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Many believe switching to Full Service Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb) has a bad reputation, but the truth is this: Many of the bugs will be worked out by the time you make the move for the 2014 deadline. If you are like most mailers, you are probably planning to make this transition sometime in the second-half of 2013. You can rest assured that in the vast majority of cases this will be the right time. First, you can count on your presort vendor or other resources to guide you through the process with instructions, tutorials, and webinars. Secondly, expect the application to do most, if not all, of the work for you. Lastly, the USPS® is working to streamline the process of verifying mailers for Full Service IMb.

Most early adopters of new technologies face hurdles, and the same is true of those who have moved to Full Service IMb. These early adopters have provided presort vendors and the USPS with important feedback on the issues they have faced in transitioning to Full Service IMb. Both the USPS and presort developers have used this input, and have worked to make the process easier from start to finish.

How does presort support your compliance with Full Service IMb? In simple terms it needs to do three things: (1) attach a unique ID to each mailpiece, (2) create unique container tags, and (3) create "electronic documentation" (eDoc) for submission to the USPS. By making the transition to IMb in 2013, the first thing is easy. Between now and 2014, as you switch to Full Service IMb, your barcode field will simply contain the unique digits required. As for container tags, you will be able to use the same stock as always. Running in Full Service mode you will create the right tags, but they will look a little different. The last item is where you may need to learn a few new steps if you haven't done eDoc before. Here you can count on numerous educational resources for assistance. The USPS is offering free tracing (i.e. tracking) information, but most mailers are setting that aside for now.

The USPS has a verification process called "TEM testing" to ensure that a mailer is ready to produce Full Service IMb mailings. This has been the most time consuming part of the transition to Full Service. For this reason, mailers have encouraged the USPS to streamline the verification process. The USPS has developed an Excel worksheet to submit for TEM testing. While it is still in testing, it will eventually make verification much easier. You fill out your information (organization name, contact, phone, etc), your presort application, and the types of mailings you are submitting. The worksheet immediately indicates your next steps to complete TEM testing. For most mailers, the worksheet will direct you to submit only one eDoc test job.

This overview of Full Service IMb transition will work for the vast majority of mailers, but does not cover every situation. Be sure to read your presort application documentation thoroughly for complete information. If your presort application has not made the process as easy as described here, you will likely want to consider reviewing your presort options.

You will receive many messages about meeting the 2014 Full Service IMb deadline in the coming months. Most will communicate urgency, and a few will make Full Service IMb sound very complex. The sense of urgency is your reminder to make a timely transition (you probably want to avoid the December 2013 last-minute rush). Those discussing complex Full Service are speaking to a small audience of mailers. In general, you can count on a wide variety of educational resources to do a great job guiding you through the process, and the USPS will support the industry by simplifying the Full Service IMb verification process.
Josh Evans, Lorton Data, can be reached at