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Special Section Mailing & Fulfillment -- Don't Blame Merlin

November 2004

The angst attributed to expanding the scrutiny of Merlin is a manifestation of the communications gap that continues between the mailing community and its postal partners. Fortunately there are serious initiatives under way by all concerned parties to improve the dialogue on Merlin. There is an expressed desire to resolve the myriad standardization processes existing in industry as the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) strives for one final depth of code standard employed by this diagnostic tool.

One of the most important communications initiatives is the planned formation of a new MTAC Work Group that will concentrate on the prickly matter of "final depth of code" standards. Concurrent with this effort, which is expected to be active for at least six months, are a number of other industry groups and coalitions that will fill the news channels with concerns, problems, resolves and stumbling blocks along the way.

Collectively, this becomes a much-needed communications improvement of a complex initiative designed to greatly improve the quality of mail entering in the mail stream.

It's ironic that the underlying purpose of Merlin is often forgotten. Merlin raises the quality standards of an already powerful medium. In so doing it injects greater efficiencies, which help keep USPS costs in check. These same standard improvements prevent corrupt addresses from entering the mail stream, which improves overall delivery and response, the common objective of all mailers.

The importance of Merlin comes at a pivotal time. Its full deployment will have direct bearing on improvement of the postal service's delivery efficiency which, in turn, will aid in achieving ad mailer's ultimate goal: day-certain delivery.

The mix of mail has changed and the importance of Standard mail continues to grow. This long-sought achievement will bring untold new successes and increased growth to our direct mail business. Indeed, it's time to embrace change.

Robert B. Swick is director of data quality solutions for Pitney Bowes.

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