Mailing & Fulfillment Special Report — Mail Dynamics Equal Opportunities
RECENT U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announcements suggest trends that could be advantageous to corporate mailers seeking economies of scale via their full-service print/mailing providers. The increasing use of the Internet as a tool to reduce the mail distribution time, postal discounts to drive mail design that will run more efficiently through postal sorting equipment, the broader interest in Intelligent mail by corporate users, as well as more innovative partnerships with the larger scale mailers to save money and improve overall service, are four key mail trend topics.
The enhanced use of the Internet by mailers and the USPS is a clear trend in two specific arenas: driving more mail volume and simplifying the management of the mail flow.
First, are the successful case studies of opt-in e-mail and well-designed Websites integrated with direct mail in multimedia marketing campaigns. Secondly, the USPS has completed the beta testing of electronic information flow between mailing services vendors and itself across a wide spectrum of operational tasks to eliminate paperwork and reduce the total time of getting the mail to recipients. While multimedia marketing has received ample, well-deserved media coverage, little has been written about the broad-based impact that the Internet is expected to have on USPS operations and its interface with thousands of mailing service bureaus.
This latter initiative will create hard-core efficiencies for both the USPS and its clients and save 12 to 24 hours off the current processing cycle. There are six facets to this electronic information flow: (1) advance notification of mail to come, (2) e-check payment, (3) USPS yard management of vehicles arriving, (4) actual receipt or induction of pallets of mail, (5) client visibility of the mail throughout the processing and (6) client interfaces with USPS records to keep track of their own account. Many of these functions are working now. Others have been proven in live tests with select large clients and are expected to be rolled out nationwide over the next 18 months.
The key attributes of this electronic concept are that the client mailers are working from a self-serve model with a PC window into the USPS. There will be no more tedious forms, no more telephone tag and no more hand carrying checks to the USPS.
Printers/mailers can submit their electronic forms of expected incoming Standard, Periodical, First Class and Parcel mail classes by one of three venues: (1) mail.dat, (2) XML-based Web services and (3) Postage Statement Wizard. Mail.dat has been common for some time as this information is automatically generated by the dominant mail presort softwares. The latter two are easily followed by less frequent mailers to create the necessary postage statements.
All three e-forms automatically schedule appointments for the drop-off of the mail to the preferred postal location by requesting a date and time. Confirmation is electronically returned by the postal station. Wizard has completed its testing in Buffalo. Nationwide rollout began in May.
The current Central Accounts Processing System (CAPS) funds management will give way to electronic funds transfer in the future to a system called PostalOne! Opening an account, applying for permits, electronic payment anywhere, anytime by any method, and monitoring account balances can all be done from the mailer’s desktop on the USPS PostalOne! system.
The checkin and checkout process will be expedited by this new technology—from making appointments to hand off of incoming mail. The Pittsburgh and northern New Jersey bulk mail centers proved the concept in 2005. Other bulk mailing centers will be rolled out through 2007.
eDrop Ship and Parcel Electronic Verification Systems will expedite the entry of the mail into the mail stream—or induction as the USPS calls it. There will be no more paper 8125 forms. An electronic manifest coupled with unique barcodes applied to each pallet or mail container by the mailer will expedite the process.
A mailer’s subscription to the Confirm Service will provide end-to-end visibility enabled by the PostNet and shortly the 4-State barcodes applied to each piece of mail. USPS plans to provide additional enroute scanning points, as well.
The larger printers/mailers seeking to take advantage of co-mailing and co-palletizing discounts have been earmarked by the USPS as the first vendors to prove out the final issues in this electronic interface network.
Bolingbrook, IL, may not be well known to many printers. However, Banta Publications Group, RR Donnelley and Quad/Graphics have all chosen this Midwestern town to open multimillion-dollar distribution centers to provide co-mailing and co-palletizing services for publications. The new service will allow special-interest magazine publishers to save by merging different titles into a common mail stream to earn postal distribution discounts by entering the postal stream closer to the ultimate direct delivery unit.
The proposed rate plan—sent to the Postal Rate Commission (PRC) as part of a 2007 rate adjustment proposal package—combines weight with shape to allow the USPS to better align prices with processing costs to ensure that every type of mail covers its costs.
Current USPS prices do not distinguish between some letters, flats and parcels. For example, in First Class mail, the current single-piece price is 63 cents to mail a two-ounce letter, a two-ounce flat and a two-ounce parcel. The new plan recognizes that each of these shapes has substantially different processing costs and should have different prices.
The new pricing plan, in effect, creates an adjustable rate system by giving mailers the opportunity to obtain lower rates as they find ways to configure their mail into shapes that reduce processing costs for the Postal Service. For example, if the contents of a First Class flat can be folded and placed in a letter-sized envelope, the mailer can reduce the postage by as much as 20 cents per piece. If a First Class parcel can be configured as a flat, the mailer will save 36 cents.
The PRC approved a negotiated service agreement (NSA) with Bookspan. This is the first such agreement the USPS has made with a non-financial institution and the first to allow volume discounts for Standard mail mailings. Previous NSAs applied only to First Class mailings.
This NSA provides a discount for the mailer on the basis of volume alone, and does not require additional work from the mailer. |||
About the Author
Clint Bolte is president of C. Clint Bolte & Associates in Chambersburg, PA. He can be reached at (717) 263-5768 or email@example.com.