Problem Solver: Are you prepared for the biggest postal change in years?

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Problem Solver: Are you prepared for the biggest postal change in years?
Problem Solver: Are you prepared for the biggest postal change in years?

Beginning in late November 2009, mailers will be required to switch to full-service Intelligent Mail barcode (IMB) to qualify for greater U.S. Postal Service discounts. IMB offers a dynamic alternative to the extremely limited POSTNET barcode. As you prepare to make the switch to IMB, here are five tips to make sure you take advantage of IMB's benefits.

Take time to understand the requirements. Beginning in November, the USPS will implement the following updated requirements: Unique identification in Intelligent Mail barcodes on letters and flats; Intelligent Mail tray labels, with unique barcodes, used on trays and sacks; Intelligent Mail container placards, with unique barcodes, affixed on the outside of pallets and placed on containers (if the mail is containerized); and electronic postage statements and documentation (when documentation is required)

Mark important dates to know. Last month, two IMB service levels—basic and full-service—became available, but all full-service features and postage discounts do not become available until November 29. USPS is expected to eliminate automation discounts for the old POSTNET barcode in May 2011.

Get the most reduced rates. As of November, the greatest IMB postage discounts will be available through full-service only. And as part of the annual price adjustment announcement this year, the USPS will recommend to the Board of Governors that letters and flats requiring a barcode and mailed under the full-service option of Intelligent Mail pay lower automation prices in the fall of this year than pieces mailed under the basic option or with POSTNET barcodes.

Take advantage of free address correction. With the post-mailing OneCode ACS (Address Change Service) process, the USPS electronically captures move updates and immediately notifies you with address correction information and delivery point validation. This fully automated service greatly reduces the amount of resources required to identify the mailer. And as the IMB involves reading from a single barcode, it confers the benefit of increased accuracy and efficiency.

Free start-the-clock scan reports will be available. This system facilitates high-level tracking of your mailings with real-time, online access. The USPS will provide detailed reports for Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU), plant-load and drop ship mail, noting when verified mailings were entered into the USPS system or ready to be transported. As each individual mail piece is uniquely identified, this is especially helpful for tracking specific mail pieces as they flow through the system. It can also be used to gain other valuable information like address quality feedback.

Full-service IMB offers the ultimate win-win, with greater accuracy, control and visibility, all with reduced overall postal costs. But how well your business understands the unique requirements and advantages of this mandate, as well as manages its implementation, will prove essential to its budget as well as continued growth and success.

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