Page 1


NPF? Here’s what to see! Page 30


TOP 10 Error-Proof

ways to

Your Mail Page 20

Reduce your mailing costs even after the increase! Page 16

POSTNET barcode retirement; what’s the real deal? Page 12

Volume 25 Issue 2


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Features 16

Money-Saving Strategies for Mail how to reduce mailing costs after the rate increase By Adam Lewenberg


Top 10 Ways to Error-Proof Your Mail identifying and eliminating the root cause of the most common errors By John Kline



Staying in the Mailing Business Means Upgrading the Quality a vision and integrity solution can be vital By Robert Ellis


New Opportunities in Parcel Automation Facing the trends and challenges in mail and parcel sorting automation head-on By Kaz Jaszczak






Real-Life Management What Kind of leader are You? By Wes Friesen


Software Byte Finding relevance in the mailbox By Christopher Lien


The Trenches Betting the Farm: hoping You Don’t have a privacy Breach By Mike Porter


Spring is around the corner!


What to See at NPF!


Reality Check The mailing industry and Flu Season: Not a Good pair


Pushing the Envelope The USpS — Stuck in the 20th century?

Ship It Gaze in Wide Wonder as Your parcel carrier performs magic By Jim LeRose


Editor’s Note

Follow us on Twitter @mST_parcElmedia

Everything IMBC pOSTNET Barcode retirement By Kevin Conti and David Robinson


Postal Affairs preparing for Delivery Delays By Kim Mauch

[ PLUS ] 4

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editor’s note

with Amanda Armendariz

Mailing systems technology PUBLISHER Marll Thiede


Spring Is Around the Corner! The warm, spring-like air that is currently blowing in through my window as I write this editor’s note has me excited. Not only does it mean that we’ve likely seen the last of winter (although in Wisconsin, you never can tell!), but it also means that the National Postal Forum is around the corner. Of course I’m excited to attend the conference itself; shows like NPF are always a great way to connect with our readers, gather up new article ideas, and stay abreast of the happenings in the mailing industry, specifically with regards to the USPS. But the fact that we’re heading out a couple days early to go to Disney World isn’t exactly making the wait any easier! I’m sure many of you will be attending the forum as well, so please, stop by Mailing Systems Technology’s booth and say hello. It’s always nice for us to be able to get feedback and suggestions from our readers; after all, you are the reason we continue to put out issue after issue of Mailing Systems Technology. If there is something that we’re doing particularly well, please let us know. And if there is something that you’d like to see covered that we are not currently reporting on, please let us know that, too! With your help, we’ll continue to be the top resource for professionals in the mailing industry. And, speaking of maintaining our excellent reputation (if I do say so myself), can you believe that this year marks our 25th anniversary as a publication? Our May/June issue will be a commemorative one, complete with a look back over the past 25 years. I know things have changed in our industry just within the past decade; it will be interesting to look at the changes a quarter of a century brings! So be on the lookout for that; that issue will be a must-read. As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology, and I hope to see you at NPF!

Amanda Armendariz

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kevin Conti, Robert Ellis, Kaz Jaszczak John Kline, Jim LeRose, Adam Lewenberg Christopher Lien, Kim Mauch, Mike Porter David Robinson, Wes Friesen


