Most likely, any business that produces frequent mailings has already heard about the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb). The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been developing and phasing in the use of Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMb) for almost a decade now. As part of this long-term phase-in program, for the last two years mailers have been able to use either Basic level IMb or the more advanced and functional Full-Service IMb in order to qualify for discounted automation postage rates. As of January 26, 2014, the plan was for mailers to have fully deployed Full-Service IMb or lose their automation rate discounts. However, that has changed with the Postal Regulatory Commission's (PRC) recent ruling.

According to the PRC, the implementation of Full-Service IMb requirements constitutes a rate increase. Due to this ruling, the USPS has delayed the January 26 implementation mandate. What this means is that mailers who are currently receiving automation price discounts today by complying with Basic IMB requirements will continue to receive the same price discounts after January 26, 2014.

Good news or bad news? It depends.
Is this good news or bad news? Most likely, it depends on where you are in the process of implementing Full-Service IMb. If you are handling your mailings in-house, a Basic IMB system can be established without much difficulty using the information and tools most mailers already possess. Full-Service IMb, however, requires more attention. To implement, a mailer must register with the USPS, and submit their paperwork electronically using Mail.dat, Mail.xml or Postal Wizard. They must obtain and use Mailer IDs for their customers in order to complete the BY/FOR relationship for all mail. Tray tags and pallet labels must meet the IMb requirements, and their serial numbers must remain unique for 45 days.

The USPS is promoting use of the Intelligent Mail barcode because it expands the ability to track individual mailpieces and provides greater visibility into the mail stream. While implementing IMb does require commitment, the benefits gained are worth the effort, including:
· A greater overall data capacity than existing postal barcodes
· Providing mailers with more digits for their use, allowing for unique identification of up to one billion mail pieces per mailing
· More accurate and detailed information about mailings which can enable better decision-making.
· Increases mailpiece "real estate"❠by eliminating the need for multiple barcodes
· Allows for participation in multiple USPS service programs with a single barcode

So it would appear that the good news in this delay is that if you haven't started the process of getting your Full-Service certification, you still have time. To find out more, talk to your software vendor or your mailing service provider or go tothe USPS RIBBS website ( where you will find a plethora of information on Full-Service IMb and how to qualify. Implementing Full-Service IMb provides a savings of $3.00 for every 1,000 First Class letters, cards and flats that meet IMb standards, and a $1.00 discount per every 1,000 periodicals, bound printed matter and similar items. While this may not sound significant, if you send out First Class pieces every month, the savings -- or losses -- quickly add up.

Harry Stephens is President/CEO and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation's largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Major Mailers Association (MMA), PCC Advisory Committee (PCCAC), and the Board of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC). He is a board member of The Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Transactional and Direct Mail Marketing service bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups. You can contact Harry Stephens at