or have not yet begun, you really ought to devote some time and planning to your integration process. If you think you can just ignore it, hoping it will all go away, think again. The United States Postal Service® (USPS) has invested millions of dollars in the IM program, and it really is the next generation of technology for mailing. Mailers who do not embrace this new technology will find themselves left out in the cold; unable to participate in the latest postal initiatives. Before you pooh-pooh the whole idea as not worthy of any investment in time or resources, consider the following:

 

The USPS is implementing a postal discount for mailers using IM, effective November 29, 2009. While the discounts don’t sound like much ($.003 per piece for First-Class and $.001 for Standard, Periodicals and Package Services mail), these small amounts can add up quickly for large volume mailers. This initial discount is only the beginning; at some point in the future, many discounts will be tied to the use of IM.

 

Use of IM allows you to take advantage of a number of mail tracking options. You can track individual pieces of mail or just containers of mail. This information can be extremely valuable to better pinpoint delivery dates of mail. This can help you or your clients in any number of ways:

  • Timing your direct mail message to related television, radio, newspaper or internet marketing messages.
  • Planning your staffing and other resources in call centers, product warehouses, shipping centers, retail stores, or internet sites.
  • Longer term analysis of direct marketing efforts to pinpoint the most successful times of the year, days of the week, etc.

IM also allows you to have proof that your mail has entered the postal stream and more importantly, you can track it through the USPS processing chain.

 

For mail service providers, if you don’t offer IM, your competitors will! Most businesses can’t afford to lose work for any reason, and never has that been truer than in this challenging economy. Before you dismiss IM as being too costly or time consuming to implement, consider the potential cost of lost revenue if you delay implementation or elect not to do so at all. IM is a critical part of just staying in the game at this point, so make sure you take this into account in your financial analysis.

 

IM helps improve address accuracy. With Full Service IM, mailers receive free ACS (Address Change Service). This service, which currently has a price of $.26 per correction, is FREE with Full Service IM and can provide up-to-date address information for your customers and prospects who have moved. Moreover, this service also provides helpful error codes on addresses which may not involve a move but may not be entirely accurate for postal delivery purposes. Keeping addresses current and accurate not only saves postage, but helps you stay in contact with your customers.

 

IM helps streamline mailing processes and reduce paperwork. Part of the USPS cost savings of the IM program comes from the requirement to submit electronic documentation via the internet. This cost savings accrues to mailers as well, in reduced costs for printers, paper, toner, etc. and reduced administrative costs of processing and storing all the hard copy documentation. This can also result in reduced amounts of time to process and present mail to the USPS and reduced time for mail verification and acceptance by the USPS.

 

If you are still procrastinating on integration of IM, don’t be afraid. There is plenty of help available. The USPS has numerous online guides and other information available, including recorded tutorials. Many of your suppliers, such as software vendors, logistics suppliers, mailing equipment manufacturers, etc. can offer all kinds of assistance and educational materials. Mailing and other industry associations can also provide a wealth of information. You need look no further than your local Postal Customer Council (PCC) for help and interaction with other mailers in your area who are also implementing IM.

 

The November 29 implementation date for IM discounts is just around the corner. The full impact of IM will go far beyond that date however, and the sooner you get on board, the sooner you can take advantage of the many benefits of IM. Don’t delay!

Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs Manager, Window Book, Inc.

Periodicals Mailers-Time to File Statement of Ownership!

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again, for Periodicals mailers to file their annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation with the United States Postal Service® (USPS). This document, Form 3526, is required to be filed annually by publishers for each authorized Periodical publication. The completed Statement of Ownership form is due by October 1 each year. The completed form must be filed at the post office serving the publishers offices.

 

This form is NOT required to be filed for publications that mail at other classes of mail, such as Standard, Package Services or First-Class, nor is it required to be filed for publications that are currently mailing as Periodicals Pending.

 

There are actually two versions of the form, Form 3526 for General (paid) and other publications and Form 3526-R for Requester publications. The forms require that publishers submit information regarding the ownership and management of the publication, as well as circulation information. Publishers must include circulation information for the issue of the publication closest to the filing date as well as an average for all the issues for the year.

 

Aside from confirming the ownership and management information, the USPS uses the circulation information as a basis to insure publishers are meeting the circulation requirements to qualify for Periodicals mail. These requirements specify that at least 50% of the total circulation of a publication be circulated to those who have paid for or requested the publication. If the paid/requested ratio on this annual form reflects a percentage of between 50% and 60%, this can trigger a more detailed postal audit.

