Automating Mail Handling and Acceptance

The Postal Service has used automation not only to sort mail but also to move containers of mail in processing plants and to verify the preparation of large mailings that can receive discounts.

In 1996, the Board of Governors approved funds to integrate robotics into major mail processing plants. In 1997, the Postal Service started to deploy 100 robotic tray handling systems, automating the sorting and loading of trayed letter mail to containers or pallets for transportation. In 2000 and 2001, 100 gantry robots were deployed — essentially arms running along overhead tracks that can distribute tubs and trays of mail.

In 1998, the Postal Service began using ABE (automation barcode evaluator) systems to help ensure that large mailings had clear, readable barcodes so they could be processed efficiently. In 2001, the Postal Service introduced MERLIN (mailing evaluation readability lookup instrument) to further automate the labor-intensive process of evaluating bulk mailings for discount eligibility. In addition to analyzing barcodes, MERLIN can analyze mail size and weight and produce the necessary reports for mail acceptance. MERLIN samples all mailings of more than 10,000 pieces and some smaller bulk mailings.