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Chapter 2 Postal Operations
flat mail visibility, the infrastructure to provide package visibility is coming into place. Shipment Confirmation Acceptance Notice procedures were initiated to provide “start the clock” scans and allow service measurement for Carrier Pickup mail. The Automated Postal Center, Click-N-Ship, and mailer applications were enhanced to enable them to use the IPB. The internal use of package scans from processing equipment is expected early in 2007. The process to transition to full package visibility is expected to be completed by 2009.
The vision of total mail visibility relies, to a large extent, on the increasing use of intelligent barcodes and labels. However, the ability of postal systems to use and communicate data about mail quality, status, and location is what creates value for mailers and for the Postal Service. Better mail flow data will improve postal scheduling, provide multiple new ways to address quality problems, and create cost-saving opportunities. Visibility data will be used to identify operational issues and eliminate bottlenecks. By using CONFIRM and Delivery Confirmation services, mailers will be able to track their mail as it moves through the network. This opens up many opportunities for them to better serve their customers. The visibility data will enable broader service performance measurement and has the potential for new uses and products for mailers and the Postal Service.
1. High-Quality Addressing — Current, Correct, and Complete
Good addresses have two essential characteristics — they accurately describe a delivery point and they identify the addressee(s) who receive mail at that location. Estimates of the amount of mail that is undeliverableas- addressed (UAA) are in the billions of pieces. UUA mail is mail that the Postal Service cannot deliver as addressed and must be forwarded to the addressee, returned to the sender, sent to a mail recovery center, or treated as waste (Standard Mail). Besides the countless messages that are delayed or never reach intended recipients, bad addresses cost the Postal Service over $1 billion annually. The Postal Service’s Transformation goal is to cut UAA mail in half by 2010. It plans to achieve this by working with mailers to validate address information and improve the quality, accuracy, and timeliness of address lists.
A. REFINING THE ADDRESS DATABASE
Efforts to improve address accuracy begin with ensuring that addresses include all the necessary elements and are formatted correctly. The next step ensures that mailing addresses match a corresponding address in the Address Management System (AMS) database. The Postal Service uses AMS audits in delivery units to verify the accuracy of the AMS database. The Postal Service took additional steps to improve its database quality. It deployed the Delivery Sortation Management Automated Research Tool (DSMART), which uses mail processing data to identify addresses that receive mail but are either not in the AMS database or cannot be sorted to delivery point. Delivery managers can then update AMS with the correct address. Other software identifies businesses in high-rise buildings whose mail is not sorted in delivery point sequence (DPS). Delivery managers then enter the business names into AMS and link the name with the correct DPS-level address. During processing, software links those business names with the proper suite number in AMS. Business name data was made available to mailers in a new product called SuiteLink.
B. IMPROVING LIST QUALITY
The Postal Service has announced that after August 2007, Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) certification will only provide a ZIP+4 code for addresses that exist in the AMS database. The software will not provide a ZIP+4 code for addresses that are not confirmed. Mailpieces that do not match will not qualify for an automation discount. This change will dramatically improve automation compatibility, especially barcoding at the delivery point level. Customers can correct nonmatching addresses using Address Element Correction (AEC) software.
The Postal Service proposed new mail preparation standards published in the Federal Register. They will be adopted with the implementation of the pending rate case. The proposed rule is an aggressive step for reducing UAA mail. Where previously CASS certification was only required to qualify for automation discounts, the change will require CASS certification for all discounted mail by July 2009. This is a key step that will drive changes in list management practices. The notice also specified pricing incentives to encourage faster conversion to the Intelligent Mail barcode and increase use of the Address Change Service (ACS) software.
C. MANAGING CHANGE OF ADDRESS DATA
In addition to using a valid delivery address, eliminating UAA mail requires using the customer’s current address. The Postal Service is focusing on two areas to improve the timeliness of addresses: the initial capture of change of address (COA) information and the processes used to update data on mailing lists.
Initial capture of COA information from movers through the increased use of electronic options (Internet and phone) is steadily improving the quality of address information. Electronic COA procedures offer a number of advantages over hardcopy forms; it is more convenient for movers and can be linked to other move-related activities through Internet links. Transcription errors and manual keying of COA data is eliminated when movers enter their COA information electronically. Most importantly, electronic COA channels allow instantaneous address validation when a customer submits the COA, reducing the number of incorrect or incomplete addresses. Since the moving season began in May, new records for online COA transactions have been set each month. The annual total of 5.6 million electronic online COAs is a 32.6% increase compared with last year. The goal is to have nearly half of all COAs completed online by 2010. This target is not unrealistic since a large percentage of movers are already comfortable using the Internet for many transactions.
Best practices for maintaining correct addresses include using both premailing tools like the NCOA software and postmailing tools like the ACS software to verify move updates. Both of these tools have recently been enhanced. NCOA licensing procedures implemented in 2005 added levels of services and increased flexibility resulting in customers running and matching more address records. The September 2006 deployment of OneCode ACS for letter-size First-Class Mail enhanced the ACS offering. In addition to allowing mailers to update addresses for customers that have moved, the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode provides them with more information about their mail. Most importantly, the Intelligent Mail barcode provides an electronic link that drives down the cost of the ACS processing and increases use of ACS to update addresses on mailing lists. OneCode ACS for Standard Mail letters and for AFSM 100 flats will be available in 2007.