Rachel Spahr

ADVERTISING 608-442-5064 Ken Waddell


2901 International Lane • Madison WI 53704-3128 608-241-8777 • Fax 608-241-8666

Volume 25, Issue 2 Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients: $20 per year to all others in the United States. Subscription rate for Canada or Mexico is $40 per year, and for elsewhere outside of the United States is $45. Back issue rate is $5. Send subscriptions to: Mailing Systems Technology, PO Box 259098, Madison WI 53725-9098; or call 608-241-8777; fax 608-241-8666; e-mail or subscribe online at For high-quality reprints, please contact our exclusive reprint provider. Scoop Reprint Source 800.767.3263 ext. 144 All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©2012 by RB Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Any correspondence sent to Mailing Systems Technology, RB Publishing Inc. or its staff becomes property of RB Publishing Inc. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of RB Publishing Inc. or Mailing Systems Technology. RB Publishing Inc. and/or Mailing Systems Technology expressly disclaim any liability for the products or services sold or otherwise endorsed by advertisers or authors included in this magazine. Mailing Systems Technology (ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 25, Issue 2] is published six times per year, (January/February, March Buyers Resource, March/April, May/June, September/October, November/December) by RB Publishing Inc., 2901 International Lane, Suite 100, Madison WI 53704-3128, 608-241-8777. Periodical postage paid at Madison WI and additional offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Mailing Systems Technology PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098

Real Life Management What Kind of Leader Are You? how do we transform diverse individuals into powerful, high-performing teams? One useful tool is to learn and put into practice the leadership (aka managerial) Grid model. What is the Leadership (Managerial) Grid Model? The Leadership Grid model is a behavioral leadership model developed by robert Blake and Jane mouton years ago and validated by researchers and leaders today. This model identifies five different leadership styles based on the concern for people (relationships) and the concern for production (results). The optimal leadership style in this model is based on Theory Y, which i wrote about in my last column. The leadership Grid is a practical and useful framework that helps you think about your leadership style. By plotting ‘concern for production’ against ‘concern for people,’ the grid highlights how placing too much emphasis in one area at the expense of the other leads to low overall productivity. The model proposes that when both people and production concerns are high, employee engagement and productivity increases accordingly. This is often true, and it follows the ideas of Theory Y and other participative management theories. The leadership Grid is based on two behavioral dimensions: } Concern for People (Relationships) — This is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of team members, their interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task. } Concern for Production (Results) — This is the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task. Using the axis to plot leadership ‘concerns for production’ versus ‘concerns for people,’ Blake and mouton defined the following five leadership styles: The Leadership Styles of the Model The model is represented as a grid with concern for production as the x-axis and concern for people as the y-axis; each axis ranges from 1 (low) to 9 (high). The resulting leadership styles are as follows: Country Club Leadership — High People/Low Production (1,9) This style of leader is most concerned about the needs and feelings of members of his/her team. These leaders operate under the assumption that as long as team members are happy and secure then they will work hard. What tends to result is a work environment that is very relaxed and fun but where production suffers due to lack of direction and control.


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Produce or Perish Leadership — High Production/Low People (9,1) also known as authoritarian or compliance leaders, people in this category believe that employees are simply a means to an end. Employee needs are always secondary to the need for efficient and productive workplaces. This type of leader is very autocratic, has strict work rules, policies, and procedures, and views punishment as the most effective means to motivate employees. This dictatorial style lines up with mcGregor’s Theory X. Impoverished Leadership — Low Production/Low People (1,1) This leader is very ineffective. he/she has neither a high regard for creating systems for getting the job done, nor for creating a work environment that is satisfying and motivating. The result is a place of disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony. managers use this style to preserve job and job seniority, protecting themselves by avoiding getting into trouble. The main concern for the manager is not to be held responsible for any mistakes, which results in less innovative decisions. Middle-of-the-Road Leadership — Medium Production/ Medium People (5,5) This style seems to be a balance of the two competing concerns. it may at first appear to be an ideal compromise. Therein lies the problem, though: when you compromise, you necessarily give away a bit of each concern so that neither production nor people needs are fully met. leaders who use this style settle for average performance and often believe that this is the most anyone can expect. Team Leadership — High Production/High People (9,9) also now known as “Transformational leader.” according to the model, this is the pinnacle of managerial style and lines up with the Theory Y approach. These leaders stress production needs and the needs of the people equally highly. The premise here is that employees are involved in understanding organizational purpose and determining production needs. When employees are committed to, and have a stake in the organization’s success, their needs and production needs coincide. This creates a team environment based on trust and respect, which leads to high satisfaction and motivation and, as a result, high production. The “Transformational leader” according to leadership researcher Bernard Bass: } is a model of integrity and fairness. } Sets clear goals; has high expectations. } Encourages; provides support and recognition. } Stirs people’s positive emotions.

