The U.S. Postal Service awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman, Baltimore, to enhance the feeder portion of AFSM 100 machines to improve the handling of mail.
The amount was not disclosed.
AFSM 100s can decipher hard-to-read addresses while sorting three times as fast as previous equipment. AFSM 100s sort flats weighing up to 20 ounces at a rate of up to 17,000 pieces per hour.
However, last year some major printers and flat mailers said the machines occasionally ripped the covers off heavier saddle-stitched, glossy-cover catalogs and magazines. Insiders said the problems occurred on catalogs from L.L. Bean and on magazines such as the New Yorker and BusinessWeek.
The USPS began working with Northrop Grumman, a manufacturer of the AFSM 100.
In addition, funding was approved to enhance optical character recognition technology used by flat sorters that process catalogs, magazines and newspapers.
The upgrades will improve AFSM 100s and UFSM 1000s, which can sort flats up to six pounds at up to 10,000 pieces per hour. The AFSM 100 is expected to see a read-rate improvement of 3 percent, and the UFSM 1000's read rate is expected to improve 4.5 percent.
Both upgrades will be completed by winter 2004.