USPS, Mailers Target Automated Flat Mail Guidelines for May

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Postal Service and several major mailers said yesterday they expect to issue a set of guidelines for automated flat mail by May. The announcement was made at the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.

The guidelines were requested because major printers and flat mailers said the USPS' machines are ripping the covers off heavier saddle-stitched, glossy cover catalogs and magazines.

George T. Hurst, flat-mail manager at USPS, sees three benefits from the guidelines: to minimize damage, maximize throughput and reduce sorting errors.

Hurst said an ideal flat mail piece would include: a thickness of just under 1/2 inch, cover material that is resistant to tearing and is not high gloss, and a limited amount of bound pieces, such as blow-in cards.

However, he made it clear that these guidelines are not designed to become standards.

"We are not going to tell anyone how much variation or lacquer they can have on a cover," he said. "We are just trying to specify" the best design elements.

Joyce McGarvey, distribution director at Crain Communications Inc. and a participant in the group, said a lot of the guideline ideas are controversial.

"In the periodical industry, blow-in sub cards are one of our biggest generators of subscriptions, yet the operations people would prefer not to see those and run them on their machines," she said. "We are going to do our best to come up with guidelines."

Other mailers working on the guidelines include Valassis, Time Inc., AARP Publications, Publishers Clearing House and L.L. Bean.

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