With Wes Friesen

 Gets people to look beyond their self-interest.  Inspires people to reach for the improbable. Applying the Leadership Grid Being aware of the various approaches is the first step in understanding and improving how well you perform as a manager. It is important to understand how you currently operate, so that you can then identify ways of becoming competent in both realms. Step One: Identify your leadership style  Think of some recent situations where you were the leader.  For each of these situations, place yourself in the grid according to where you believe you fit. You can also solicit input from people who have worked with you. Step Two: Identify areas of improvement and develop your leadership skills • Look at your current leadership method and critically analyze its effectiveness. • Look at ways you can improve. Are you settling for ‘middle of the road’ because it is easier than reaching for more? • Identify ways to get the skills you need to reach the Team (Transformational) Leadership position. These may include involving others in problem solving or improving how you communicate with them, if you feel you are too task-oriented. Or it may mean becoming clearer about scheduling or monitoring project progress if you tend to focus too much on people. • Continually monitor your performance and watch for situations when you slip back into bad old habits. Step Three: Put the Grid in Context It is important to recognize that although the Team Leadership style is generally the most effective leadership approach, there are times that call for more attention in one area than another. If your team is in the midst of a merger or some other significant change, it is often acceptable to place a higher emphasis on people than on production. Likewise, when faced with an economic hardship or physical risk, people concerns may be placed on the back burner, for the short-term at least, to achieve high productivity and efficiency. I like this quote from Tony Dungy: “The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” a Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, EMCM, MQC, ICP, CCM, CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 820,000 customers. Check out his personal website for free information ( a MARCH - APRIL 2012


Software Byte Finding Relevance in the Mailbox Standard mail is the dominant class of mail by volume for delivery by the United States postal Service. according to the 2010 household Diary Survey, 22% of mail received by households was Standard mail in envelopes. The next highest was 17% consisting of fliers and circulars, followed by what used to be the largest group: bills and invoices at 13%. Today’s mailbox has become a cacophony of advertisements and offers. The line of distinction between what some recipients call “junk mail” and others call timely offers comes down to relevancy in the message, or what i consider to be truly intelligent mail. Software is an essential tool in crafting a truly intelligent mailpiece and it all begins with data. more precisely, it begins with clean data. address data that is complete, correct, and current is only the beginning. marketers must also consider additional data elements such as demographic information, geographic location, and household information. That last element, household data, is particularly important for today’s data matching and consolidating software tools.


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The traditional phrase of “merge/purge” was often relegated to removing duplicate records and purging unwanted or outdated information. While still an essential step to reduce costs and avoid the proliferation of unwanted (“junk”) mail, today’s direct marketer needs to dive deeper into their data in order to uncover essential attributes of a targeted recipient if they want to find relevance in the mailbox. householding, a term used to describe the consolidation of multiple records that often have the same base address, is one way in which astute mailers look to improve message relevance in the mailbox. a “household” for data is two or more records grouped together based on an established match criterion. For example, match criteria may be set such that address a and address B are in the same “household” because they both have the same exact primary and secondary address, city, state, and Zip code. This is often the most common example of “householding”. however, a “household” can also be the same apartment complex or perhaps the same business with various subsidiaries.

With Christopher Lien

Geocoding is another tool leveraged to find relevancy in the mailbox. Where a recipient actually lives is not necessarily where they receive their mail. It is not uncommon to have the city associated with a USPS ZIP Code be completely different from the city in which the recipient lives and pays property taxes. Knowing the actual latitude and longitude of the physical addresses versus the mailing address can be essential to properly messaging the recipient. For example, offering a free cup of coffee to all addresses within one mile of a newly opened coffee shop might sound like a good idea at first, until you find out that some of the recipients will have to drive several miles out of their way to cross a river that separates the town. Finding relevance in the mailbox is also about messaging innovation. Variable messaging is not a new concept, but the software and data available to become increasingly innovative are. For example, social media is booming, and with it comes a deluge of data that was once difficult, if not impossible, for marketers to

