USPS to lower bar code height on Intelligent Mail

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WASHINGTON - Many mailers attending the Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee meeting here yesterday were happy to learn that the U.S. Postal Service will lower the height of the bars in the Intelligent Mail bar code from .134 inches to .125 inches.

Charlie Bravo, senior vice president of Intelligent Mail and Address Quality at the USPS, announced the news May 16. The Intelligent Mail bar code, formerly called 4-State Customer Bar code, lets business mailers track up to one billion pieces of mail at a time and also allow them to more easily request services, including address correction and confirmation of delivery, and enable the USPS to process and deliver mail more efficiently.

"We launched the Intelligent Mail bar code with a bar code height of .134 [inches] and we got a few e-mails from mailers who said that this was bad for the industry and that they would like to see something a little [lower]," said Mr. Bravo. "So we met with engineering and have come up with a plan to set the minimum height at .125."

In the past mailers expressed concern that the current length of the bar code makes them hard to read on some mail processing machines and others are concerned that the height of the bars takes up too much space or "real estate" on the envelope.

Mr. Bravo said that because of some software changes and testing, the change would take place in about nine months.

The bar code is the latest offering under the USPS Intelligent Mail program. The Postal Service expects that the program, begun in late 2001, to eventually let customers track every piece of mail from pickup to delivery. The bar code will be required to receive automation discounts in 2009.

In September, the use of Intelligent Mail bar codes for automation discounts became available for letter mail. The bar code became available for flats mail beginning May 1. Since the reading technology is different on flats than it is on letters, the USPS had delayed the start date for flats.

"We've gotten authorization to go ahead and make the changes [with the IMB] and we will do that," Mr. Bravo said.

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