Saving money is a top priority for any business in today's economy. With the high volume of regular mailings that many businesses send out each month, it's not a surprise that effectively managing postage can be a significant source of cost-savings for a majority of organizations. The good news is that there are now significant automation discounts available from the United States Postal Service (USPS) through the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb).

While it is still OK to use the current POSTNET barcodes, they no longer qualify for the discounted automation rates on First Class statements, periodicals or standard mail. If your company or third-party service provider hasn't yet implemented the IMb system, you may be losing the benefits of these automation rates-now the lowest available for business mailers.

IMb service is now available in both Basic and Full-Service versions, with Full-Service gaining a savings of $3.00 for every 1,000 First Class letters, cards and flats that meet IMb standards, and a $1.00 discount per every 1,000 periodicals, bound printed matter and similar items. While this may not sound significant, when a business sends out tens or hundreds of thousands of First Class pieces every month, the savings-or losses-quickly add up.

Steps to implementation
The Intelligent Mail barcode is the result of the Postal Service's efforts to develop more robust capabilities for encoding more information, while minimizing the space used on the mailpiece. Benefits of the Intelligent Mail barcode include:
· A greater overall data capacity than existing postal barcodes.
· Providing mailers with more digits for their use, allowing for unique identification of up to one billion mailpieces per mailing.
· More accurate and detailed information about mailings which can enable better decision making.
· Increases mailpiece "real estate" by eliminating the need for multiple barcodes.
· Allows for participation in multiple USPS service programs with a single barcode.

The USPS offers detailed technical information about exactly how to design and define these barcodes for your credit union, as well as how to apply them in preparing your mailings. The booklet USPS Guide to Creating the Intelligent Mail® Barcode, available as a PDF download from the USPS website, gives a broad overview of the IMb system and identifies the steps for setting it up in your own mailroom.

Managing the change
IMb barcodes do demand a little more forethought and planning for optimal utilization. However, without a doubt, they will make mailing procedures quicker and more efficient for mailers seeking to achieve the best possible rates. The IMb system not only helps the USPS to streamline its own operations, it also delivers significant benefits by providing more accurate and detailed information for improved efficiency and accountability when it comes to your business mail.

Harry Stephens is President/CEO and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation's largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Major Mailers Association (MMA), PCC Advisory Committee (PCCAC), and the Board of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC). He is a board member of The Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Transactional and Direct Mail Marketing service bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups. You can contact Harry Stephens at