This article originally appeared in the May/June, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
Virtually every mailing operation, large or small, encounters the issue of how to handle loose sacks or trays of mail. Whether it is an entire mailing job that is just too small to meet the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) preparation requirements, or those few leftover sacks or trays from a large mailing, the issue is the same — how do you present these loose trays to the United States Postal Service (USPS) for processing? Luckily, the USPS understands that this is a common occurrence and allows for mailers to present these sacks and trays on pallets that do not meet the DMM minimum volume requirements. These pallets are commonly known as courtesy or convenience pallets.
So, how (and when) do mailers prepare courtesy pallets?
For mailers who produce very small-volume mailings, handling a few loose trays or sacks is usually not an issue. However, in larger mailing operations, these small-volume mailings, or the residual loose trays/sacks from large-volume mailings, can easily get lost or shuffled to the side and forgotten. By placing these loose trays/sacks onto a pallet, however, it is much easier to handle them from a logistics standpoint, and they are more likely to be processed using the same workflow as regular USPS sorted pallets.
Courtesy Pallet Preparation
Unlike USPS sorted pallets, which follow the DMM mail preparation requirements for the appropriate class of mail and processing category, courtesy pallets do not follow any DMM mail preparation requirements. In many cases, this means that the sacks or trays are simply placed onto pallets in the sequence that they are physically produced, without regard for destination ZIP Code or sortation level of the sack/tray. The destination line on the pallet placard in these cases would be the appropriate mixed destination information for the origin entry point, as indicated in the appropriate labeling lists for mixed mail. However, some software programs that create courtesy pallets attempt to closely approximate the DMM preparation requirements for the appropriate class of mail and processing category but disregard the minimum weight requirements. This is often the case when the mailing is being drop-shipped to additional entry points and the mailer wishes the loose trays/sacks to be included in the drop shipments. In these cases, the destination line on the pallet placards also follows the approximated DMM mail preparation requirements.
Regardless of whether your courtesy pallet preparation approximates DMM preparation requirements or is in simple production sequence, it is important that a placard be placed on these courtesy pallets. This placard should meet DMM requirements, and it should also include the appropriate Intelligent Mail container barcode.
Inclusion in eDoc
It is also important that mailers not create these courtesy pallets without including them in their eDoc submissions. This is critical so that the sacks and trays can be connected to the pallet information and that the appropriate nesting/sortation relationships are evident in the files submitted to PostalOne! As such, it really requires software to be able to properly generate these courtesy pallets, include the pallet data in the eDoc, and properly create the barcoded pallet placards.
Check with both your presort and post-presort software providers on the availability of courtesy pallet preparation in their software solutions. The USPS also has a guide (https://postalpro.usps.com/fullservicepallets) to assist mailers in determining when pallets MUST be prepared for Intelligent Mail Full-Service mailings. We recommend that mailers consult with their USPS acceptance staff before beginning to prepare courtesy pallets so that any acceptance issues can be avoided prior to going into production. Likewise, mailers should test submitting their Mail.dat files containing courtesy pallets using the Test Environment for Mailers (TEM) area of PostalOne! prior to going into production.
With over 20 years of innovative postal solutions that make using the Postal Service easier and more profitable for mailers and shippers, Jeff Peoples, Founder & CEO of Window Book, has done presentations at industry events, GraphExpo, MAILCOM, the National Postal Forum, Postal Customer Council meetings, Harvard Business Expert Forum, and other industry and direct marketing events.