*USPS Begins $10.1 Million IT Initiative

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The U.S. Postal Service will invest $10.1 million in information platform technology that will coordinate and report mailing activities for large, bulk mail customers through the Internet in real time.

The allotment for the project, PostalOne!, was approved at the U.S. Postal Service's monthly Board of Governors meeting in Miami yesterday.

The service's existing computerized data collection system provides important data a day after the fact; with PostalOne! the U.S. Postal Service will be able to provide information in real time.

"To keep service at levels they [our customers] deserve and expect, we must invest in information technology," said Postmaster General William J. Henderson. The USPS' ability to respond to customers' needs while continuing to provide record delivery performance hinges on investing in an information platform, Henderson said.

The benefit for both large bulk mailers and the USPS will be a significant reduction in paperwork, said Bob Anderson, a USPS media representative.

"PostalOne! is really designed to get rid of all the paperwork on the mail acceptance side," Anderson said. "It's a very labor intensive process for customers and for ourselves."

Through PostalOne! companies will be able to file all of their pre-delivery paperwork, such as rate requests electronically, Anderson said. The process has been tested with large customers like AT&T and Chase Manhattan Bank, but will expand to 50 bulk mailing customers over the next eight months.

The first phase will help determine the best software and hardware to run PostalOne! on, Anderson said.

Companies that mail 300,000 to 500,000 items per day with a 1,000 tray per day minimum will be included in the first phase, Anderson said.

The $10.1 million approval will fund the first phase of PostalOne! -- a comprehensive information system to support bulk mail acceptance, reporting, postage payment, transportation and data exchange. The project has three phases with the first including electronic documentation and information exchange. Electronic documentation will offer an online connection between the customer and the USPS to alert post offices or processing plants about what is being mailed and provide customers the convenience of filing their mailing documentation electronically.

The next two phases will integrate payment and transportation, but the USPS has not yet set a timetable for them, Anderson said.

The electronic information access will improve access to information customers may want about a mailing, such as the postage charged, dates shipped and the date a mailing arrives at an entry point. Customers will be able to access information through a secure Web connection.

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