 

The information needed to complete the form may be found on postage statements, print orders, print invoices, distribution instructions, etc. It is easier if publishers maintain this information on an issue-by-issue basis in a spreadsheet or something similar so that when it comes time to complete the annual form, all the necessary information is at hand. If this is not done, you should gather up all the pertinent documents for each issue of the year before attempting to complete the form.

 

A common problem that publishers run into is that the subscriber/nonsubscriber copies have not been reported correctly on the postage statements during the course of the year. If the paid/requester counts on the statement of ownership do not correspond with the subscriber/nonsubscriber counts on the postage statements, that discrepancy can also trigger an audit.

 

To prevent this problem, it is critical that detailed instructions be provided by the publisher to the mailing list processor so that they can correctly identify and report the subscriber and nonsubscriber copies in the mail.dat files and on the postage statements. Any changes to the way these address records are identified during the course of the year also needs to be communicated to the list processor.

 

It is also critical that publishers monitor postage statements during the course of the year to insure that these counts are reported accurately and to rectify any problems early on if they are not. It can be very problematic (not to mention expensive and time consuming) to try to correct a whole year of postage statements right before you are ready to file your statement of ownership, particularly if rate changes have occurred or if software updates have taken place in the interim.

 

In addition to filing the completed form, the information on the completed form must be published in the publication for titles authorized under the General or Requester categories. This information is required to be published in the first issue subsequent to filing the form. For example, if the publication has a monthly frequency, the information should be published in the first issue produced after the filing date of October 1. If the publication is weekly or less frequent, but more than monthly, the information should be published in an issue no later than October 31. For weeklies or more frequent, the information should be published in an issue by October 10.

 

There are no regulations regarding the size or format of this published information, as long as it is legible and complete. Some publishers replicate the actual form itself for publication, while others convert the information to text format.

 

If for some reason you do not meet the filing deadline of October 1, you should contact the post office serving your publishing offices and notify them of the reason for the delay and the date by which you estimate you will submit the completed form. Publication of the information is more strictly enforced. If you do not publish the statement of ownership information in the timeline described above, the USPS can hold the mailing of subsequent issues until this requirement is met. Again, if you fall behind in meeting this deadline, it is best to notify your post office up front in order to prevent mailing delays.

 

If you need assistance to complete or publish your forms, contact your local Business Mail Entry (BME) office and ask for the Periodicals mail expert. They can walk you through the form and provide information about filing and publication of the information.

 

Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs Manager, Window Book, Inc.

Proof of Mailing: Say Goodbye to the Red Round Stamp, Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs, Window Book, Inc.

 

Proof of Mailing: Say Goodbye to the Red Round Stamp

As the United States Postal Service® (USPS) and the mailing industry are busy with the integration of Intelligent Mail® (IM), one item of particular concern to the ultimate postage payer seems to have fallen by the wayside. That item is the official proof that the mail has been accepted and paid for. For years, postage payers of bulk mailings have relied upon the red round dated stamp on the postage statements or other USPS documents as proof of mailing. That red round stamp still exists today, but be prepared for it to fade into the sunset soon.

Why is the red round stamp disappearing? It is due to the increasing use of electronic documentation (e-docs) rather than hard copy documents. With Intelligent Mail Full Service, use of e-docs is required, which will eliminate the ability for postal clerks to apply the red round stamp to hard copy postage statements. What then, is to be used to provide proof of mailing?

The USPS does provide for an electronic receipt file once postage statements have been processed through PostalOne!, however these receipts do not contain any detailed information about the mailing. These receipts can be obtained either individually or in batch mode, but in either case, it requires an active effort by the mailer or postage payer to obtain these receipt files. This does not sound like a big deal unless you are a large volume mailer, or a mail preparer who processes mail for numerous clients. This change in USPS process creates the need for a new mailers process that is not required when hard copy statements are used.

Moreover, since the receipts are not attached in any way to the postage statements  themselves, it also creates an additional process of reconciling the receipt file to the postage statements. There are USPS statement numbers, register numbers, and mailing group ID numbers on both documents for purposes of reconciliation, but this would be a manual process. Also of concern is that it is not clear how long this receipt information will remain on the PostalOne! site, so access after the fact may prove to be troublesome.

