Informed Visibility (IV) was launched in early 2018 to provide near real-time reporting data within the mail stream for both the Postal Service and the mailing industry. The Postal Service’s ultimate goal is to provide all of our data needs through IV; the program will be the “end all, be all,” so to speak. As evidence, the Postal Service has already incorporated Mail Quality Data (MQD) reports into IV and is in the process of integrating with the Enterprise Payment System (EPS). The roadmap is quite extensive. So, let’s take a closer look at IV-Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV-MTR).

When the legacy IMb Tracing program was retired at the end of 2017, there were approximately 1,700 IMb Tracing customers. Today, the Postal Service has almost twice as many, with over 3,200 total IV-MTR users. Why such an increase in the number of users? One reason is that while IMb Tracing provided an average of 265 million scan events daily, IV-MTR provides over 1.5 billion scan events every single day.

IV-MTR provides almost real-time mail tracking data for First-Class, Periodicals, and Marketing Mail letters and flats. But are letters and flats the same value proposition? A customer recently said to me, “I gave up on tracking flats a long time ago.” There is no doubt that letter mail tracking results in higher scan rates, but the Postal Service is making strides in tracking flat mail, which makes it worth a second look. Closing the gaps in visibility is a primary objective to enhance the product offering.

Since IMb Tracing only tracked pieces, flat mail that never touched a piece of automation equipment had no visibility. Therefore, a carrier route bundle that traveled through the system without being opened until the carrier’s case was had no piece scans whatsoever. As a result, large volume co-mailed flat mailings, with a high enhanced carrier route or high-density concentration, experienced very low scan rates and provided little value to the mailer. No wonder many flat mailers simply gave up.

The IV-MTR Difference

What’s different about IV-MTR is that the application leverages the intelligence of Full-Service Intelligent Mail and nesting associations to create assumed handling events. Scan events are linked with a mailer’s electronic documentation (eDocs) so that a pallet scan, for example, correlates with the pieces on the pallet. The same holds true for bundles and sacks. This feature alone has provided significant improvements in the visibility of flat mailings.

The application also offers logical handling events, which provide you with an understanding of where your mail is without the need for a physical scan. For example, IV-MTR leverages GPS tracking information from carrier handheld scanners to create logical delivery events. Once a carrier enters a geofence, mailers have a greater confidence level regarding actual delivery to the mailbox.

In the not-too-distant future, new exciting features will be added, including predicted delivery dates (PDD), disruptive events indicators for weather- or disaster-related events, and scan events from ring scanners to add visibility into manual operations. As the Postal Service continues its focus on closing the visibility gaps, flat mailers will find more and more value in mail tracking.

Anita Pursley is the Senior Manager, Industry Affairs for BCC Software.

This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2019 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.