After more than 20 years of service, the venerable POSTNet barcode on envelopes for automating and sorting mail retired on January 28. The Postal Service now requires that mailings have at least Basic-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) to qualify for automation discounts. Mailers will need to switch to Full-Service IMb by January 2014 to receive maximum discounts at that time. Even though the Postal Service provided a lengthy lead time and a good deal of education on the discontinuance of the POSTNet barcode, the IMb requirement undoubtedly caught some smaller mailers by surprise. At the start of the New Year, less than half of commercial mail contained an IMb, suggesting a sizable number of mailers still needed to make the switch. While large commercial mailers were early adopters of IMb, many mid-sized and smaller mailers were hesitant to make the commitment and investment. Basic-Service IMb is not as big a step as the move to Full-Service IMb but it also yields fewer benefits. Full-Service Intelligent Mail will allow mailers to receive richer data about their mailings, but requires them to invest in hardware and software changes. The Postal Service wants to give mailers an incentive to make the conversion. It has proposed a one-time credit ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 to customers that make the conversion to Full-Service IMb. The credit would be based on the number of pieces the customer sends in a year. In an October Federal Register notice, the Postal Service laid out its proposal and further details are expected in a final rule. Is an incentive necessary to get mailers to invest in Full-Service IMb? If you are a mailer, do you plan to take advantage of the incentive?
on Feb 18th, 2013
in Pricing & Rates
| 6 comments
on Oct 29th, 2012
in Mail Processing & Transportation
| 7 comments
With so much technology at their fingertips, customers now want and expect complete visibility of their mail, from entry to delivery. The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) program has helped to bring total visibility closer to reality, and other technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning system (GPS) tracking, can fill the gaps. Complete visibility of mail provides real-time information about mail to customers and the U.S. Postal Service, including service performance data. This visibility into mailing activities allows the Postal Service to better manage its operations, increase route efficiency, improve service, and control costs. Mail visibility gives customers insight into mailing activities and provides them analytics to drive business decisions. As the IMb program matures and more customers adopt the full service offering, the Postal Service gets closer to total visibility of mail. But gaps in end-to-end visibility still exist, such as when mail travels on contracted highway route transportation and it is no longer “communicating” its location. One solution is to use GPS on HCR trucks to have visibility of mail during transport. In November 2010, the Postal Service initiated a limited-scope GPS program on about 900 of its 15,500 commercially contracted highway transportation routes, which covers about 300 highway contract route (HCR) suppliers. The suppliers were supposed to provide certain GPS tracking information every 30 minutes while hauling mail, including location of the vehicle. However, a recent OIG audit found that this GPS program was capturing only limited data, primarily because suppliers were not consistently reporting the data to the Postal Service. Limited data resulted in reports that were not useful for managing highway transportation routes. Still, the audit found enormous potential in this GPS program. If the Postal Service expanded it and data were captured and reported properly, it would provide the Postal Service with actionable reports that could include enhanced data analytics, real-time alerts, and fuel analysis and route optimization information. GPS data-based reports could be indicators of efficiency improvements, as well as potentially fraudulent activity. Further, the Postal Service could integrate this GPS program with its other mail visibility technologies, such as IMb and the surface visibility program, to enhance total mail visibility, which the Postal Service has cited as a priority and “essential to transforming the business.” The key, however, would be to ensure adequate supplier compliance. Further, integration of the various visibility programs would have to be seamless and cost-effective. What would be the best way to integrate the various visibility technologies? Would extending the GPS program to more surface transportation routes be a logical next step? Are there other technologies that should be considered to close some of the visibility gaps?
on Sep 24th, 2012
in Delivery & Collection
| 3 comments
The U.S. Postal Service recently reported that its third quarter delivery service performance results marked “all-time record service performance” across all mail categories. In particular, the Postal Service had significant improvement in delivery performance for its commercial mail products in First Class and Standard Mail. Periodicals’ on-time performance topped 80 percent for the first time since 2010, a major improvement over the 46 percent score from earlier this year. The improved service performance in the third quarter occurred while the Postal Service was in the process of consolidating 46 facilities, which some mailers feared would affect service. But initial reports suggest service has not been overtly disrupted by the consolidations, although the real test could come during the fall and holiday mailing seasons. The Postal Service recently completed this first phase of its network rationalization plan, and is now on a break from consolidation until 2013 after the election season. Postal officials have attributed the improvement in service performance to diagnostic tools that show “pinch points” and help managers to act on that information to reduce cycle times. The Intelligent Mail Barcode full-service data, which identifies many potential problems, is also helping and employees are doing outstanding work often under difficult circumstances. It will be important for the Postal Service to maintain strong service performance as volumes pick up during the fall mailing season and election mail is added to the mix. Further, the second phase of consolidations could begin in February 2013 and could have an impact on service. Finally, mailers report that they are not solely concerned with service scores but that the Postal Service delivers the mail as promised. What has been your experience with service over the past few months? Have you been affected by the consolidations? Are you concerned about phase two of the network consolidation plan?
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