Inevitably, software developers and other mailing process suppliers will create more automated means to obtain and reconcile this information, likely even including an electronic facsimile of the old red round date stamp. However, these methods will vary depending on the supplier, so postage payers who do business with multiple mail preparers will be faced with a variety of representations of the USPS proof of mailing.

The mailing industry has been calling for the USPS to respond to this issue by asking them to provide a more automated, easy to use proof of mailing. The USPS has not been very responsive to this request, mostly because they have their hands full implementing other more critical components of IM and because their budgets do not allow for additional programming to accomplish this.

As a result, postage payers and mail preparers need to be made aware of this issue and prepare for it. You should be working with your postal contacts and mailing associations to raise the awareness of this problem with the USPS. You should also be planning for the worst-case scenario, which is that the USPS will not be able to provide an automated solution anytime soon. In this case, you need to work with your software developers to come up with some workable interim solutions. You will also need to be prepared to handle these additional processes and to educate your staff and clients as to the interim solution.

We all can agree that hard copy postal documents need to be eliminated and replaced with electronic documents. However, this should not be done at the price of creating additional work for postage payers. Only by making your voices heard through your mailing associations, and by making plans in advance of IM implementation will you make yourself prepared for this change in USPS processes.

Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs, Window Book, Inc.

Eight Tips for Implementing Intelligent Mail By Monica Lundquist Postal Affairs Mgr, WindowBook, Inc

                     Eight Tips for Implementing Intelligent Mail

Go ahead and admit it. You have been procrastinating on the whole United States Postal Service® (USPS) Intelligent Mail® (IM) thing, and now you are starting to panic. The November date for introduction of the IM discounts is just around the corner, and you have not even started your implementation plans.

Don’t worry, you are not alone! There are lots of people who have been putting this off, just like you. Some were skeptical about the whole thing and wanted to wait and see if it was actually going to happen. Others figured there would be lots of changes and revisions to the USPS plans, so they wanted to wait for the dust to settle a bit. And for many of you, quite frankly, IM just scares the bejezzus out of you!

Regardless of what category you fall into, you really ought to start thinking about your implementation plans for Intelligent Mail. Here are some tips for getting started:

1) Do some detailed analysis to determine which level, if any, of IM that you will be using. You will need to do this analysis to first identify whether IM will be of benefit to your organization, and if so, whether Basic Service or Full Service is right for you. The USPS does provide some on-line benefit calculators to assist in this process, but you will likely need to enlist a number of members of your team, possibly in various departments, to get a complete picture. Keep in mind that while IM is currently voluntary, that may not always be the case. There have been statements made by the USPS that the current automation discounts will in 2011 be available only for mailers using the IM barcodes.

  • 2) Once you have determined which level of IM service is best for you, you will need to obtain a Mailer ID (MID), or if you use service providers, Customer Relationship ID’s (CRID). Virtually everything under IM will be transacted using the Business Customer Gateway, so you will want to access the USPS presentation on using the Business Customer Gateway if you are not already familiar with it. Once you have reviewed the presentation, you can then go online to apply for your ID’s.
  • 3) Start printing the IM barcode on your mailpieces. Even if your internal systems are not yet completely set up to handle the IM transactions with the USPS, you should start printing the IMb’s on your mailpieces as soon as possible. Before you do that, however, you should have some printed samples of your mailpieces containing the IMb reviwed by your local Mailpiece Design Analyst to make sure there are no problems. This includes any sack, tray or pallet tags as well as mailpieces if you are the physical preparer of the mail.
  • 4) Become familiar with Mail.dat and Mail.xml if you are not already. These are the two primary means by which electronic transactions with the USPS take place. You will need to make sure that your mailing processes are capable of producing at minimum mail.dat files, and ideally both mail.dat files and mail.xml.
  • 5) Investigate your internal mailing processes, including any software or hardware, to insure that they are IM compliant. Work with your hardware and software vendors and service providers to assist you with this process. You may need to do some testing and possibly some hardware or software upgrades or replacements. If you have very sophisticated, automated mailing processes, IM integration may require some custom designed systems to insure seamless integration.
  • 6) If you plan to take advantage of the free Address Correction Services (ACSTM) in the IM Full Service Option, you should work with your database administrator, fulfillment house, or other service providers to determine how to incorporate the address corrections back into your database. ACS is much more complex under IM Full Service, and there is the potential to receive three different types of corrections, in three different formats, and at three different prices (not all ACS corrections will be free of charge).
  • 7) Once you have your mailer ID, you should begin testing some transactions with the USPS using the Business Customer Gateway and the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM). This will allow you to work out any bugs in your internal systems and is also required for USPS authorization for IM Full Service. Once you have passed the TEM testing, you will be running tests in a parallel environment for a period of time until the USPS authorizes you as an IM Full Service mailer.
  • 8) If you plan on implementing the IM Full Service option, consult the USPS checklist for IM Full Service mailers. It is an exhaustive list of all the points you need to do in order to qualify for Full Service.

