The Postal Service continues to expand automated mail processing to improve efficiency and service. Investments in new barcode technology and advanced material handling systems are the foundation for further advances, along with continuing efforts to expand standardized processes and increase customer use of the Intelligent Mail barcode.
Letter Mail Automation
Letter address recognition rates continued to improve as additional equipment and software upgrades were deployed. The Address Management System (AMS) database was augmented by adding business names to addresses in multiunit office buildings, increasing the amount of mail processed in delivery point sequence. New delivery bar code sorters (DBCS) and stacker modules for existing DBCS equipment were deployed in 2007. This new equipment allows more letter mail to be processed in automated operations and provides additional capacity to support increased DPS volumes. An additional 164 DBCS Phase 6 machines and 394 stacker modules will be deployed in 2008.
The delivery barcode sorter input/output sub-system (DIOSS) machine is a further advancement of DBCS technology. DIOSS equipment includes an optical character reader and automates processing of some mail that previously required manual distribution. The Postal Service completed nationwide deployment of 395 new DIOSS machines and upgraded 222 existing DBCS machines to DIOSS. As a result, 646 multi-line optical character readers that have reached end-of-life were removed from service.
Letter mail automation capabilities were expanded significantly with the addition of new barcode recognition and data collection functions that support Intelligent Mail efforts. Letter mail processing equipment has been upgraded to provide Intelligent Mail barcode capabilities and support tracking of inter-facility mail.
The new data-rich environment is a significant step forward in the tracking of letter mail and will help improve both service and efficiency.
Flat Mail Automation
Deployment of 148 additional automated feeding systems for the Automated Flats Sorting Machine (AFSM-100) was completed in May. The Automatic Induction system uses ergonomic workstations to prepare flats in specially designed trays. This program reduces workhours by improving the rate of total pieces handled per workhour for this operation.
Under the Flat Recognition Improvement Program, the latest release of Upgraded Flat Sorting Machine 1000 software increased read rates and lowered error rates, resulting in fewer misdirected flat mailpieces and better customer service.
Flats Sequencing System
Funding for the Flats Sequencing System (FSS) Phase 1 program was approved by the Board of Governors in December 2006. The FSS fully automates the sorting of flat mail into carrier-walk sequence, similar to delivery point sequencing used for letter mail for over a decade. The FSS is equipped with a self-contained staging and material handling system. At the end of pass-one sorting an automatic sweep occurs and all trays are returned to the feed area in correct order for immediate pass-two sequencing. At the end of the run, mail is automatically swept, placed into street trays, and discharged onto mail transport equipment that will be dispatched to the dock, and ultimately loaded onto trucks destined for delivery units. The initial deployment of 100 FSS machines at 32 processing facilities will begin in 2008 and end in 2010.
Implementation planning for production deployment continued throughout 2007, as did development and testing of the FSS pre-production machine. Following initial testing, the pre-production FSS was put into operational service at the Dulles Processing and Distribution Center. In parallel, various postal organizations will work on methods documentation, logistical support planning, and other activities supporting the start of production deployment in 2008.
New delivery vehicle stowage and retrieval systems are under consideration for those vehicles servicing FSS sites. These new units are designed to provide ergonomic solutions and tools for loading, organizing, conveyance, and presentation of mail to the carrier. Testing is in progress and final design for deployment is expected in summer 2008.
Parcel and Bundle Automation
The Automated Package Processing System (APPS) replaces the labor-intensive Small Parcel and Bundle Sorter. APPS machines automate package distribution and provide greater processing capacity through automatic package induction, singulation, and address recognition using optical character readers, barcode readers, and a video coding system. Deployment of 74 APPS machines to 62 package processing facilities was completed in early 2007. Since then, address recognition improvements have increased read rates. To optimize equipment utilization and meet processing demand, four APPS were relocated. Additional relocations are expected in 2008. A new parcel and bundle sorter, the Postal Package Processing System, is being developed to automate the processing of more packages and bundles. Configurations will likely be customized to accommodate plants of various sizes and their respective needs.
Postal Automated Redirection System
The Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) identifies and redirects forwardable mail during processing, reducing the time required for mail to arrive at a new address and improving customer satisfaction. PARS Phase 2 deployment was completed, adding 233 sites to the 50 completed during Phase 1. An additional 41 Computerized Forwarding System (CFS) sites were consolidated, bringing total consolidations to 112 since 2003. The volume of mail processed on PARS increased 90 percent over 2006. Annual savings are expected to reach $270 million in 2008.
Another major piece of the PARS infrastructure, the Change of Address Forms Processing System (CFPS), also completed nationwide deployment. All change-of-address forms are now scanned through the CFPS and the images sent to three remote encoding centers (RECs) for automated processing. PARS has completely automated the labor-intensive Address Change Service (ACS) process. Now images are electronically sent to the National Customer Service Center where more than 360,000 address change notification cards are printed daily. Continuing software enhancements with significantly higher recognition rates and system performance will further increase operational efficiency and overall PARS benefits. Extending PARS to flat-shaped mail is under consideration and may be pursued during 2008.
The Postal Service is pursuing the integration of image coding operations as part of a larger effort to replace the image processing subsystems for letters. The Remote Encoding System will enable unresolved address images to be sent from a facility to multiple REC sites instead of one designated site. The preliminary design review was completed in 2007. Field testing and evaluation of results are scheduled for 2008.
Mail History Tracking System
The Mail History Tracking System (MHTS) is a Web-based application that identifies and locates missorted, mis-sequenced, or missent (3M) letters in each tray during DPS processing. MHTS can also predict if mailpieces are likely to meet on-time performance targets. The identification tag on the mailpiece is tracked from the origin (cancellation) to DPS processing at the destinating plant. These data help operations target and correct root causes that lead to service failures. At the plant, MHTS enhancements automatically recognize and consolidate all 3M letters for correction, minimizing the expense and delay of manual correction “downstream” at delivery units.