Postal Service Finds Bundles of Trouble

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Postal Service is working with mailers to correct problems with bundle preparation, according to speakers yesterday at the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee quarterly meeting.


A bundle is a group of presorted, flat-sized addressed mail pieces that a mailer assembles and secures with banding, shrink-wrap or both. Banding could include plastic bands, rubber bands or string.


Because of handling and jostling during transportation and processing, the USPS is having issues with bundling. In July, it distributed pamphlets and posters on how to make "The Perfect Bundle." Tips included ensuring that individual bundles don't exceed 20 pounds; bundles thicker than 1 inch must be double-banded or shrink-wrapped; and banding must be tight enough to keep minimal pieces from slipping out.


Results of a recent bundle breakage study at 127 sites were presented by Bob Fisher, USPS manager of service performance improvement. The study found that:


· Shrink-wrapping accounts for more than 28 percent of the bundling problem but is used on less than 20 percent of bundles.


· Plastic straps account for 26 percent of the problem but are used on more than 80 percent of bundles.


· String and rubber bands account for 30 percent of the problem but are used to secure only 10 percent of bundles.


· More attention must be given to securing methods on bundles with glossy pieces.


· The largest customers account for more than 50 percent of reported problems.


· Of the identified problems, bundles in sacks account for more than 50 percent of the problem.


· Address block obstruction is problematic and will be addressed with the upcoming bundle address visibility final rule.


Also announced at MTAC:


· Two new work groups will look at address quality and accuracy tools. Both are expected to complete their work by March 31. Work groups, consisting of postal executives and business leaders, study specific postal issues and work to create better processes.


· The postal service's FAST system is to be fully deployed by mid-November, according to Quebecor World Logistics executive Anita Pursley. The Facility Access and Shipment Tracking system replaces the Drop Shipment Appointment System. FAST aims to simplify scheduling and let customers provide detailed information about their appointments. The phased deployment began with the New York metro area July 11. Currently, 128 active facilities use FAST, and 9,000 appointments have been scheduled.


Postal officials also discussed testing of the PostalOne/FAST scheduler Web services. This is for corporations that are ready to move beyond online scheduling to electronic submission of appointments using Web services. Companies that have completed testing include Harte-Hanks, Quebecor World Logistics and R.R. Donnelley Logistics. Companies in the process include ALDG Worldwide Logistics, Arandell, Farrington, Mystic Logistics and Quad Graphics.


Outside of the MTAC meeting, George Hurst, USPS manager of direct mail, said yesterday that 600 consumers already have signed up for the postal service's new Premium Forwarding Service. This month the USPS began a two-year test of the service, which ships mail weekly to residential customers who are away from their main address for at least two weeks and up to one year, such as those who own seasonal residences.


Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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