Mail Verifier Plus Product Article


    It started with MERLIN, mailpiece inspection technology that was added to in-house United States Postal Service operations to determine mailings' compliance with DMM specificationsthus ensuring in-line automation compatibility, smooth downstream deliverability, and (not coincidentally) reduced postage rates.


    Then came the Envelope Reflectance Meter (ERM), a sampling tool that also uses DMM standards to measure key aspects of individual mailpieces. Operated by a local USPS Mailpiece Design Analyst, an ERM helps a mailer proactively target barcode issues, or printing and paper reflectance problems, that might eventually impede a mailing's path to MERLIN acceptance. The mailer just has to bring a paper sample or mailpiece to the nearest MDA equipped with that technology to learn whether that future mailing is likely to pass MERLIN; if it isn't, the mailer can go back to their shop and make any necessary adjustments prescribed by the ERM inspectionsometimes just minor tweaksbefore the job is completed and leaves the facility.


    From in-plant USPS facilities to Postal Service front offices: the next logical step could only be a device mailers could own and operate themselves. Enter the Mail Verifier Plus (MVP), a desktop resource developed by BÖWE BELL + HOWELL (creators of the ERM, and of MERLIN itself) and recently released to the commercial mailing and print-to-mail markets by BCC Software, a BBH company. The MVP provides the same functionality as the ERM, with a crucial difference: the unit resides in the mail house, not the Post Office, putting the early-warning technology where it can potentially do the most good.


    Slightly larger than a shoebox and powered by standard household current, the Mail Verifier Plus houses a high-resolution digital camera that captures the image of a supplied mailpiece, and GUI software (easily installed on any equipped PC outfitted with Windows XP) that finds and reads postal barcodes within the image field while analyzing the print-versus-mailpiece contrast ratios that must fall within specific ranges in order to pass a MERLIN inspection. (Physical barcode characteristics, such as the distance between the bars and their printed angles on the piece, are also examined.) Data are preserved in individual reports which, along with the images themselves, may be saved to the host PC for future reference, or printed and deleted.


    As the USPS increasingly turns to automation as a savings driver, and barcodes (especially the complex but useful Intelligent Mail code that will be required beginning in 2009) become the linchpin of any automation-friendly operation, easier and earlier access to postal evaluation standards will be more and more vital, says Jim Mann, BCC's Vice President of Customer Support. "Postal costs keep rising, and mailers can no longer afford to assume they've done all they can to ensure maximum economy," he says.


    At the recent 2007 Graph Expo, where BCC launched the product, sample mailpieces from various attending vendors were collected to test the quality of random barcodes. All but one of the dozen-odd samples were determined unlikely to pass MERLIN. Of these, at least one simply required an in-line adjustment, made possible by the diagnostic report from the MVP.


    Mann points out that the next-generation Intelligent Mail barcode raises the barcode-analysis stakes: unlike POSTNET codes that could be visually interpreted by experienced mailers, the newest barcode solution is far more complex. "Without the right tools, It's easy to miss errors in an Intelligent Mail barcode," he says. "The MVP can't categorically guarantee that a mailing will pass MERLINtoo many other variables are involvedbut by using the exact same barcode and reflectance specifications as the DMM itself, it can give an advance idea of whether correctable issues are present.


    "These days, that can make a big difference."


    For more information, visit or contact BCC Software at (800) 453-3130 or