Intelligent Mail is indeed very complex, but it is not as scary as it seems. Take one step at a time, and you will make it through the integration process. Take advantage of the knowledge of others, such as colleagues, service providers, vendors and suppliers, USPS representatives and mailing associations. Most importantly, don’t procrastinate any longer, get started TODAY!

Priority Mail Open and Distribute Made Easy by Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs Mgr., WindowBook Inc

Priority Mail Open and Distribute Made Easy

Back when I was in the printing business, I used to cringe whenever a client brought up the possibility of using Priority Mail Drop Shipping for distribution of their mail. As printing companies, we did not often recommend this delivery option to clients because it was, quite frankly, a real pain to implement. Luckily, that is no longer the case, due to true innovations in mailing and shipping software. For some mailers, Priority Mail Drop Shipping is a well-kept secret that they are not aware of, and as a result they are missing out on some great opportunities to improve delivery and reduce costs.

For those of you not familiar with this service, it is technically termed Priority Mail Open and Distribute (PMOD) by the United States Postal Service® (USPS). It is a method of drop shipping mail to additional postal entry points using Priority Mail as the shipping method rather than more traditional methods such as truckload, less-than-load (LTL) or air freight. The same service is available using Express Mail Open and Distribute (EMOD), although it is more expensive due to the quicker delivery time (next day service).

Regardless of which level of service is used, Open and Distribute is a pretty nifty way to drop ship to entry points with smaller volumes of mail which make the more traditional shipping methods cost prohibitive. It works by entering the mailpieces at their normal postage prices (e.g. Periodicals, Standard, etc.) and then placing those trays or sacks of mail into Priority Mail sacks for delivery to the postal entry point. By use of special sack tags, these Priority Mail sacks are identified to the USPS as containing drop shipped mail, which the USPS then opens and distributes the sacks inside as they would normally be routed. The Priority Mail postage is paid on the weight of the mail inside the PM sack (and tare weight of the sacks/trays inside the PM sack), and essentially replaces the shipping charges that would have been charged by freight carriers if the more traditional shipping methods had been used.

In years past, this process was a real pain because this mail had to be manually separated, manually tagged with the PMOD tags, and postage statements were manually generated. Now, however, there are software solutions that allow these functions to be automated to the point that it is much more time and cost effective to use PMOD.

How can mailers take advantage of PMOD? There are three major benefits to using PMOD:

1) If you are experiencing delivery delays to remote or distant locations (e.g. Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico), or any location for that matter, PMOD can be a great way to shorten the delivery time. Priority Mail has delivery standards of 2-3 days, so the mail gets entered into the postal entry points much more quickly than if the mail was locally entered at the printing plant or letter shop.

  • 2) You can take advantage of drop ship discounts even for entry points with low mailing densities, such as Butte, MT or Fargo, ND.
  • 3) You can mail at the less expensive Standard rates, but get very close to First-Class delivery standards if you use PMOD to drop ship to additional entry points.

Your mailings can be easily analyzed to determine whether PMOD will be beneficial for you to use. Using a mail.dat file, you can process this file through post-presort mail.dat management software in a “quick plan” mode. This will allow you to see all the possible drop ship entry points for which your mailing would qualify. You can then go a step further by applying freight charges to the entry points with significant mail volumes. Any entry points with small volumes can then be exported into PMOD software to determine the estimated cost of PMOD shipping.

If you do not have post-presort mail.dat management software, you can ask your printer/mailer to perform these analyses for you, or you can contact a provider of this type of software to request a demo or trial of the software. If you have been hesitant to use PMOD in the past due to implementation concerns, or if you are completely new to PMOD, you owe it to yourself and your company to check out the possibilities of this great USPS program.