USPS Phases Out Nine Remote-Encoding Centers

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The U.S. Postal Service recently announced plans to close nine of its 55 centers that automate the processing of handwritten and poorly-printed addresses by September 2000, because computers are now successfully reading an increasing percentage of handwritten addresses.


These Remote Encoding Centers are located throughout the United States and were chosen because of operating costs, facility costs, lease expiration dates and the ability of other RECs to absorb the workload. The first REC scheduled to close is in Hayward, CA, on Sept. 4. Other centers are in Knoxville, TN; Gary, IN; Nashua, NH; Jacksonville, FL; York, PA; Madisonville, KY; Newport News, VA; and Western Nassau, NY.


"Today, half of all REC image volume is sorted by computers," said John Rapp, USPS vice president of field operations support. "We can no longer afford to manage reduced REC work-hour requirements through attrition."


Rapp said that the Postal Service plans to continue to key images at the nine RECs until they close.


Before RECs were in existence, handwritten, poorly printed and illegible addresses were rejected by automated equipment and sorted by more expensive manual methods. In 1991, however, the first manual encoding computer terminals began providing an automated solution. Electronic images of handwritten mail are transmitted from several mail processing plants to RECs then presented on computer screens for manual encoding by an operator. The information is transmitted back to the postal plant where the correct barcode is printed on the envelope for automated processing.


The need for this manual encoding technology will continue to decline through 2000, when more than 70 percent of all handwritten and poorly printed addresses will be read by computers. Rapp said the postal service will continue to slowly phase out more REC sites -- noting that there may always be some mail that computers cannot read.
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