The USPS will soon formally confirm the rumors of its POSTNET barcode retirement plans (if not announced already) to coincide with the January 2013 rate change. This means that mailers who use the POSTNET barcode on their mailings beyond the 2013 rate change will NOT receive automation rates. We also expect to learn that effective January 2014, the basic IMb will not qualify for full, if any, automation rates. This means that full-service IMb will be required to earn the highest discount beyond the January 2014 rate change. According to the USPS, the driver behind this continues to be that "full-service is essential."

A Look at the Numbers

Then maybe with the numbers I've bolded, bold them and make them a different color or something to stand out?

To understand why the USPS considers the full-service IMb essential, let's first start with the numbers. For 2011, the USPS stepped up its package tracking by implementing a package nesting solution at 62 sites, adding 4,000 ring scanners to over 200 plants and deploying 194 retrofits to its automated package bundle sorters. These upgrades culminated in more than 2.4 billion package tracking events in the past four months. Customers using USPS package services report that they are satisfied with the USPS scan data they are receiving. Considering that the USPS provided 1.2 billion package tracking events over the same period last year, this is an impressive achievement.

This increase in tracking and greater customer satisfaction has helped the USPS grow its package business. The change not only benefits package shippers, but more frequent scanning also helps the USPS measure throughput, perform a Pareto analysis of system failures, interrogate critical pair analysis, better understand missorts, and gauge transportation network effectiveness and adherence to operating plans and transportation. In essence, this helps the USPS to measure and improve their overall efficiency.

For letters and flats, the free ACS tracing data provided more than 10 billion piece-level automation scans in less than a month (January 7 to February 2). The USPS is now measuring work in process (WIP) on standard and periodical mail. These new WIP diagnostics allow the USPS to better understand mail flow through its processing network, and in theory, should serve as a great tool for minimizing disruptions or adverse impacts to mail flow during its network optimization effort. Plant managers can now log on to this new diagnostics tool every morning to identify any "at risk" mail in their plants.

The new tools currently provide standard reporting with some ad-hoc reporting and tools to perform queries and, in some cases, alerts. Continued enhancements will improve the current features, and add statistical analysis, forecasting, predictive modeling and optimization. The USPS will use this information to improve workload planning, processing and delivery efficiency, labor flexibility, service consistency and reliability.

While the benefits to the USPS are significant, the mailing community also benefits. At a time when the USPS is preparing for network optimization, the largest logistical project in its history, mailers should consider taking advantage of the tracking capabilities provided by full-service IMb Tracing. Mailers need to understand any impact on service delivery, so that considerations can be made as required.

In summary, we've been reporting for some time that the USPS would encourage full-service IMb adoption, as it means so much to their plans to improve their network. Now the USPS has shared both the dates and the justification. We can understand, given their financial situation, why the USPS will hold to the full-service IMb adoption dates. As a final note related to this topic, we expect the USPS to confirm full-service IMb is required for all future mail promotions beyond the recently announced mobile barcode planned for the summer of 2012.