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Jan 1, 2009 12:00 AM


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Elizabeth Lombard is the national postal-carrier manager with the Pitney Bowes' Learning and Performance group. We asked her to update our readers on the Intelligent Mail barcode, Move Update standard and other postal issues. For additional resources, see www.pbpostalinfo.com.

How would you define the Intelligent Mail barcode?

The Intelligent Mail barcode (formerly known as the 4-State Customer Barcode) is the next generation of USPS barcode technology used to sort and track letters and flats. It combines the capabilities of the POSTNET barcode (for routing mailpieces) and the PLANET Code barcode (for scanning and tracking inbound and outbound mail) into one unique barcode and also includes capabilities for Address Change Service, called OneCode ACS.

According to the August 2008 Federal Register, the USPS will implement the Basic and Full-service options of the Intelligent Mail barcode on May 11, 2009.

Pricing for POSTNET and basic Intelligent Mail barcode are expected to be set at the same price and will be announced in February 2009 to take effect on May 11, 2009. Pricing for the FULL-service option of the Intelligent Mail barcode will also be announced in February 2009 but will not take effect until the fall of 2009.

The POSTNET barcode will remain eligible for automation prices until May 2011.

Relative to reply mail, according to that August 2008 Federal Register, Qualified Business Reply Mail (QBRM) and Permit Reply Mail (PRM) will be required to use Intelligent Mail barcodes, including Mailer IDs, effective May 2010. BRM or Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) pieces will not be required to have Intelligent Mail barcodes until May, 2011.

What are some of the advantages of using the Intelligent Mail barcode vs. POSTNET?

While the POSTNET barcode essentially serves to route mailpieces, the Intelligent Mail barcode offers business mailers many additional benefits, such as reducing undeliverable as addressed mail with the OneCode ACS (Address Change Service).

The USPS hasn't clearly defined the pricing structure for automation mail with the Intelligent Mail barcode, but it does indicate that postage pricing for the Full Service option will be lower than that of the Basic option.

The Intelligent Mail barcode also enables mailers to have more visibility into the processing and delivery of their mailpieces. Using full-service Intelligent Mail barcode, the USPS will provide free “Start the Clock” information. At some point, Seamless Acceptance also will be available and will further reduce the mail processing time requirements of inducting the mail into the postal system.

Mailers will be able to track mail with end-to-end visibility using OneCode CONFIRM. Mailers will know when revenue-generating mailpieces have arrived, so that they can maximize marketing resources. For return and remittance mail, businesses will know when their customers have mailed payments. This can improve operational efficiencies.

What should buyers look for when evaluating addressing solutions?

Consider where the Intelligent Mail barcode will be integrated in the document creation process. Will it be upstream, during the composition or post-composition stage prior to jobs being released to production? Or will it be downstream, during pre-production and post-production, where mailers and printers turn data into documents and documents into mailpieces? Don't overlook other services to be used in conjunction with the Intelligent Mail barcode such as the OneCode ACS and OneCode CONFIRM.

What software updates or other tools might be required to print Intelligent Mail barcode?

If your client is providing you with the data already encoded for Intelligent Mail barcode, you would need the Intelligent Mail barcode font. If the client is providing you with the data that needs to be converted into the 65-bar format, you'd need encoding and font software. Additionally, if you are producing the Intelligent Mail barcode for your customers, you may want to have a 2-D barcode scanner to decode the barcode to ensure accuracy prior to a full print run.

Who is most likely to be impacted by Intelligent Mail barcodes?

Eventually, all mailers seeking automation-price discounts, regardless of their actual volumes, will be impacted by the Intelligent Mail barcode. A mailer or printer seeking the deepest postal discounts, low or no-cost address notifications, tracking capabilities and visibility into their mailings will benefit from the Intelligent Mail barcode.

What does Move Update compliance entail?

The Move Update standard is a means of reducing the number of mailpieces in a mailing that require forwarding or return by periodic matching of a mailer's address records with customer-filed change-of-address orders received and maintained by the Postal Service. The intent is to reduce the costs associated with the handling of undeliverable as addressed mail.

Effective November 23, 2008, the minimum frequency for Move Update will increase for commercial (nonautomation and automation) First-Class Mail mailers from 185 days to 95 days prior to the date of mailing and the Move Update standard will also be required for all Standard Mail.

The Move Update standard is met when an address used on a mailpiece in a mailing for any class of mail is updated with an approved method and the same address is used in a First-Class Mail or Standard Mail mailing within 95 days after the address has been updated. Except for mail bearing an alternative address format, such as “John Doe or current resident,” addresses used on all pieces claiming Standard Mail rates will be required to meet the Move Update standard.

Can you describe some of the USPS-approved Move Update methods?