obtain without direct participation from customers and prospects via the use of surveys and conversations with telemarketers. Couple this with software that can work personalized messages into any type of mailing, and you have a mailpiece that has the potential to deliver powerful results. Direct marketers arguably have more data available to them today than ever before, and there doesn’t seem to be any signs that this will diminish. They also have access to increasingly sophisticated software capable of matching and consolidating data using custom business rules. When leveraged correctly, this array of data and sophisticated software can improve targeted messaging, create intelligent mail, and enable mail to become more personal and relevant. a Christopher Lien, Vice President, Software Marketing, Bell and Howell can be reached at a MARCH - APRIL 2012


The Trenches

With Mike Porter

Betting the Farm: Hoping You Don’t Have a Privacy Breach 2011 was dubbed “The Year of the Breach” as a result of several widespread and well-publicized privacy violations that cost businesses in the US an estimated $6.5 billion. Most of the incidents were preventable. Have you thought about privacy and security lately? It’s worthwhile to periodically review how your document workflow protects the private information that may be flowing through your shop. Perhaps document operations haven’t been attractive targets for identity thieves (so far). But they do have an exposure to accidental disclosure of private information. Over time, new jobs come in and documents can change. Government regulations can change too. These events can render long-standing security procedures inadequate or obsolete. Revising the procedures to meet the current needs is a simple way to avoid a privacy disaster. In many shops, the primary line of defense against errors that result in privacy breaches is manual quality control. I’ve visited lots of operations centers where document security relied on practices such as sight-checking the printed output, fanning through finished envelopes, and balancing inserting jobs with nothing more than a clipboard and some meter counts. Even if all these procedures are followed, they probably aren’t adequate privacy protection today. And in my experience, those manual quality controls are not always executed. After decades of working directly with document operations, I have investigated exactly one incident when existing procedures could not have caught an error that made it into the mail. Every other time, the mistake would have been prevented or caught by the automatic or manual methods already in place. Humans who did not follow through were the weak link. At Risk: Your Company, Your Department, and You The exposure to risk is fairly high considering the volume of mail generated by most of our clients. A single mistake that results in a mail recipient getting access to private information belonging to another customer can spark a firestorm of knee-jerk reactions from customers or executive management. Besides negative publicity and additional expense, there could be far-ranging repercussions from privacy breaches. If you are an outsource service provider a perceived lack of oversight could lead to the loss of business — not only from the affected client but from others as well. And for in-plants, who are always justifying their value to corporate financial people who want to outsource document operations, a preventable security problem could be indefensible. Jobs will be lost — maybe even yours.


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Many shops have adopted automated solutions that take human error and inattention out of the equation. Elements of an automated document factory (ADF) can look at every printed document and every mailpiece, stopping the operation and issuing alerts should something seem unusual. But not everyone has those capabilities. Budget constraints may prevent operations managers from investing in all the technology that is necessary to detect errors wherever they might occur in the workflow. They may have integrity controls on the inserters, for example, but not on the printers or at the hand work stations. Or they may not have automated reprint capabilities, leaving them exposed to uncatchable errors in a manually-intensive process. And surprisingly, there are still plenty of shops that rely on the clipboard and batch-balancing approach to quality control. Recognize the risk and follow the procedures Work with what you’ve got. If you can’t afford to invest in cameras and tracking software, set up procedures that are within your means to catch errors before the mail leaves your facility. And pay close attention to those areas where you’re the most vulnerable. Scan the QR code at the bottom of this article for a list of some common trouble spots. Schedule reviews Reinforcing the rules, systematically examining the processes for vulnerabilities, and regular employee training are necessary to ensure that operator and supervisor procedures are taken seriously and performed as specified. Human nature causes us to take things for granted. After long periods with no errors, the QC procedures don’t seem quite so important. Attention to detail wanes. Mistakes slip through. We recommend re-visiting your quality control, security, and privacy rules twice a year. Set a reminder in your calendar and commit to doing it. Or schedule an outside resource to do the audits. If the review is not taken seriously by management, the staff won’t be as vigilant as you’d like. If you can, invest in technology to protect your operation from experiencing the painful fallout from a privacy violation. In 2012, a single incident could set off a sequence of negative actions that result in a hopeless situation. a Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants; a consulting firm that helps print and mail facilities assess their operations and maximize their potential. Get more thoughts about document operations and industry trends by subscribing to the free newsletter, “Practical Stuff” at

