• 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 Feb 11th, 2013 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 7 comments

    The Postal Service is a leader among federal agencies in sustainability efforts. In 2009, it joined with 20 international postal operators to commit to a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, a goal it has made significant progress toward achieving. A major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is vehicle emissions. With the largest civilian fleet in the country – more than 213,000 vehicles – the Postal Service has both an enormous opportunity and an enormous challenge in reducing its fuel consumption. So far, the challenges have proved considerable. In its most recent sustainability report for fiscal year 2011, the Postal Service reported that while it met its sustainability goals in six categories, it did not reach its target for reducing petroleum fuel consumption in its own vehicles or in those used by contractors. A growing number of delivery points each year and an aging vehicle fleet have made it difficult for the Postal Service to reduce its petroleum use. Although the Postal Service has worked diligently towards its goal of using alternative fuels, real gains in energy efficiency will be limited until it can overhaul the fleet. Unless the Postal Service’s financial situation improves or it finds alternative methods for capital investment, it is not likely to replace its existing fleet of vehicles. This raises questions about the limitations on the Postal Service’s ability to reduce its petroleum fuel use and how it can best leverage alternative fuel options. How should the Postal Service achieve its fuel consumption goals when its financial situation is so dire? Should it suspend some of its sustainability efforts while tackling its larger financial and business model challenges? The Sustainability Report indicates that sustainability efforts make financial sense, with savings from reduced fuel use and new revenue from recycling products. Could the savings and revenues be used creatively to fund new energy-savings projects?

  • on Feb 4th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 2 comments

    The number of Postal Service patents has grown significantly in the past few decades, as have the patents for rival carriers FedEx and UPS. When compared to other industries, such as information technology and wireless communications, the Postal Service has not significantly leveraged its intellectual property or fully recognized the potential financial and strategic value of these assets. If the Postal Service considered the commercial significance of each of its patents and licensed its intellectual property, it might find a valuable source of significant revenue. A 2011 Office of Inspector General report found that the Postal Service has 329 global families of patents, which means each “family” of a patent may have a multiple number of U.S. and international patent documents. The study looked closely at three specific patents to assess the commercial significance of each patent, or the revenue that the Postal Service may be able to generate through licensing of the patent. Those three patents alone hold a commercial value of more than $18 million per year. The report concluded that the Postal Service did not manage its portfolio of patents to maximize commercial significance. However, some stakeholders have argued that the Postal Service is different from private industry, even if it is encouraged to act like a business. It is a public institution held in the public trust. In that sense, it belongs to the American people. Shouldn’t a public institution that belongs to the American people open up the technology and patents it has developed for the benefit of the national infrastructure? There is a risk that in licensing patents or holding proprietary technology, the Postal Service may stymie innovation in the public and private sectors. Some people have looked to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a model. Its idea to link computers into a national system eventually led to the development of the Internet. The key for the Postal Service is to build a strategy and let it guide decisions on how best to leverage intellectual property. The first step might be to have an active program that looks to generate as many intellectual property instruments as possible. Once the Postal Service owns and protects that property, it can determine whether the best approach is to license it, sue for infringement, or share it. Tell us what you think. Take our poll question and then go to the comment section to share what you think would be the best strategy for the Postal Service on intellectual property and patents.

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