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Aug. 24 2012 09:30 AM

Window Book Postal Concierge--In January 2013 the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) will "sunset" the POSTNET barcode, the PLANET code barcode, and will no longer support the Intelligent Mail Range record (IMR) file in the Mail.dat® file set. The elimination of the POSTNET barcode was previously announced several months ago, and will be effective in January 2013. This change is to pave the way for more universal use by mailers of the Intelligent Mail® barcode. Along with that transition, the PLANET code barcode is also being eliminated for the purpose of tracking mail; again because the Intelligent Mail barcode will be taking the place of the separate PLANET code for mail tracking. The IMR file within the Mail.dat file set is being eliminated in favor of other files that include more detailed information (i.e., the PDR and PBC files).

Barcode transition
While the POSTNET and PLANET code barcodes are being discontinued by the USPS as a means to obtain automation discounts and track mail, respectively, that does not mean mail printed with these barcodes will no longer be accepted by the USPS. However, mailers need to be aware that effective January 2013, mail printed with the POSTNET barcode will no longer be eligible for automation discounts. These discounts can be quite substantial, so mailers should be working NOW to convert to using Intelligent Mail barcodes. Although uniqueness of barcodes is not required for Intelligent Mail Basic Service, we encourage mailers to make plans to incorporate unique mailpiece ID's right from the start, since that is a requirement of Full Service.

Also effective January 2013, mail pieces printed with PLANET codes will no longer receive mail tracking information. Again, mailers should be working NOW to get these pieces printed with Intelligent Mail barcodes rather than the PLANET codes. Keep in mind that the mail tracking data provided by the Intelligent Mail barcodes can be voluminous and not very user-friendly. Most mailers need to have a custom-programmed interface to accept and interpret this data from the USPS, or contract with a third-party service provider to perform this service for them.

IMR file transition
Mailers who use Mail.dat files should be checking NOW with their presort providers to determine whether the IMR file is currently being created as part of the Mail.dat file set. If it is, these mailers should be working with their presort providers to determine which of the acceptable alternative files in the Mail.dat spec will work best for their operation. Likewise, any mailers using post-presort software, such as DAT-MAIL or Tagmaster, should make plans to incorporate the replacement file format into their internal processes and also to submit some of these new Mail.dat file sets to PostalOne! using the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM) for testing.

Since the January 2013 deadline for these items is just around the corner, we strongly encourage mailers to be working on these transitions as soon as possible so that you are not left scrambling at the last minute. Keep in mind that this timeline coincides with the USPS price changes, so there will already be software and process changes down to the last minute without adding these transitions to the mix. Additional information on the barcode transitions can be accessed on the USPS RIBBS web site. Information on the IMR files can be accessed on the IDEAlliance® web site in the Mail.dat specifications.