Intelligent Mail® Dates
There are a number of key dates that mailers need to be aware of as they begin or continue implementing IMbTM services into their operations. These dates, established by the Postal ServiceTM, are major milestones in the IM integration process, so mailers need to prepare for them.

Intelligent Mail Discounts Implemented
The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) implemented discounts for Intelligent Mail Full-Service (IMFS) mail on November 29, 2009. It was on this date that mailers were first able to take advantage of the $.003 per piece discounts for First-Class Mail® and the $.001 per piece discounts for Periodical and Standard Mail®. Since that date, the USPS has processed over 15 billion pieces of IMFS mail from 384 approved mailer facilities, with new mailers qualifying for this service each day.

IM Non-compliance assessments
Effective November 7, 2010, the USPS will begin applying negative postage assessments on IMFS mailings that do not meet certain eDocs criteria or include drop ship containers not associated with FAST appointments. As noted in a recent e-Tip, this essentially provided mailers a year-long "grace period" to work through integration issues with the Intelligent Mail Full-Service option.

New PostalOne!® release
Also on November 7, 2010, the PostalOne! system will be updated with a new version. This will require mailers using PostalOne! to download the updated version of the Mail.dat Client software from the PostalOne! site. This will be the first update to the site since mid-May, due to the Sarbanes-Oxley lock-down on USPS changes during the audit period.

May 2011
May 2011 is a subject of confusion in the mailing industry. The USPS announced that as of May 2011, mailers will no longer be eligible for automation presort discounts when using the POSTNETTM barcode. At the same time, the PLANETTM barcode will be retired as a means to track mail. As of this date, mailers will be required to use the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) in order to be eligible for automation discounts. Mailers who desire mail tracking services will also need to use the IMb. This does NOT mean that mailings produced with POSTNET and/or PLANET barcodes will be rejected by the USPS. It simply means - as stated above - that those mailings will no longer be eligible for the automation discounts or for provision of mail tracking services.

Another misconception about the May 2011 date is that mailers will be required to submit eDocs for all mailings. This is not the case. eDocs are only required for IM Full-Service qualified mailings. This may change sometime in the future, after May 2011, so we strongly recommend you explore eDocs solutions as soon as possible.

What We Know For Sure
Regardless of the implementation dates discussed above, we highly recommend that mailers begin the IM integration process as soon as possible. It is inevitable that IM will be the method of choice to achieve the greatest level of discounts and services from the USPS. It is a complex process to convert from existing mailing processes to new ones, and the sooner you begin, the sooner you will be ready for the additional benefits offered by IMb services.
On another note, there will also be some Labeling List changes.
Labeling List Changes
The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced changes to the Labeling List data, effective June 17, 2010. The Labeling Lists affected are L001, L002, L003, L004, L005, L007, L008, L009, L011, L201, L606, and L607.
Use of Labeling List Data
The Labeling List data is used to define the specific destination information to be printed on sack labels, tray labels, and pallet labels. This destination information is used to route the mail inside the sacks, trays and pallets to the correct postal facility for processing. The destination information is based primarily on 3-digit ZIP CodeTM prefix, and varies based on the class of mail, processing category, and other criteria. Virtually all container labels are generated using computer software, which accesses this Labeling List data in a file format, operating much like a look-up table.

Why the changes?
There are many reasons why the USPS makes changes to the Labeling List data. Recently, many of the changes were made as a result of their efforts to consolidate processing facilities to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. Changes also take place when the USPS makes alterations to the service areas for certain processing facilities, which can be the result of shifts in population, mail volumes, staffing and many other reasons. Keep in mind that approximately 17% of the US population moves each year, and there are about 3,000 new delivery addresses added each day. So, there are lots of ZIP Code changes happening all the time!

Time for change
The USPS provides for a transition period when these changes are announced, to allow software vendors time to update their software and for mailers to use up existing labels. During this period, the USPS encourages mailers to use the new Labeling List data as soon as possible, but it is acceptable to use the old Labeling List data until the mandatory date. In the case of this most recent update, the mandatory date is August 19, 2010.

Handling Change
When these types of changes are announced, it is important for mailers to work with their software vendors and mail service providers to make sure that the changes are implemented on a timely basis. This is critical so that the correct destination information is populated into the Mail.dat® files, or any other files or printed documents that are used to process or submit postage statements (and other postal documentation) and to create sack, tray, and pallet labels. Keep in mind that the Labeling List changes involve not just the facility names, but the ZIP codes associated with those facilities. This affects the destination line on the tags and the mailpieces that are placed into the sacks, trays, and pallets. As such, these changes MUST be incorporated into the presort software first; if the data is incorrect during this process (and thus incorrect in the Mail.dat files), it cannot be corrected in Post-Presort software, such as DAT-MAILTM.
Automated Postal Data Updates System
As luck would have it, Window Book has an automated method to update the Labeling List information into your software. Once you have this FREE tool installed, you no longer have to remember to check for Labeling List updates, nor do you have to perform manual downloads because it will automatically be taken care of for you! You can just set it and forget it!