UPU implements affordable way to track letter/mass mailing

The Universal Postal Union, the intergovernmental network of national postal services, recently announced global implementation of a new tracking program for international letter mail as part of its Global Monitoring System. It hopes to enable post services around the world to improve delivery quality with improved metrics. The Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) product, provided by mailing technology company Reva Systems, allows the UPU to track delivery times for every mail piece sent from one country to another through RFID tags automatically, rather than requiring manual barcode scans or active tracking.

“We were tasked with finding a low-cost way to implement a measuring system to all of our members,” explained Akio Miyaji, the quality of service coordinator at UPU. Of the 119 member UPU countries, 21 launched with the GMS program, including United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Mexico. The UPU aims to have 100 of its member countries using this system by 2012. The GMS system was a particular priority for 17 developing member countries who receive funding to improve infrastructure and measurement from other UPU members due to the potential for lowering costs.

The system works by using a RFID portal, which is essentially a dock door with the ability to read RFID tags. Portals work 24-hours a day and can read multiple tags, coming from multiple destinations at once and record each delivery date individually. “The investment [for installation] in a country is often modest in comparison with other mail measurement tools,” said Ashley Stephenson, co-founder and chairman at Reva Systems. He said a complete portal system went for around $10,000 per location. The tags themselves, which are inserted in test mail pieces or can be attached to critical packages, cost 20 cents to 30 cents each and are reusable.

A more manually technique, used previously by the UPU that Miyaji described as “semi-active” cost up to $20 per piece.

Miyaji said that data collected from the program would be used to inform remuneration payments that are made through the UPU to member states when mail isn’t delivered in appropriate timeframe or is lost. With the GMS, remuneration rates are linked to quality service scores, according to Miyaji.

Other future uses of the system may involve measurement of domestic delivery quality. Spain has been using Reva’s TAP system for its domestic mail for the past two years. According to Stephenson the country has seen its volume increase in the use of the RFID tags.

Reva has also worked with private corporations and retailers in order to ensure delivery and improve internal operations.

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