Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode requirements are just around the corner. On January 26, 2014 the USPS will require unique Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes on mailpieces, containers, and electronic documentation in order to qualify for automation discounts. Mailers that are not ready to comply with the requirements, as posted in the Federal Register Notice (http://pe.usps.com/FederalRegisterNotices.asp) could be facing a 20% increase in their current postage in 2014. The automation discounted postage prices they are enjoying today could be lost.

Are you ready to submit to Full Service IMb? Perhaps the more appropriately worded question is: Are you ready to submit your electronic documentation (known as eDoc) as part of Full Service IMb compliance? For many mailers the answer may be "Not yet" or worse - "I don't know." The solution, once again, begins with your software provider and, thankfully, continues with a more streamlined onboarding process from the USPS.

The USPS PostalOne! system provides a new automated, streamlined alternative to the existing business mail acceptance process. This includes automated scheduling for drop ship appointments, improved mail induction, simplified mail acceptance, and electronic documentation and postage payment. PostalOne! is accessed through the USPS Business Customer Gateway (https://gateway.usps.com).

Your first use of the USPS Business Customer Gateway should begin with registering your Mailer ID (MID), as well as your own and your customer's Customer Registration IDs (CRID). Every company that is either a mail owner, or a mailing service provider, will need to have a CRID assigned. The MID, on the other hand, is primarily used to identify the mailing agent (usually the mailing service provider) who is preparing and inducting the mail. The MID is what is encoded into the Full Service IMb, with the CRIDs being associated to it through the electronic documentation.

For many mailers who are still preparing for Full Service IMb, registering all of their customers with the USPS and having a CRID assigned is still a daunting task. Thankfully, the USPS is continuing to improve the process by allowing CRIDs to be assigned via an improved batch process. Mailers can export a customer list from their software and upload the information to the Business Customer Gateway to expedite assigning the CRID. To avoid validation errors and headaches during upload, please make sure that the information such as contact name and addresses uploaded are complete, correct, and current.

The relationship between MID and CRID is important and is one of the requirements by the USPS in January for mailings of 5,000 pieces or more. The USPS is requiring disclosure via eDoc of the By/For relationship in preparing the mailing. Simply put, the USPS wants to know BY whom was this mailing prepared and FOR whom is it benefiting? Unless you are the mail owner and preparing mailings for yourself, you will likely have two or more CRIDS involved here that need to be associated back to the MID used in the Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode.

Once you have all of your MIDs, CRIDs, and IMb data strategies decided, the final step is deciding how you want to communicate electronically to the USPS via the PostalOne! site. There are three options to choose: Mail.dat, Mail.XML, and the Postage Statement Wizard. Each option has its advantages and keep in mind that Postage Statement Wizard is only available as an eDoc method for mailings less than 10,000 pieces.

Mail.dat and Mail.XML are industry standards developed and maintained by IDEAlliance for communicating postal preparation and payment data. Of the two, Mail.dat has been available longer, is more mature, can support larger and more complex sortation scenarios, such as comailings, and is more widely available in the commercial software products. However, Mail.XML is gaining popularity as it can handle bidirectional messaging, and is similar in its structure to other XML-based messaging languages.

The final step in preparing to submit eDoc to PostalOne! is the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM). Up until September of 2013, the USPS had required all mailing service providers to submit test files (Mail.dat or Mail.XML) to TEM in order to validate that they are preparing the data correctly. Fortunately, the USPS changed its position on this requirement, and is now relying upon TEM certified software products to carry the responsibility of ensuring the data is prepared correctly. This greatly improves the onboarding process for mailers who are using TEM certified software solutions.

Are you ready to submit? If you have any doubt of your ability to submit a Full Service mailing please make sure you review the vast amount of information about Intelligent Mail posted on RIBBS web page (http://ribbs.usps.gov) and work with your software provider and the USPS to ensure compliance. January 26, 2014 is quickly approaching and the new year should not start with losing your automation rates.