As if increased competition, liberalization and declining mail volumes were not enough, the global economic crisis has put an extra strain on the postal industry. Current economic conditions are affecting posts in all regions of the world. Today, more than ever, posts are looking to minimize costs and improve efficiencies at all stages of mail processing. One way is to reduce the cost of automation by relying on smaller suppliers that often come up with more efficient solutions than larger vendors. In fact, many solutions offered by large suppliers are based on, or include, software provided by small subcontractors. Until recently, purchasing from smaller vendors was not easy as suppliers provided integrated solutions that included both OCR and transport components. This resulted in the tight integration of sorting equipment and OCR module(s), hampering the replacement or updating of one of the components independently. Since the introduction of the OCR/Video Coding Systems (OCR/VCS) open interface standard by the European Committee for Standardization this is no longer the case. The OCR/VCS standard enables postal operators to work with different suppliers for needed replacements or expansions of sub-systems without incurring significant engineering costs.

The opportunity to be more selective and demanding when choosing OCRs, enables postal operators to rely on universal OCR technology that is comparatively less expensive to customize and more easily adapted to country-specific address formats and coding rules. It also helps postal operators to unify efforts across different types of mail streams-letters, flats and parcels. In this case, the savings received from the reduction of labor on a combined mail volume help to justify OCR improvement projects.

Mail automation systems process every mail piece with the highest efficiency, whether the addresses are machine-printed or handwritten. And although automated address reading has achieved a very high level of recognition and accuracy in recent years with read rates of more than 90 percent of letter mail, there is still a portion of addresses that are not sufficiently recognized and, therefore, need to be entered manually. Since the automated mail-sorting environment is driven by speed, recognition rates and accuracy, the remaining manual entry operations have to be in step with the standards of the automated processes. The only way to make the manual stage as efficient as the automated sorting process is to equip operators with advanced keying tools that minimize the amount of keyboard interaction and reduce potential typing errors.

Modern video coding systems are robust, easy-to-use and can be readily configured to meet application and country-specific requirements. They are designed to resolve sloppily or illegibly entered information, not recognized by automated address recognition and interpretation systems. OCR/VCS systems improve keying performance, regardless of operator skills, by allowing operators to read real-time sorting information while manually typing updates based on optional address-interpretation hints and auto-fill options. With the use of contextual information, such as databases and preliminary OCR results, address data entry performance and accuracy are significantly improved. Furthermore, OCR/VCS systems can be deployed locally or remotely, enabling posts to be flexible and increasing the efficiency of the utilization of personnel resources, which can further reduce costs. Finally, postal operators are allowed to implement video coding modules independently from other components, resulting in fast deployment and low implementation costs.

Given the current economic situation, posts must cut costs wherever possible and be especially selective on choosing only new projects that guarantee the highest possible efficiency in mail processing. Modern video coding systems optimize the processing of addresses unrecognized by automated address interpretation systems, minimizing the costs and errors associated with manual data entry and aligning the performance of operators with that of other mail automation processes.

With over 25 years of corporate strategy and sales management experience, Mr. Buck has led new product development, created business venture opportunities and managed national sales teams. His expertise encompasses a variety of industries including: government, financial, retail, telecommunications and utilities. As vice president for business development at Parascript, Mr. Buck is responsible for augmenting business growth and leading new partner development efforts. He can be reached at