Ancillary Service Endorsements allow the mailer to obtain, on request, the recipient's new (forwarding) address (if that recipient had filed a change-of-address order with the USPS) or the reason for nondelivery. Approved endorsements include Address Service Requested, Return Service Requested, temporary Return Service Requested and Change Service Requested (used with Address Change Service for First-Class Mail or as a stand-alone option for Standard Mail).

To complete the Move Update process, the mailer must make the address changes received as a result of the use of the approved ancillary service endorsement. It is recommended that mailers retain address correction records for up to two years.

Address Change Service (ACS) is a process for mailers to receive address changes electronically from the Postal Service to update their next mailing. Depending on the class of mail and the endorsement, mailers may also receive information on addresses that are undeliverable for reasons other than a customer move. There are two options: OneCode ACS using the Intelligent Mail barcode and a mailer ID, or ACS used with a participant code and an appropriate ancillary service endorsement. For either option, the “Address Service Requested” or “Change Service Requested” endorsements can be printed on First-Class Mail and are required for Standard Mail.

Like Ancillary Service Endorsements, to complete the Move Update process, the mailer must make the address changes received as a result of notifications and should retain address correction records for up to two years.

FASTforward Multiline Optical Character Reader (MLOCR) is a process that allows physical mail pieces to be updated against the USPS COA database. If a change of address is provided, the new address is printed directly on the mail piece. Presort companies, including Pitney Bowes PSI commonly offer FASTforward service.

Alternative methods are available for First-Class Mail mailers and require USPS approval. These include the 99% Accurate Method and the Legal Restriction Method. Mailers should work with their post office for these methods.

National Change of Address Linkage System (NCOALink) is an efficient pre-mailing method leveraging the most current USPS address information, including standardized and delivery point coded addresses, for matches made to the NCOALink file for individual, family, and business moves. Addresses are corrected before mail pieces are addressed and entered into the mailstream, maximizing the opportunity for a fast delivery of revenue-collection and revenue-generating mail pieces.

How can commercial printers/mailers work with their customers to get better lists?

Both should ensure that their customers are providing lists that have been validated for moves according to the USPS regulation. Or, commercial printers/mailers can provide enhanced value and service to their customers by offering an NCOALink solution such as Pitney Bowes VeriMove in conjunction with postal coding or sorting software (SmartMailer or AddressRight Pro) to maximize postal discounts and improve the overall quality of address lists.

What is the Intelligent Mail barcode?

The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMB) can uniquely identify every piece of mail entering the postal system, a first for the USPS. This technology will enable unprecedented visibility into the postal network for mailers and for the Postal Service itself. For example, the advanced barcode will enable mailers to track all outbound statements and inbound payments, greatly improving customer communications when there is a question about a bill or payment.

First introduced in 2006, the bar code largely has been a voluntary program for mailers. More than one billion pieces of mail have already been processed with the new technology, and, in 2009, the Postal Service is expected to make it a mandatory requirements for mailers who want to receive certain postal discounts.

For white papers and other information about the Intelligent Mail barcode, see www.pbpostalinfo.com.

What other postal issues are commercial printers confronting in 2009?

Effective in March of 2009, there are new addressing standards for commercial flat-size mailings, i.e., flat-size pieces sent at automation, presorted or carrier route prices for Periodicals, Standard Mail, Bound Printed Matter, Media Mail, Library Mail and First-Class Mail. With respect to the classes of mail mentioned, there will be font type and size requirements. For the classes noted, except First-Class Mail, there will also be address placement requirements. Specifically, for automation, presorted and carrier route Periodicals, Standard Mail, Bound Printed Matter, Media Mail and Library Mail flat-size pieces, the delivery address must be in the “top half” of the mailpiece. The address may appear on the front or back of a mailpiece (but must be on the side bearing postage, except for Periodicals), parallel or perpendicular to the top edge, but cannot be upside down (as read in relation to the top edge).

Also, effective May 2009, all automation flats require delivery point routing codes which currently are required for letters.

What's Move Update?

The USPS has announced its intention to expand the Move Update rules for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail. Currently, only First-Class Mail must use a USPS-approved Move Update method within 185 days prior to the mailing date on address lists to qualify for postage automation or nonautomation discounts. Under the new regulation, both First-Class Mail and Standard Mail must now have a USPS-approved move update method applied within 95 days prior to the date of the mailing. This doubles the amount of time for First-Class Mail and represents a significant change for Standard Mail.

For more information

Pitney Bowes offers the following white papers:

  • Are You Complying with the Move Update Requirement?
  • Preparing for the USPS Move Update Standard
  • Getting Smart About Intelligent Mail
  • Implementing the Intelligent Mail Barcode
  • Optimizing the Intelligent Mail Barcode

See www.pbpostalinfo.com.