• on Feb 18th, 2013 in Pricing & Rates | 6 comments

    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 Dec 20th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 1 comment
    The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) requires the Postal Service to measure service performance and report to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). The PAEA directs that external measurement systems be used for evaluating the Postal Service’s mail delivery performance unless alternate systems have been approved by the PRC. The PRC reviews this data to ensure that delivery performance does not deteriorate under the current rate setting process and to assess customer satisfaction. The Postal Service has approval to use a hybrid measurement system for bulk presorted First-Class and Standard Mail® relying on Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) scans to measure arrival at postal facilities (start the clock) and a network of external reporters who record delivery times. The PRC has expressed concern about the accuracy of start-the-clock recordings, noting that Postal Service’s start-the-clock event was based on the first read on mail processing equipment rather than on the documented arrival time. Given limited data availability, the PRC also expressed concern that the IMb service delivery performance measurement is not representative of all presort First-Class and Standard mail. They also recommended the Postal Service continue to work to correct service problems. The Postal Service implemented full-service IMb mailer certification procedures to ensure that mailings meet appropriate business rules. However, this certification process is not mandatory. Do you think that the mailer certification procedures will increase the availability and accuracy of start-the-clock data? Have you experienced problems with the certification procedures? Are there other steps the Postal Service can take to ensure the reliability of IMb-based service performance data? You are also invited to comment on this topic on our Audit Project Pages. The topic is hosted by the Office of Audit Cost, Revenue, and Rates team.
  • on Oct 11th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 7 comments
    PostalOne!® is a web-based system designed to facilitate business mail processing and allows the Postal Service to electronically collaborate with business mail customers. It is also used to streamline the mail acceptance and postage payment process. Mailers can either submit a paper postage statement (a summary of items mailed showing postage) or use one of three electronic formats. •Mail.dat® •Mail.XML •Postal Statement Wizard (PSW). Mailers may qualify for Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) discounts when they submit postage statements electronically using Mail.dat or Mail.XML. The Mail.XML submission method supports near real time validation of mailing data as well as compatibility with current ecommerce technology. Mailers can also enter mailing information, such as type and quantity of items mailed into the PostalOne! system over the Internet using Postal Statement Wizard. Both Mail.dat and Mail.XML submissions have increased in recent years. In June 2010, over half of all postage statements were submitted electronically, and of those, 89% were submitted using Mail.dat. That’s a sharp contrast from the beginning of the fiscal year, when 78% of business mail postage statements were submitted in hardcopy format. While electronic postage statement processing is a promising tool for making the Postal Service more efficient, it still faces issues: Does the cost of mailer software development and upgrade offset IMb discounts? Are rejected electronic postage statement files processed timely? Does it help the Postal Service to collect all its revenue? What do you think of businesses submitting and postal employees accepting business mail postage statements electronically? Is electronic postage statement submission a boon or a bust? More information on this project can be found on our Audit Projects page. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Cost, Revenue & Rates audit team.