Intelligent Mail Barcode
wikify=September 2008The Intelligent Mail barcode is a 65-bar code applied to mail in the
United States, which provides information and benefits to both mailers and postal officials.
The Intelligent Mail initiative was announced by the
US Postal Servicein 2003, became available in 2006, was expanded upon and enhanced in 2007. This barcode will be required starting in fall of 2009 for companies looking to earn the maximum USPS automation discounts.
The Intelligent Mail barcode replaces the
POSTNETand PLANET barcodes and promises to raise the level of service the USPS provides to its customers. This mandate will help the USPS improve deliverability, provide new service and increase overall efficiency.
Over the years, the Intelligent Mail barcode has also been referred to as OneCode, IMB and the 4-State Barcode.
The Intelligent Mail data payload
The Intelligent Mail barcode is a height-modulated barcode that encodes up to 31-digits of mailpiece data into 65 vertical bars.
The code is made up of four distinct symbols, which is why this barcode was once referred to as the 4-State Customer Barcode. These are the tracker, ascender, descender, and full bar (TADF). In total, the new barcode will carry a data payload of 31 digits including the following elements.
Service Type Identifier. A value that corresponds to a particular mail class with a particular combination of service(s).
Mailer ID. A number assigned by the USPS that identifies the specific mailer or subscriber. Mailer IDs can be either 6 digit or 9 digit. Higher volume mailers are eligible to receive 6 digit Mailer IDs; lower volume mailers will receive 9 digit Mailer IDs.
Sequence Number. An ID specific to this mailpiece that must remain unique for each 45-day period. The Sequence Number is either 6 or 9 digits (corresponding to opposite of the Mailer ID; that is, the Mailer ID and the Sequence Number together will always be a 15 digit number).
Delivery Point ZIP Code. The same data used to generate the POSTNET barcode today.
Benefits of a Multi-Service Barcode
Maximum Postal Savings
As of Fall of 2009, mailers looking to earn the maximum postal discounts will be required to implement the Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcode. The actual rates are due to be released in 2009 when the USPS makes their annual rate change announcement.As of July 2008 there were rumours the USPS may delay this implementation until Fall 2009 [PrintCEO Blog http://printceoblog.com/2008/07/postal-update] but as of August the USPS stated the deadline was still May 2009. [Print CEO Blog http://printceoblog.com/2008/08/postal-update-on-intelligent-mail-barcodes]
Visibility into the Mailstream
By allowing you to track each mail piece individually, the Intelligent Mail barcode provides companies with the precise status of mail and an opportunity to add a level of certainty in several important ways:
1. Low-cost Proof of Mailing
Via the USPS Confirm service, the Intelligent Mail barcode allows you to access Destination Confirm service for mere pennies, giving you advance notice about when your high-value mail pieces will reach their destinations.
2. Payment Tracking
Origin Confirm service lets you see when an individual customer’s check (or response) is on the way back to you, enabling you to manage collections efforts smarter and avoid unnecessary cancellations.
3. More Efficient Customer Care
With the right interface, you can provide mailstream visibility to your customer care representatives, giving them the time-sensitive intelligence needed to reduce talk time, determine whether or not late fees should be waived and provide more responsive customer service.
4. More Effective Marketing
Being able to forecast delivery of individual mail pieces makes it easier to forecast the number and timing of incoming phone calls. This helps marketers ensure phone centers are staffed accordingly while minimizing waste. Marketers can also target precise in-home delivery dates.
Free Address Change Service
The USPS is looking to reduce Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) mail, so it’s not surprising that the new Intelligent Mail barcode makes it easy for mailers to make address corrections, as needed. In fact, on First-Class Mail, electronic Address Change Service (ACS) is free when companies use the Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcode.
The USPS offers seamless acceptance for the induction of mailers’ prepared (presorted) mail. Whether preparing their own mail or using presort houses, mailers will benefit from reduced paperwork and greater visibility and transparency with the USPS.
Comprehensive Mail Piece Tracking
Implementing the IMB provides the basis for developing and implementing a comprehensive mail piece tracking system. Such a system allows an organization to track their mail pieces through their entire life cycle, both internally and externally. As they track them internally, the mail piece tracking system can be tied into internal production systems such as Automated Document Factory (ADF) systems or an organization's production Reprint process. The mail piece tracking system also allows for track mail pieces externally both outbound & inbound by adding in the USPS OneCode services.
