Jim Cochrane is the self-described "evangelist for collaboration" for the United States Postal Service. The vice president for Product Information is on a mission. He wants the Postal Service and the mailing industry to work together to make the mail 100% visible by 2014.

That means customers will know in real time where their mail or packages are in the postal network and precisely when they're delivered. He said the Postal Service is now testing new scanners for use by letter carriers that will capture and transmit data in real time.

To meet the goal of 100% visibility, Cochrane told an audience of mailers at the National Postal Forum (NPF) they must "embrace the future" and universally adopt the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb). He said the ending of POSTNET as of January 2013 is the next step in the transition to 100 percent visibility for packages and the mail.
Using IMb will allow USPS and the mailing industry to "use information and technology to build value in the mail."
In January 2009, the Postal Service offered the mailing industry two Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) options for automation discounts. The options included the "Full-Service option", requiring unique IMbs, and the "basic" IMb option, which does not require unique barcodes. Currently, a large number of mailers are using the Full-Service and basic IMb and enjoy the additional benefits and value of using these options.

As part of the continuing evolution of data visibility, the Postal Service is planning to move to the Full-Service Intelligent Mail option to qualify for any automation letter, postcard, and flat prices, effective January 2014. Only Full-Service mailpieces would be eligible for automation pricing.

"With Full-Service, visibility into the flow of mail throughout the postal network will be improved," said Cochrane.
Cochrane said the IMb already is being used to dramatically improve service performance through scanning. He said packages routinely receive up to 10 scanning events as they pass through the USPS network and the Postal Service wants to provide similar visibility to letters and flats.

Mailers can make good use of real-time tracking of all mail to add value to their products, Cochrane said. He's mapped a strategy for 100 percent visibility that will benefit major mailers, small and medium businesses and consumers. Not only will service improve, he explained, customers also can use technology to create marketing campaigns based on the data they'll receive using the IMb.

Full-Service Intelligent Mail offers a number of advantages to mailers. These advantages include:
· Unique barcodes enable the Postal Service to provide mailers with comprehensive information on the status of mailings as they progress through the postal system. This includes the date and time of receipt by the Postal Service, handling of containers and trays, and piece scans as individual pieces are sorted on postal equipment.
· Visibility allows mailers to more effectively respond to customer inquiries on the status of valuable bills, statements, catalogs and publications.
· Full-Service mailings receive access to free address change information and tracking information from mail entry to final destination.
· Waiver of annual mailing fees for permits where all postage statements contain 90% or more Full-Service pieces.
· Using Intelligent Mail barcodes and eDocumentation will provide access to eInduction, a streamlined mail acceptance process that eliminates the need for paper documents such as PS Form 8125.
· Seamless acceptance, an automated verification process, will provide Full-Service mailers efficiencies across the supply chain, preparation and payment flexibility and standardized acceptance and verification processes.
The Postal Service is working with mailers, software providers, and mail service providers to help them make the transition to Full-Service by January 2014. The Postal Service has created the Intelligent Mail Small Business (IMsb) tool, which creates Intelligent Mail barcodes on outgoing mailings.

The Postal Service also is testing "Mail Anywhere," allowing mailers that make the transition to Full-Service to use the same permit to mail from any location in the country.

"Embrace new technology and work together with us to improve bottom lines," Cochrane said. "Full-Service Intelligent Mail makes good business sense."