Archive for the ‘Intelligent Mail’ tag

Full Service vs Basic Intelligent Mail

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There is a press release making the rounds that makes some misguided statements regarding Full Service Intelligent Mail.  The assumption that mailers MUST go directly to Full Service is not 100% accurate.  Yes, in order to get the postage discount of $1 per thousand for Standard mail, and $3 per thousand for First-Class mail, Full Service is required.  However, Full Service comes at a COST.  There is a cost associated to mail service providers in order to be able to offer this service.  There needs to be management of unique barcodes for pieces, sacks, trays, and pallets.  Pallet placards must be affixed to the outside of pallet wraps, requiring some form of adhesive that is not needed otherwise.  There are more electronic requirements, including use of PostalOne!, and FAST.  Yes, there is a postage discount.  In many cases, the cost of providing the service far outweighs that discount.

Another fact is that in May 2011, the Intelligent Mail barcode will be required for automation discounts, as the POSTNET barcode will be retired.  All mailers should be migrating to the Intelligent Mail barcode, if they have not done so already.  For many mailers and mail owners, the right choice for them is going to be Basic Intelligent Mail – that is why the USPS offers the two choices in the first place.  For those who want to take advantage of Full Service benefits, they need to weigh cost vs benefit and make the right choice for each mailing’s unique requirements.

Basic Intelligent Mail barcode use will enable a mailing to receive automation discounts, both now and in May 2011 when usage will be required.  Basic Intelligent mail users who need address correction services can utilize optional OneCode ACS.  Basic Intelligent mail users (and Full Service users, for that matter) who need visibility and tracking services can take advantage of OneCode Confirm.

The key is education and understanding of not only the rules and requirements, but also understanding of the costs and the benefits-a complete picture.  It’s not just about postage discounts.  Get the most out of your mailing by getting all the facts, and making an educated decision as to how to proceed.  The USPS has choices to suit your needs today, while maintaining and expanding upon more options for both now and in the future.  Now that Intelligent Mail is well established, utilize the experience of mail service providers, and from other mailers to help make the right choices.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 31st, 2010 at 11:00 am

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USPS Employee Intelligent Mail barcode Information

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This is from yesterday’s USPS News Link, and informative publication for USPS employees.  This gives USPS personnel the information they need to disseminate on IMb, in a consistent fashion.

Have you transitioned from POSTNET to IMb yet?

– – – – – – – – – –

The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) first became available for both letters and flats in May 2007. Since then, customers have mailed nearly 40 billion IMb mailpieces.

Beginning May 2011, to be eligible for automation discounts on letter-size and flat-size mailpieces, mailers will need to use the IMb instead of the PostNet barcode using the Full Service or Basic options.

USPS also will retire next May the PLANET Code barcode, used with Confirm Service for mail tracking. To receive Confirm service after May 2011, mailers will have to use the IMb.

“The PLANET Code and PostNet barcodes have served us well for decades,” said Tom Day, senior vice president, Intelligent Mail and Address Quality. “But now it’s time to encourage customers still sitting on the fence to begin the transition to the Intelligent Mail barcode. This will assure better service and increase the value of the mail to their businesses.”

Day says that customers can meet the new requirement by signing up for Intelligent Mail Basic. With Basic, customers only need to use the IMb on their mailpieces. An Intelligent Mail barcode is not required to be placed on trays and pallets like it is for Intelligent Mail Full Service.

Day recommends Full Service for a more sophisticated level of service, including electronic postage statements and start-the-clock — which lets customers know when their mail enters the postal network. “Basic is a good start for customers considering Full Service down the road,” added Day.

Like the PostNet barcode, the IMb contains all routing and sorting information but also offers customers the opportunity to select additional tools — like address change service and mail tracking — all in one barcode. With Intelligent Mail Basic, customers can receive OneCode Address Change Service (ACS) information for a lower price than traditional ACS. With Full Service, ACS is free.

Customers interested in mail tracking can select OneCode Confirm (Confirm Service with the IMb).

“The IMb’s huge data capacity allows individual mailpieces to be uniquely identified, which is necessary for tracking,” says Day. “And because the IMb can hold three times the data as the PostNet barcode, only one barcode on the envelope is needed, leaving plenty of room for marketing messages.”

For more information about Intelligent Mail services, customers can go to RIBBS. They also can sign up for the weekly webinar series, “Migrating to IMb.” The webinar schedule will soon appear on the RIBBS website.

USPS News Link – Aug 17, 2010.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 18th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

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Intelligent Mail barcode Readability Threshold Change

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Mailers Show Success in Printing Intelligent Mail Barcode – International Post Corporation.

