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IS THIS THE END OF THE POSTAL PAPER TRAIL?

Jun 29, 2001 12:00 AM


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Catalogers traditionally have sent to either the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) or their printers paperwork detailing the content, weight, permit number, and other information for every pallet of catalog mail they send out. Happily, those days may soon be over.
In April, the USPS launched the first phase of PostalOne, a suite of online services that allow mailers to electronically streamline catalogs into the mail system. Mailers or their printers can use the PostalOne Website to report on and make reservations for drop-shipping catalogs into destination sectional center facilities (SCFs) and bulk mail centers (BMCs).
The next phase of PostalOne will allow for electronic postage payments. It is scheduled to begin beta testing in June with rollout expected in September--pending approval in May from the USPS Board of Governors. The e-payment capability will let mailers download estimated postage summary data, postage statements for particular mailings, running total of postage statement activity, and a reconciliation of the data at the end of a mailing.
Also in the second phase of PostalOne, catalogers will be able to track the progress of their mailings throughout the postal mailstream electronically, says Frank Montague, program manager for PostalOne at catalog printer R.R. Donnelley. This capability works in conjunction with the USPS's Confirm program, which is being developed under the PostalOne umbrella.
"From its electronic summary through PostalOne, the USPS is going to be able to look at any container or pallet of catalogs and see when it got delivered to the BMC or the SCF," Montegue says. "But first, the USPS is going to want to have everything in place so Confirm can work within PostalOne."
"The paperwork and time management savings is huge for mailers and the Postal Service," says Larry Goodman, manager of business customer support for the USPS marketing technology and channel management unit. Goodman can't estimate how much catalogers will save, since the figures depend on the size and frequency of their mailings. But he says the USPS can save upward of $500 million a year by clearing space in mailing facilities from paper storage alone.
Catalogers that plan to use PostalOne directly (rather than via their printers) need to have the USPS Rates and Classifications Service Center certify the software that calculates the total weight of their mailing. USPS auditors will periodically review copies of mailers' software to be sure they are weighing the mailings. From Catalog Age, May 2001. For more info, visit www.catalogagemag.com.