Dec. 29 2006 12:09 PM

DMM A800 reads, "To qualify for automation rates, addresses must be sufficiently complete to enable matching to the current USPS ZIP+4 Product when used with current CASS-certified address matching software. Standardized address elements are not required. Any barcode as defined in C840 (describes postnet barcodes and defines the barcode location for letter-size and flat-size pieces. It also defines the dimensions, spacing, placement and reflectance standards for barcodes) that appears on a mailpiece claimed at an automation rate must be the correct barcode for the corresponding delivery address on the piece."


Those of us who have had our postnet barcodes verified by the USPS MERLIN machine have learned all about C840 some of us more costly than we'd hoped! And now industry is going to become very familiar with DMM A800!


Since January 17, 2004, when MERLIN began to verify addresses with "0000" and invalid "9999," we've learned not to feel so comfortable about our list hygiene practices just because we operate with CASS-certified software. Quality addressing techniques are like putting MERLIN-approved barcodes onto paper. There are many technical aspects related to the USPS' definition of a correct address which we will need to understand instead of sitting back assuming that all we need is CASS-certified software.


So, am I about to go back on the blood pressure medicine? I hope not! Having worked on the initial MERLIN Technical Advisory Group, TAG, followed by the MTAC MERLIN Workgroup and most recently co-chairing the two MTAC MERLIN workgroups that followed, I believe that the USPS will continue to work with the industry, as needed, to identify the concerns and work to develop communications, training and positive actions to reduce the reported 2.75% undeliverable-as-addressed mailpieces. While 2.75% is a small number, that relates to over 5.7 billion mailpieces!


I recently read an article that once again had MERLIN in the title. It reported that the MERLIN stigma related to the "inability of postal and industry partners to work together in the start-up period." After putting in almost three years of work with the USPS folks on the issues identified, I couldn't believe that statement. I've only seen the opposite. The USPS did and continues to work with the industry to improve the quality of mail. It's a difficult topic. A difficult task. And maybe not all aspects resolved as timely as hoped. However, progress has been made.


Let's take a look at the most recent progress with address activities. You should start looking at these issues yourselves and keep "dialed in" to your mailing associations, like Major Mailers Association, NAAD, PostCom, Association for Mail Electronic Enhancement and MFSA. Don't forget the industry publications. Ask yourself, "will I be able to meet C840 when MERLIN's ready to take a look at finest depth of code?"



  • What determines a deliverable address?



  • What is finest depth of code?



  • What are the hurdles standing in the way?



  • What are issues affecting delivery costs for the U. S. Postal Service?



  • What can we do to reduce UAA mail and avoid adding to the impending double-digit rate increase in January 2006 or before!




    Have you evaluated your CASS product usage? Are these products all installed and configured the same for your companies and departments? Are you in the situation where the person who installed the product and generated the business processes for using the tools is no longer employed? Do the current employees know why those processes were set up or why they should be followed?


    Check to make sure that you're not passing through any invalid ZIP+4 add-ons in your original list when using non-default settings. For example, if using the option in your Address Correction and Encoding solution to preserve the original ZIP+4, if it contains "0000" or "9999," it may get passed through.


    Are you looking at the reports and information from the MERLIN verifications now as they relate to addresses? Did you know you're supposed to be getting information that will show you "blatant errors either identical or sequential strings in the sector/segment and delivery point fields of the barcode?" This information is to be for the USPS and your diagnostic purposes only, and no postage assessment is to be made if these "errors" are identified.


  • MERLIN checks digit string for multiple mailpieces with identical +4 and delivery point add-ons. Analysis is based on both +4 and delivery point add-on for letters. Flats will be checked based on the barcode that appears on the piece, 9-digit or 11-digit.


  • MERLIN will check for barcodes that continuously increment or decrement within the sample. A minimum of 100 addresses must be read for the sample to be included. Both sector/segment and delivery point fields are  for letters. Flats are analyzed based upon the barcode that appears on the piece, either 9-digit or 11-digit.


    Now here comes the hard part. Defining what is an error. Are mailers not able to provide the "finest depth of code," or is MERLIN reading a "bag-bundle" sorting identifier as part of the address? What about fonts that have descending or ascending characters that touch the adjacent address lines? With the ability of the USPS sorting equipment to read handwritten addresses in the high 80% to low 90% range, should that be a concern when the barcode passes MERLIN? If the piece can't be delivered, I'd say yes! The carrier still has to ultimately deliver it.


    I see a major issue related to the font question. While the USPS and industry want to increase mail viability, I simply cannot imagine going to a mail owner and telling them they have to use OCR readable fonts just so the USPS can verify the quality of their mail. Be careful what you ask for... So, let me clarify, I am not recommending we go back a decade and start using OCR fonts!


    When will the USPS organize what has been called "MTAC MERLIN Address Verification Phase II Workgroup?" I'm estimating later this year after the USPS has worked with the data they are collecting now during the diagnostic phase of the digit string analysis. USPS HQ staff is also working closely with Address Management in Memphis on the quality address improvement concerns related to the software vendors and the CASS certification process.


    Since the fall of 2001, I've seen mailers take a "let's wait until it's here" approach to the barcode quality and mailpiece design. I even had a call this past month from someone who had listened to my National Postal Forum presentation and a Web seminar describing barcode placement, amazed about a failure he had when part of the barcode was too low on the piece. I'm recommending that we step this up a bit and get involved now to address those addresses.


    Wanda Senne is the director of Postal Development, for ACE Marketing, A World Marketing Company, located in Smyrna, Georgia. ACE is a full-service direct marketing company. ·


    Wanda has over 26 years of experience in Direct Marketing 20 of them with ACE. Her primary focus is establishing and maintaining ongoing communications between USPS and ACE. She develops and implements postal training programs for ACE and others who are involved with the mail and has presented at many National Postal Forums, Postal Customer Councils, for the DMA, IDEAlliance and MFSA.


    She is a member of the USPS Mailers Technical Advisory Committee to the Postmaster General, MTAC, The USPS Southeast/Southwest Area Focus Group Industry Co-Chair for Standard Mail, participates at PostCom Board Meetings, is a member of the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta PCC since 1991 and was a four year member of the National USPS PCC Advisory Committee.


    The USPS presented a Special Achievement Award to Wanda in 2002 at the Boston National Postal Forum and the Best in Class for Mail Effectiveness Award in 2003 for work on the Confirm Program. In 2001, The Mailers Award for Industry Leadership was presented to Wanda at the Greater Atlanta PCC Mail show. In 1997, Wanda received the USPS National PCC Industry Co-Chair Award. "I've been involved with the mail seems like all my life. My dad retired from the Post Office in 1971, and the only industry I've worked in has been print and mail. This business is very special to me, and one that I believe in because it works, and is a great advertising value for our clients."

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