As of 3/15, readability threshold is 90%

Update – as soon as I posted this, I had private commentors contact me about an important distinction here, between Letters and Flats.  Not mentioned in the “rose-colored glasses” viewpoint in the article is that the successes referenced pertain to barcoded Letter mail.  Flats have a much more difficult time with barcode quality, and yet they are held to the same standard as Letter mail.  This may be a issue for Flats mailers.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

March 18th, 2010 at 1:36 pm

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IMb Training Presentations

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How to Work with Your Mail Preparer

IMb Basic Option

IMb Initial Steps for Mailers

These Power Point demos were put together by MTAC WG #124, Intelligent Mail Education.  They are VERY informative, worth a look.  I helped to put them together, any questions, please feel free to comment this blog or contact me directly.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

March 1st, 2010 at 10:48 am

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Service Type IDs Presentation

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This is a terrific, comprehensive presentation on Intelligent Mail Service Type IDs and their usage.  The options are numerous, and careful planning and selecting the correct Service Type ID is critical to obtaining the results that you want – and avoiding sometimes costly ones you don’t!  I was part of a small task group off of MTAC Workgroup #124 that put this together.  I am happy to see that it is finally publicly available on the USPS RIBBs site.

Special thanks to Michelle Hilston of Consolidated Graphics, and to Laine Ropson of Ropson and Associates for all of their efforts in the area of Intelligent Mail education.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

January 27th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

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March 14 Postage Statements, PostalOne!, and Full-Service

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If you got caught up with having your mail either encountering acceptance problems or flat-out being refused on January 4th, unless you had a dated January 4th mailing statement, prepare for a similar situation on March 14th.  New statements will be coming out that have a nomenclature change, from the old BMC Bulk Mail Center to the new NDC Network Distribution Center.  Software vendors have not gotten any drafts to program to yet, so the timing will probably be tight.

March 14th is a date to keep a close eye on.  There will be both a PostalOne! release, as well as a Full-Service Intelligent Mail release.  There are a good number of Full Service issues that need fixing, we’ll have to wait and see how many make this release, or get pushed to August.

Also, a MDR Client for Mail.dat files will need to be downloaded and installed for PostalOne!

Written by Lisa.Bowes

January 19th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

USPS “Spin” on Full Service Intelligent Mail

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Postal Service Processes Billionth Intelligent Mail Piece |

This USPS press release is in need of some clarification, and a major reality check.

This quote from the press release:
“Intelligent Mail Full Service provides commercial mailers with visibility into the status of their mail so that they can provide better service to their customers,” said Tom Day, senior vice president, Intelligent Mail and Address Quality. “When their customers call, they will have the information to respond more quickly and accurately. Intelligent Mail tracking also will help finance departments monitor and predict payments more easily. And, in this economy, this is more crucial than ever.”

Is easily misunderstood, at best.
The Facts – Full Service Intelligent Mail returns a piece of information called “Start-the-Clock”.  This information indicates the time and date when the USPS takes possession of a mailing in order to process and deliver it.  This information is useless for accurately predicting mail in-home dates, forecasting staffing levels, proactively moving mail once it has entered the mail stream – all of the benefits Mr. Day is referring to describe the USPS OneCode Confirm Service, an add-on service that can be facilitated by the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode – a service that is NOT INCLUDED with Full Service Intelligent Mail, is not replaceable by Full Service Intelligent Mail, and IS available with BASIC Intelligent Mail.  I totally agree with Mr. Day’s assertations of the benefits, but what he is describing is a benefit of OneCode Confirm, NOT Full Service Intelligent Mail.

“Commercial customers also are experiencing the speed with which their postage statements are now being processed in the PostalOne! business mail management system. According to Day, the PostalOne! system is processing more than 90 percent of Full Service mailings in less than 10 minutes.”

Speaking from personal experience, and relaying the experiences I have been hearing from many, many mailers and mail owners – speedy postage statements in PostalOne! is BEST CASE SCENARIO.  Mailers are reporting HOURS of processing time, multiple glitches, errors, etc, all jeopardizing getting mail out in a timely manner.  Patches and workarounds and future fixes are the norm.  First off – go to the USPS RIBBS page, Intelligent Mail, Latest News, and in the links box look for a document entitled “PostalOne! Critical Issues List”. There are currently 22 pages of critical issues, many with fixes unavialble until late next year, many with no fix dates determined at all.  And this is the Public list.  There is also an internal USPS list.

“Customers also are seeing the benefit of free Address Correction Service (ACS). More than 12 million Full Service ACS notices were provided to mailers since July.  Day credited the success of the Intelligent Mail program to the relationships the Postal Service has with its customers.”

Facts – there are still major issues to be worked out with Full Service ACS, including data problems, field training problems, and billing errors.

“…the Postal Service recently implemented the use of hand-held scanning for initial verifications of Full-Service mailings. The process is simple. When mailers bring in their Full Service mailings into a processing plant, postal personnel use the scanners to collect data about the quality and content of the barcodes on the mailpieces as well as on the trays, sacks, and containers. If the data collected by the scanners shows problems with the mailings, the mailer has the option of taking the mail back to rework it.”

