Mail Entry and Payment Technologies

Transition to the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb)

The POSTNET barcode was retired last year and mailers were required to use the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) on their business mail in order to claim automation postage rates. The conversion from POSTNET to IMb set the foundation for mailers to participate in the Full-Service Intelligent Mail option. Unique barcoding coupled with data reporting requirements of the Full-Service program provide the Postal Service with 100-percent visibility into the mailstream. Using the Full-Service IMb information, a suite of service performance diagnostic tools was developed for use by Field Managers to analyze and improve service performance. These tools leverage the information provided by Full-Service IMb. The suite of reports includes Mail Processing — Work in Process, Scorecard, Top 10 Impacts and Start-the-Clock Day of Week Analysis. Also, daily and weekly push reports allow us to focus on Containers at Risk and Daily Commercial Mail Scores.

The service performance diagnostic tools provided Field Managers with timely and meaningful information on potential service impacts allowing corrective action to be taken proactively eliminating potential service failures. The ability to see diagnostic data in near-real-time supported ongoing efforts to improve mail processing systemic issues and bottlenecks in processes that led to permanent resolutions. For example, Field Managers were able to measure and then reduce cycle time to consistently meet service targets. In addition, through container and individual mailpiece scans, Field Managers gained visibility into the elapsed time between each operational step in the process. As a result, incorrect mail flows and mishandlings were identified and corrected.

In FY2014, the volume of mail in measurement grew by 50 percent compared to FY2013. This was accomplished through enhanced business logic and improvement in scan compliance. Several new enhancements were added to the Service Performance Diagnostics tool which provided greater operational visibility to Field Managers. These enhancements provided new insight on service issues enabling the field to systematically identify the root cause of top impacts.

Diagnostic reports allowed mailers to uncover mail or documentation issues, which, when resolved, facilitated service improvements for their mail. Through the Full-Service option, mailers have access to (1) the lowest automation rates, (2) address correction for Full-Service mailpieces and (3) visibility into their own mailings. The IMb Planning Tool, available on the Rapid Information Bulletin Board System, shows mailers, by induction facility, how many days it takes to accept, process and deliver their mail. It also explains service variance, allowing mailers to track on-time delivery performance and see the elapsed duration (in hours) between entry time and the first automated scan. Mailers use this IMb information to better manage their customer expectations about when the mail should be delivered and make informed marketing, financial and operational decisions.

Full-Service adoption increased in FY2014. Out of the 90 percent of IMb volume that is potentially eligible for participation in Full-Service, 80 percent is Full-Service as of September 2014 compared with 65 percent in October 2013. Among the major mail products, Standard Mail letters experienced the highest increase in adoption rate (17 percent) in FY2014, from 59 percent to 76 percent. Full-Service adoption continues to be the highest for Presorted First-Class Mail, increasing by 11 percent in FY2014, from 74 percent to 85 percent. The Full-Service Standard Mail flats increased by 7 percent, from 73 percent to 80 percent. Full-Service Periodicals increased by 11 percent, from 67 percent to 78 percent.

In FY2014, the Postal Service experienced one of the more challenging winters in recent history. However, through the use of Service Performance Diagnostics, the USPS continued to lean process and reduce variance on service. The FY2014 Commercial Mail Scores and the one-day service variance scores are as follows:

Mail Preparation, Addressing and Commercial Acceptance

Our continued adoption of Intelligent Mail and Full-Service technologies has enabled a significant paradigm shift in the way we accept and verify commercial business mailings. We have reduced reliance on manual processes and moved into a digitized process flow.

These capabilities will empower customers with a suite of tools that will enable payment flexibility, preparation simplicity, ease of entry, multiple access points for account management and deeper visibility into their mailing status.

Additional value will occur through expanded Full-Service penetration by small business mailers. The increased use of Intelligent Mail barcodes with Full-Service allows the USPS to position these mailers for Seamless Acceptance.

