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USPS Pushes Flats

January 2003
WASHINGTON, DC—The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has turned its attention to increasing efficiencies in how flat mail is processed.

"To meet the pledge of keeping mail service affordable for flats, we are committed to replicating the breakthrough productivity we achieved with letter mail," explains John Rapp, USPS senior vice president of operations. "Productivity in our letter operations increased 83 percent from 1993 to 2001. We expect similar results as we implement our Corporate Flat Plan."

The Corporate Flat Plan is an efficiency-based strategy of the USPS' Transformation Plan—a short- and long-term blueprint for the future.

Flat mail, which includes Periodicals and Standard Mail, is a valuable source of postal revenue. It represents 25 percent of the mail and generates approximately $16.1 billion annually.

"Flat mail productivity in plants soared to almost 78 percent in just two years due primarily to deployment of new automated flat sorting machines," Rapp notes.

As part of its plan, the USPS is turning to its clientele for help. "We will rely on customers to bar-code flats, so it's vital that we continue to find ways to increase their commitment and involve them in the rate structure planning," Rapp says.

To make this happen, he explains that make-up requirements need to be aligned with both customer and postal processing needs in mind. "It's important that we find new and innovative ways to increase the amount of bar-coded flats in the system, since bar-coded flats are sorted quickly and at the lowest cost."

As a result, mailers are being asked to begin the process of moving from 9- to 11-digit bar coding. "We also need customers to consider standardizing physical characteristics, the address placement, and the make-up and presentation requirements," notes Rapp.

The long-term goal is to move to Delivery Point Packaging (DPP), an R&D initiative that uses automation to sort letters and flats simultaneously into delivery order and then bundle the mail into one package for each delivery stop.

Rapp reveals that the USPS expects to have DPP machine simulation available for evaluation as early as fiscal year 2005.

If the DPP option is not feasible, the postal service will pursue its second option—the Flats Sequencing System (FSS), which will be designed to sequence flat mail using two passes. "DPP can't be done overnight. The concept needs to be evaluated to determine feasibility, equipment costs and space requirements," he reveals.
 

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