Feb. 4 2011 02:33 PM

A key driver for the Intelligent Mail initiatives started with the need for the USPS to provide Service Performance Measurement data as part of its obligation under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA).

Since 1990, the USPS has measured its delivery success by using a unique system known as the External First-Class Mail measurement system (EXFC). EXFC is an external sampling system measuring the time it takes from the deposit of mail into a collection box or lobby chute until it's delivered to a home or business. This process measured the delivery timing of blue box mail but not business mail, which is a requirement of PAEA.

At the November 2010 Mailers Technical Advisory Meeting (MTAC), the USPS provided an update on the progress of Intelligent Mail for Service Performance Measurement but reported that only 20-25% of the Full Service volume is being measured. A significantly high percentage of Full-Service Intelligent Mail is not included in Service Measurement due to errors - both from the USPS and mailers.

Of 357,168 full-service containers submitted, only 137,065 containers could be used for the Service Performance Measurement due to errors. The USPS is working internally and with mailers to address the errors identified. For mailers, they are encouraged to review their Microstrategy reports to ensure that their mailings are meeting all compliance requirements.

While the USPS delayed the implementation of the IMb Full-Service Discount Remover beyond the planned date of January 2, 2011, mailers are still encouraged to plan for its implementation. In November of 2010, the USPS updated PostalOne! to audit all mailings and, via the Microstrategy report provided to mailers, reflect any deficiencies and what the resulting discount loss would be. 

Don't Lose Your Discount
At some point in the not too distant future, the USPS will be removing full-service discounts for errors in the following areas:
Unique Barcodes
Mailer ID
Service Type Identifier

If a mailing fails the audit, any full-service discounts taken for the pieces that failed would be disallowed. This could be significant if the failure is at the pallet level.

Mailers are encouraged to review their current processes to ensure their mail is compliant. In some cases, it may be appropriate to build "checking" into assignment processes - for example, to be able to detect whether duplicate sequence numbers have been assigned.

IMb adoption continues to grow, and as of November, 2010, there were 1,033 mailers in the on-boarding process, with over 700 of these being full-service applications. Related, there were 602 customers that completed the on-boarding process and were approved for production, with over 500 of these being full-service applications. In total, there were over 39 billion full-service mail pieces processed by early November.

Another recent announcement by the USPS is its intention to require an Intelligent Mail Package barcode (IMpb) on every package shipped domestically in the US. The proposed implementation is to have the IMpb as an option for mailers effective January 2011, but mandatory effective January 2012. As of the time this article was written, we are expecting a Proposed Notice to be published in December of 2010 with a 30 day comment period and a Final Notice to be published late Q1 or early Q2 of 2011.

On the creative side of things, the USPS has filed a Notice for a market test involving greeting cards. We reported previously that the USPS announced a program with Hallmark greeting cards where the IMb was being used as a means of postage payment. The newly filed Notice expands this offering to other greeting card producers. In short, the USPS will be paid $ .24 for every card sold with the IMb applied on the card envelope and another $ .24 once the card has been mailed and scanned by USPS' mail processing systems.

For additional information on IMb requirements or to take advantage of the free IMb webinars provided by the USPS, please visit the USPS's RIBBS web site at http://www.ribbs.usps.gov