Again, from personal experience, and the experiences related to me by many of my mailing colleagues, does not support the glowing review of the hand held scanners.  Out in the field, acceptance clerks are not trained, unfamiliar with the verification process, and running scared of possibly making a mistake.  The process is NOT simple.  And yes, the mailer has the option of reworking the mail or taking it back.  However, with the mail is being held hostage at the mailing dock, and considering the time sensitive nature of most mailings, “guilty until proven innocent” is a huge business risk and burden now forced upon commercial mailers.

Full Service Intelligent Mail?  Be intelligent, proceed with caution.

What has your experience been?  Comment this blog, or contact me directly.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

December 11th, 2009 at 11:23 am

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Full Service Verifications

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You will want to get a copy of this particular DMM Advisory and keep it for future reference.  It isn’t posted yet at the DMM Advisory page, but when it is, it will be dated 12/3:

-Hand-Held Scanning Devices used in Full-Service Verifications: The use of hand-held scanning devices (FS-IMD) has been introduced to assist in Full-Service verifications. Based on feedback from the industry via the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), the Postal Service has simplified verifications to limit disqualifications of Full-Service mailings to:

* No electronic documentation
* No Intelligent Mail® barcode on containers OR- Intelligent Mail container placards are placed inside (under) shrink wrap
* No Intelligent Mail barcode on handling units
* No Intelligent Mail barcode on mailpieces

Other error types will be documented and supplied to the mailer to help improve mailing quality and assessments for these will be deferred until March 2010. A description of the verification and acceptance procedures can be found in Changes to Acceptance Processes in Support of Full-Service Mailing on RIBBSTM under Intelligent Mail Latest News .

Also in this DMM Advisory are some statistics on Full Service, ones that don’t exactly give the full picture:

“The PostalOne!® system processes 99.49% Full-Service mailings in less than two hours: With nearly 5,000 Full-Service electronic files submitted between November 15 and November 20, 90% were processed by PostalOne! in less than 10 minutes, and 99.49% were processed in less than two hours. The remaining 0.51% that took longer than 2 hours to process was large volume mailings that are complex in nature and submitted by a limited number of mailers. The Postal ServiceTM continues to work with this group of mailers to improve performance issues.”

>>However – note the use of “mailings”.  These mailings are not defined – are they all mailings of under 10,000 pieces – thus not requiring eDocs (Wizard instead).  These mailings are so simple they don’t even require a qualification report.  Mailers on the WG 122 call seemed to be skeptical about these claims, as their processing times are far longer, and in some cases not workable.  What has your experience with Full Service been like?  Comment or email me.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

December 4th, 2009 at 11:26 am

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IMb Full Service Acceptance Changes

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I guess this is the USPS way of getting the word out – I just noticed a new link at this page (one that was not there this morning)

Intelligent Mail Latest News page

Changes to Acceptance Process for Full Service Mailings

These changes are effective immediately, as Full Service discounts kick in as of today.  I assume there will be a DMM Advisory to follow, but you never know.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

November 30th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

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Black Monday?

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Top ten thoughts from the USPS “Intelligent” Mail think tank:

1.  Let’s plan a major undertaking such as Full Service Intelligent Mail to be implemented on the Monday after a long holiday weekend, during the busiest part of the mailing season.

2.  Let’s tell mailers Full Service delivers end-to-end visibility into the mail stream, when it does NOT.  Once the mailers have bought in and invested enormous sums of money, then tell them piece tracking is at an additional cost, and oh, by the way, you don’t need Full Service to do so.  (Or, let’s just not tell them at all)

3. Let’s make changes to our verification processes on the Wednesday before the Monday implementation, and then let’s not get the word out to the vast majority of mailers (or our clerks) until Friday-or Monday, implementation day.

4.  Let’s put all our required eDocumentation eggs into an already overflowing, slow, unstable, and unreliable PostalOne! basket.

5.  Let’s continue to delude ourselves into believing that mailers are eager to get on Full Service for the “benefits”, not the postage discount.

6.  Let’s write and then continually edit/update at least a dozen different guides and specifications necessary to do Full Service Intelligent Mail.

7. Let’s make Mailer ID and Service Type ID management so complex and difficult that even mailing experts come away baffled and confused.

8.  Let’s offer three different types of address correction systems, with different file formats, different rules, and different billing processes.

9.  Let’s figure out how to charge for address corrections on the mail that needs it the most, while at the same time telling mailers we are committed to reducing Undeliverable As Addressed mail.


10.  Let’s acknowledge that there are major issues with Intelligent Mail, but proceed as if “everything is fine” anyway.

All aboard!!  Damn the torpedoes, Full Service steam ahead!

Mailers and mail owners, careful – you are about to get burned.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

November 25th, 2009 at 10:06 pm

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