Achieving Discounts -- New Numbers, Same Advice
Through the next decades, the need for OCR equipment changed as mail producers began applying barcodes on mail before it was presented to the post office. This “pre-barcoded” mail earned the first form of true automation discount.
However, like presort has done, barcoded mail—now with a delivery point barcode and soon with an Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB)—has become the norm. Very few pieces of letter- or flat-size mail are in the mailstream of 2009 that do not bear a barcode.
As a result, the normal way to distribute letter-size mail, and most flat-size mail, is on automated mail processing equipment. The typical commercial letter isn’t touched by a human until it’s delivered to the addressee; flats processing is close behind, and even parcel processing is growing more automated.
In the 2009 rate change, automation rates remain preferable to those for non-automation-compatible pieces, a difference that may get larger as the proportion of mail processed automatically continues to grow and the relative cost of manual processing increases.
The moral of the discount optimization story is the same as it’s been for years: To the maximum extent practicable, design mail for automation compatibility, and produce that mail with an accurate address and quality delivery point barcode.
If you really want to be ahead of the curve, consider adopting the IMB. That format is larger, more complex, and holds more information than the current POSTNET format (which will be eliminated in 2011). But moving to the IMB may require some investment in hardware and technology upgrades. These costs have caused some mailers to balk at making the move before they have to, and they were not impressed at the discounts being offered by the Postal Service.
Simply applying the IMB earns no added discount, but becoming a “full-service” mailer could earn $0.003 per piece for First-Class letters and flats, and $0.001 per piece for Standard Mail, Periodicals or Bound Printer Matter letters and flats, starting November 29. Full-service mailers will also have to use IMB-related container labels and present postage statements and payments electronically, but will get mail entry and address change information back from the Postal Service at no additional charge.