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In 2003 the Postal Service established the Intelligent Mail and Address Quality (IMAQ) organization to focus efforts in moving towards an Intelligent Mail system. This system envisions collecting, managing, and leveraging information about mail to improve service and performance and add new value for customers.
The Intelligent Mail Vision is: "Through the deployment of information-rich barcodes placed on all mail, aggregates of mail, and business forms, the Postal Service and its customers obtain end-to-end visibility into the mailstream and can creatively capitalize on the value of information about mail, better manage resources, reduce operating costs and marketing expenses, and anticipate, adapt and respond to present and future market conditions."
The key strategies of the Intelligent Mail system are to uniquely identify mail and its aggregates (i.e., OneCode Vision for mail in trays or other containers); develop and deploy a system to leverage the additional data; and enhance the quality of mailing addresses.
1. OneCode Vision
Under the OneCode vision, mailpieces and larger unit loads of mail will be uniquely identified with a code that enables end-to-end process tracking and full visibility. The OneCode vision creates one barcode per mail type or container that encompasses or points to all relevant services - such as Address Change Services and CONFIRM service.
To pursue its OneCode vision the Postal Service is minimizing the number of barcodes and alphanumeric codes in use through standardization and consolidation. A Coding Standardization Board, established in 2003, provides a logical framework for coding determination and assignment and ensures that all coding decisions satisfy business purposes. During 2005 the board met regularly to continue efforts on new unique identification codes, including those described below.
The Postal Service currently uses a combination of the Postal Numeric Encoding Technique (PostNET) sorting code and the Postal Alpha Numeric Encoding Technique (PLANET) code to identify pieces for CONFIRM services. The maximum length of a PLANET barcode is 13 digits, which severely limits the mailer's ability to identify each mailpiece. In 2005 the Postal Service finalized the design of a new barcode which uses the 4-state barcode symbology. It has recently been named the OneCodeSOLUTION (OCS) barcode. OCS has roughly three times the information-carrying capacity of a PostNET barcode, which is 11 digits. The Postal Service made the specifications and the software and fonts to encode the OCS available to mailers for testing and evaluation in 2005.
In 2005 the Postal Service updated the specifications for the standard shipping label barcode for parcels. The single barcode now supports multiple special services as well as sorting information.
The Web Automated Tray Label Assignment System (ATLAS) is a key component of the Postal Service's strategy to improve the visibility of mail throughout processing and distribution operations. Among its new capabilities, ATLAS standardizes label printing for trays and sacks. In 2005 the Postal Service deployed ATLAS and a key user interface to Phase 1 Surface Visibility sites. The ATLAS mail processing equipment interface was developed and tested for non-PARS letter mail and AFSM 100 flat mail technology systems, and deployment began in the fall of 2005. A major part of ATLAS will be the graduation from a 10-digit barcode container label format to an enhanced distribution label using a 24-digit barcoded label.
2. Enabling Infrastructure
The Postal Service develops and deploys enterprise-wide common infrastructure to generate and capture codes on mail and aggregates and to disseminate the information in near real time. This type of infrastructure enables an enterprise to build and deploy business applications that respond to emerging customer and internal needs.
A. CODE GENERATION AND CAPTURE INFRASTRUCTURE
In conjunction with adoption of OCS for encoding, sorting, and tracking letters and flats information, the Postal Service developed additional software for the wide field of view (WFOV) camera that decodes OCS. The Postal Service deployed the WFOV camera on all letter mail automation equipment and completed testing to allow flat sorting equipment to decode OCS. The Postal Service conducted live flats mail testing in late 2005.
The Postal Service tested OCS special service codes via the Enterprise Data Consolidation System and electronic Address Correction Services. This provides real-time change-of-address updates to the Postal Automated Redirection System and visibility to customers, resulting in a more efficient process.
To support the Enhanced Distribution Label (EDL), the Postal Service successfully developed the ATLAS application. ATLAS replaces the Passport label production system, provides the capability of producing labels and/or submitting labels orders online, and centrally manages and coordinates label activities. A transitional EDL was specifically created and successfully implemented to eliminate risk and impact to mail processing operations and distribution.
The Postal Service completed extensive testing and commenced replacement of obsolete printers with a new printer that provides a higher print speed and barcode print quality on processing equipment.