Commercial Mail Preparation and Acceptance

As customer mail preparation becomes more complex, the Postal Service has dedicated itself to developing and implementing realistic, comprehensive, and effective mail verification and acceptance procedures. Commercial mail acceptance has evolved over the past several years from a strictly manual process to one that is significantly automated. New verification processes include Performance Based Verification (PBV), Move Update validation at MERLIN sites, and the Intelligent Mail Device (IMD) handheld scanner. Implementation has been possible primarily because of mailers’ increased use of electronic mailing documentation (eDoc) and conversion to Intelligent Mail barcodes.

This was a pivotal year for acceptance with the systems implementation of the Intelligent Mail Basic and Full-Service options and the opening of the online Business Customer Gateway. The resulting information sharing is paramount as the Postal Service moves toward its goal of seamless acceptance.

Seamless Acceptance

Essentially, the seamless acceptance vision is to fully automate verification of commercial mailings performed during postal processing of the mail. The goal is to streamline all aspects of acceptance, verification, payment, and induction. Keys to achieving this goal are the expansion of customer-submitted electronic documentation and the use of Intelligent Mail barcodes on mail, handling units such as trays and sacks, and containers such as pallets. Information obtained from mailings in process helps to determine address accuracy, verify mail preparation quality, validate correct postage, and, with the use of Confirm service, track individual pieces as they move through the system.

Seamless acceptance will help the Postal Service partner with customers by capturing and sharing information about mail errors earlier in the process. Several basic components of seamless acceptance were implemented in Intelligent Mail Release 1 (PostalOne! Release 20.0), but detail and defined requirements are necessary in future releases to enable true seamless acceptance.

Flat-size Mail

New requirements developed with the mailing industry now standardize address placement on flat-size mail. Starting March 2009, mailers positioned delivery addresses toward the top of presorted and automation-priced flats, a change that facilitates automated sortation in delivery point sequence in the Flats Sequencing System (FSS) environment. The Postal Service goal is to achieve the lowest costs for mailers and postal processing.

Letter-size Mail

A collaborative effort between the Postal Service and the mailing industry resulted in new mailing standards that ensure that letter-size booklets process properly on automation equipment, allowing mailers to take advantage of lower letter-based prices. These pieces have frequently jammed high-speed sortation equipment or become significantly damaged in the process. The new standards more accurately prescribe the size, thickness, paper stock, and tabbing required for successful mailing.

PostalOne! System

The Business Customer Gateway is the new landing page for customers who want to conduct business with the Postal Service electronically. Customers can schedule appointments to deposit their mail at destination facilities through the Facilities Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) system and order barcoded tray and sack labels through the Customer Label Distribution System. They can also access their mailing records through PostalOne! and retrieve feedback from their Intelligent Mail Full-Service option mailings, including Full-Service ACS, COA, and nixie data as well as start-the-clock and container visibility induction scan data.

The Postal Wizard is an Internet-based tool that gives small-volume mailers a secure electronic means for submitting postage statements and simplifies calculating postage, checking balances and fees, and viewing mailing reports and mailing histories. There were 6,774 mailers (an 18 percent increase) who submitted 807,628 postage statements (a 76 percent increase) in 2009. These represented 4.9 billion mailpieces (a 67 percent increase) and $1.4 billion in revenue (a 59 percent increase).

There were 258 larger volume mailers (an 87 percent increase) who transmitted 241,765 postage statements using the Mail.dat eDoc option (a 114 percent increase) and 22,478 postage statements (a 357 percent increase) using Wizard Web Services. These statements accounted for 19.1 billion mailpieces (a 27 percent increase) and $4.7 billion in revenue (a 27 percent increase) via Mail.dat; 504 million pieces (a 3 percent decrease) and $101.8 million (a 29 percent increase) via Web Services.

The Postal Service continues to encourage customers to use the Centralized Account Processing System (CAPS) electronic payment capability of PostalOne! system. CAPS enables mailers to fund multiple mailing accounts conveniently through a single payment process. Links between the Post Office Point of Service system and PostalOne! add more convenient options for commercial mailers. In 2009, 2,039 accounts were added along with 12,269 additional permit accounts. A total of $21.75 billion in revenue was processed through CAPS.

Electronic Verification System (eVS)

The Electronic Verification System (eVS) enables parcel mailers to submit documentation and pay postage by transmitting electronic manifest files to the eVS database, which is part of the PostalOne! system. Because eVS integrates with other systems and business processes for data collection and performance measurement, eVS makes it easy for customers to prepare and induct parcel mailings, streamlining their internal business processes as well as those with the Postal Service.

eVS is similar to existing manifest mailing processes, with two distinct differences: sampling and monthly data reconciliation. eVS samples mailings after parcels are deposited at a destination or origin facility (depending on the class of mail) to capture data used to monitor postage and preparation accuracy. Each month eVS sampling data for each mailing is reconciled against all manifests received during the month. Under eVS, paperwork is replaced by electronic documentation and mail entry is more convenient. Parcel mailers control their shipments from preparation to deposit at the entry facility and can monitor sampling results and the quality of their mailings online via the eVS Web site.

The Postal Service now has 39 eVS customers, including 30 new ones. In total, these customers submitted 150,927 postage statements (a 55 percent increase) accounting for nearly 320 million packages (a 160 percent increase). eVS revenue increased to $550 million (a 141 percent increase).

Postage Technology and Secure Electronic Services

Postage meters and PC Postage services provide convenient postage payment options, particularly for customers who mail frequently. These services make it even easier to print postage labels and account for postage. Despite decreases in revenue from postage meters and other channels, revenue produced by customers using commercial PC Postage products continued to grow, with a 20 percent increase in revenue and a 7 percent increase in registered users.

The postage meter market continued its transition to information-based indicia (IBI) postage. IBI postage meters produce a digital two-dimensional barcode that includes postage payment and other related service information. IBI devices accounted for 72 percent of all meters and produced almost 94 percent of meter revenue.

The Postal Service extended its Customized Postage market test for another year. Customized Postage uses PC Postage technology to allow customers to personalize postage by uploading a digital image that can be printed with an IBI. Customers bought nearly 30 million Customized Postage labels this year.