Implementing the IMB also provides the basis for organizations to take advantage of the information inherent in using the IMB on every mail piece they drop. A very information-rich database is created by using IMB to create a comprehensive mail piece tracking system. By adding more information to this data base and then data mining the results, An organization can start tieing in to other enterprise applications and functions. For example, if an organization can extract the dollar amount due off your bills or statements during document re-engineering and add to the mail piece tracking data base and combine that with USPS OneCode data on incoming payments to make cash flow projections for the CFO and staff lock box facilities accordingly. Likewise, an organization can use estimated delivery dates to staff customer service lines and educate them on questions based on what marketing messages were sent out.
IMB has considerable benefits to high volume mailers above and beyond just the immediate postage savings.
Implementing the Intelligent Mail Barcode
Barcodes can be printed on documents (shown through a window envelope) or sprayed directly onto envelopes at various points in the process. Many large companies may use some or all of these approaches based on their business needs and environment, as well as the unique characteristics of an application. [White Paper: "Implementing the Intelligent Mail Barcode" – www.pbpostalinfo.com/imb] [Document Preparation and Production (DPP) - Four Options For Placing IMB on Mail - http://www.crawfordtech.com/Four_Options_to_put_IMB_on_paper.htm] [white paper: "Intelligent Mail Barcode - what mailers need to know" [http://www.bowebellhowell.com/imbresourcecenter.aspx]
In recent years, more companies have been applying barcodes as part of document creation, with all barcode information included in the initial data payload. This trend has been driven by other initiatives, such as
transpromotional transaction documents, where the goal is individualized, relevant statements. Creating barcodes at this point in the process may require some added effort, but with the proximity to databases and business applications, some may find it easier to track back data (such as a corrected address) to its original data source.
With today’s document output technologies, mailers can modify and reengineer print streams – moving and adding information (such as barcodes) on the fly. Likewise, mailers can print barcodes directly on envelopes using an envelope finishing system. Either way, this approach enables mailers to centralize and standardize barcode creation on the production floor using the original data files—without impacting the upstream business applications.
Document Re-Engineering Post-composition
Unfortunately, many organizations may not be able to place IMBs during the document composition step. There may not be sufficient resources to make the production modifications, or the transaction print data stream may come in already composed without the ability to reach back and change the composition process. But the organization may still want to place the IMB into the electronic document before it is printed rather than later in a post-print production process.
Adding Intelligent Mail Barcodes post-composition into the electronic print file allows organizations to simultaneously clean up all their transaction print streams while adding the IMBs they need. Other document re-engineering options can also be made at this step, such as adding 2D barcodes for use by the newer Automated Document factory (ADF) systems, checking address blocks, and adding more marketing messages.
Many organizations are finding that by commingling multiple smaller print streams before printing into one larger stream (or a few larger streams, sorted by criteria such as weight or number of inserts) they can gain efficiencies and reduce overall postage costs. During this electronic commingling process IMBs can be added to the documents and mail pieces in the new stream(s). This is an option to in-house sortation.
When mailers run separate jobs and then want to combine them to achieve additional postal savings, they can physically sort mail after it’s produced using sorter equipment. With new or upgraded sorter technology, mailers can accommodate the new Intelligent Mail Barcode at the end of the mail production process. This is an option to electronic commingling.
Third-party presort houses may provide mailers an easy way to comply with Intelligent Mail mandate and also provide the benefits of commingled mail. Even if a third-party applies the barcode, however, it may still be possible for the USPS to monitor the quality of the sortation using a mailer’s unique Mailer ID. It will also be important for mailers to coordinate sequence numbers with their vendor so they can leverage OneCode ACS and OneCode Confirm services.
* http://www.bowebellhowell.com/imbresourcecenter.aspx - Intelligent mail barcode - what mailers need to know
* http://www.crawfordtech.com/IMB_Introduction.htm - basic introduction to IMB by Crawford Technologies
* http://www.pbpostalinfo.com – News, White Papers and Other IMB Resources from Pitney Bowes
* http://ribbs.usps.gov/OneCodeSOLUTION/ - RIBBS Intelligent Mail Barcode Resource Download Site
* http://www.idautomation.com/intelligent-mail.html - Intelligent Mail Barcode Implementation Guide by IDAutomation.com
* http://www.windowbook.com/PostalInfo/IntelligentMailResources.aspx - Window Book Intelligent Mail Barcode Resources
* http://www.imbsolutions.com - Pitney Bowes Software Intelligent Mail Barcode Solutions Resource Section
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