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Chapter 2
Postal Operations


The backbone of all Postal Service automation programs is a local area network (LAN) at each plant that provides the underlying data handling infrastructure. The LAN is the conduit for downloading ZIP Code directories and sort plans to mail processing equipment, moving images of individual mailpieces for ZIP Code resolution, and moving operating and mail tracking data to computer servers for subsequent processing. Due to the increase in scope and sophistication of automation, these LANs must be replaced.

In 2005 the Postal Service continued the LAN replacement deployment program, known as Mail Processing Infrastructure (MPI), at 164 mail processing and distribution centers. MPI uses a flexible, wired infrastructure known as structured wiring to provide the highest reliability, scalability, and manageability at the least cost. In December 2005, the Board of Governors approved expanding the MPI program to an additional 170 mail processing facilities which will complete infrastructure needs.

Handheld mobile data collection devices are essential elements of an intelligent mail system. In 2005 the Postal Service contracted to replace existing mobile data collection devices with the Intelligent Mail Data Acquisition System. The new handheld devices include an imager capable of reading all barcodes currently used in the Postal Service and provide additional features such as signature capture. The Postal Service will begin deployment of over 300 thousand devices in 2006 and complete deployment in 2007.

3. Address Quality

The Postal Service and its customers depend on the completeness, accuracy, and currency of address information in every aspect of business functions, including list management, mail preparation, and mail processing and distribution. Poor address quality results in mail redirection and extra handling, which adds cost and negatively affects service. It also reduces the customers' return on their investment in the mailing. Poor quality also diminishes the value of information inherent in the Intelligent Mail strategy.

As the Postal Service expands automation to control cost and improve service, the importance of address quality increases. The Postal Service is aggressively working to ensure that the National Address Database and the National Change of Address Database are accurate. In partnership with licensed and certified vendors of directory services and supporting software, the Postal Service also supports the mailing community in ensuring the accuracy of its mailing lists and postal code generation software.


The Move Update requirement specifies that addresses used to obtain all First-Class Mail presorted and automation discount rates must be updated within 185 days (6 months) prior to the date of mailing by a Postal Service-approved method.


In 2004 the Postal Service implemented the NCOALink technology which provides a secure method of matching change of address (COA) records. The NCOALink option is available only through companies licensed by the Postal Service to offer this service. In 2005, vision 400 billion address records were processed by licensed NCOALink vendors.


Address Change Service (ACS) provides electronic COA information or reason for non-delivery to participating customers. Each electronic notification costs $0.20; the hardcopy rate is $0.70. However, since ACS fails to catch all eligible mailpieces, participation in the ACS does not completely eliminate the provision of manual address correction notifications. In 2005 the Postal Service processed vision 328 million ACS transactions.


FASTforward is a licensed computer system containing name and address-matching software and the COA database. FASTforward technology allows licensed users to comply with the Move Update requirement as they actually process mail on their OCR-equipped sorters, provided that the mail is automation-compatible. In 2005 FASTforward processed 4.5 billion records.


When none of the above methods apply, an alternative method administered by Address Management may be used. The alternative methods are:

  • List Already Accurate — Mailer Move Update Process Certification, more commonly known as the 99 Percent Test, requires that a mailer provide 100 percent of an electronic version of an address list to the Postal Service to be matched against change-of-address information. Files tested may only contain 1 percent or fewer address changes.
  • Legal Restraint — This exception is available for mailers who document that they are legally restrained from using COA information from sources other than directly from their customers.

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