Intelligent Mail for Small Business (IMsb) Tool

In 2014 we continued to enhance and promote the IMsb tool. This tool offers a simple and cost-effective online solution for small mailers to prepare Full-Service, seamless-ready mailings. In addition to providing Full-Service access to small businesses, the tool provides simplified mail preparation and entry options, including electronic creation and submission of postage statements, generation of unique IMbs and the ability to import address lists.

Full-Service Simplification and Promotion

Aspects of the Full-Service program were reviewed and actions were taken to simplify mailers’ entry into Full-Service and to encourage growth across mailers of all sizes. Changes included simplification of Full-Service mail preparation requirements, a software vendor certification program and improved Full-Service onboarding processes.

Promotion of Full-Service continued in 2014 with a focus on commercial mailers who prepare Full-Service eligible mailings but have not transitioned to Full-Service. The promotion consisted of educational materials, webinars and direct outreach to identified mailers.


A primary objective of commercial mail entry is to eliminate the reliance on hard-copy forms and processes. The electronic induction process — eInduction — leverages existing electronic documentation, Intelligent Mail barcodes and hand-held scanner technologies to verify payment for the mail at a container level. This ensures the containers are inducted into the correct destination facility. Increased use of electronic data through eInduction will reduce dependence on paper-driven processes, directly reducing the amount of manual validations conducted on shipments at destination plants. The eInduction program was deployed on October 1, 2013 and is used by 32 percent of mailer-shipped containers. A pilot of a scan-based eInduction process at sites without a wireless scanner was started on September 13, 2014.

Seamless Acceptance (Letters and Flats)

Seamless Acceptance allows commercial mailings of letter and flat-size mailpieces to enter the mailstream with fewer manual acceptance and verification activities.

The expanded use of technology through Seamless Acceptance increases opportunities to use automated processes to reduce errors, improve efficiencies and improve revenue assurance capabilities.

A combination of active and passive scans from the Postal Service’s visibility systems and mail processing equipment are used to support an automated process to reconcile the containers, handling units and mailpieces scanned by the Postal Service against a mailer’s electronic documentation.

In addition to the processing equipment scans, mailing data is collected through a sampling process. Enhancements to the Full-Service–Intelligent Mail Device (FS-IMD) allows for the data to be collected and matched to data collected through eDoc. When used in conjunction with mail processing equipment scans, also matched to eDoc data, a “big picture” view of the mailing emerges.

FY2014 saw continuous improvement in reporting capabilities providing analytical reports for both internal and external customers. Scanning results and sampling are compared to mailer electronic documentation, allowing both the mailer and the Postal Service to monitor mailer quality using information about errors and quality trends over time.

Seamless Acceptance was deployed in March 2014 and is being used at 96 mailer facilities representing 17 percent of commercial letter and flat volume.

Electronic Verification System (eVS)

The eVS system allows package shippers to seamlessly enter their mailings into the Postal Service system. The system incorporates manually sampled packages and scans of packages from mail processing equipment that are used to validate postage payment against the mailer’s manifest information.

The eVS program continues to focus on enhancements to the system. These enhancements will position the eVS system for new revenue growth, and will support the business needs of government agencies and package consolidators who have thus far been unwilling to transfer their shipping services to eVS.

Streamlining Customer Payment and Account Management Processes

The Payment and Account Management initiatives improved our ability to manage customer incentives, contract pricing and loyalty tracking, while helping us gain deeper insights into how our customers use our products and their revenue contribution.

New technical specifications, namely “Intelligent Mail Indicia Performance Criteria,” were published for PC Postage and Meter Vendors that will provide the Postal Service with improved product usage information.

Payment and account management improvements reduce the current burden experienced by mailers in opening permits and managing accounts. “Mail Anywhere” functionality was made available to all mailers in the spring of 2014. “Mail Anywhere” allows the use of a single permit at mailing locations across the country and greatly simplifies the account management process for commercial mailers.

Internal Controls

Mail acceptance processes were reviewed and updated for field Business Mail Entry units to ensure Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) compliance. This was achieved through extensive communication and training efforts encompassing more than 25,000 employees.