Ship It

With Jim LeRose

Gaze in Wide Wonder As Your Parcel Carrier Performs Magic According to UPS, $5.49 is the charge or base rate for a one-pound ground shipment to zone 2. However, the odds of seeing this or any other published base rate appearing on the invoice is low. In fact, your favorite shipping company’s prestidigitators are busy at work developing new methods to increase base rates. By the time charges show up on an invoice, they barely resemble the charges you expected. The techniques deployed would make Houdini envious. How do they do it? They call this trick: Value Added Services. What are “Value Added Services”? They used to be called accessorial fees. They’re fees tacked on to the base package rate, sort of like airline baggage fees. They are designed exclusively to increase carrier profit. New ones are continually added and many increase in cost each year. They are confusing and irritate their customers. As an example, UPS considers whacking its customers with an $11 address correction charge a “Value Added Service.” What’s next? Five bucks each time a driver has to excessively turn the steering wheel? Ten dollars per smile? Calling these confusing and complex charges “Value Added Services” is the equivalent of calling April 15 “Federal Generosity Day.”

 Wrap it with material UPS doesn’t like (as determined by UPS at its sole discretion) - $8.50 for additional handling. Stop gazing and wondering as your carrier performs magic. To lower transportation costs, you need to get control over accessorial charges, oops, I mean, Value Added Services. If you don’t, you are losing money, your company’s S&H policies may not be competitive, and your business may be suffering. A great starting point is the carrier Rates and Services Guide. Download it today. Jim LeRose is Principal of Agile NYC Metro and President of Jim has been a transportation industry consultant for over 25 years. His clients have saved millions on transportation costs. Agile has helped companies such as JP Morgan, Audiovox, Intuitive Surgical, Panasonic Electric, Petco and over 1,000 others. Jim welcomes your comments and can be reached at or 888.214.1763. You can also visit his blog at

UPS & FedEx are two of the best-run companies in the world, e-commerce depends on them, and they employ hundreds of thousands of people. However, many believe these strategies are deceptive and will do more harm than good. Are they crossing the line or simply acting in the best interest of their shareholders? Will their actions help create a third player in the parcel market? Time will tell.

THE MAGIC FORMULA One thing is certain: understanding the magic formula will save your company money. Here it is: Base Rate + Value Added Services + Fuel surcharge = Invoiced Amount. Magically, $5.49 is transformed into $16 or more.

Here are just a few Value Added Services from the 2012 UPS Rates and Services Guide: Value Added Services:  Residential - $2.55  Delivery Area Surcharge - $2.75  Extended Residential Charge - $3.25  Delivery confirmation (without a signature) online or mailed - $2.00  Bad address - $11.00  Excessive tracking - $3.00 per incident  Saturday pick-up or delivery - $15 a MARCH - APRIL 2012


Everything IMBC

With Kevin Conti & David Robinson

POSTNET Barcode Retirement The USpS will soon formally confirm the rumors of its pOSTNET barcode retirement plans (if not announced already) to coincide with the January 2013 rate change. This means that mailers who use the pOSTNET barcode on their mailings beyond the 2013 rate change will NOT receive automation rates. We also expect to learn that effective January 2014, the basic imb will not qualify for full, if any, automation rates. This means that full-service imb will be required to earn the highest discount beyond the January 2014 rate change. according to the USpS, the driver behind this continues to be that “full-service is essential.”

A Look At the Numbers To understand why the USPS considers the full-service IMb essential, let’s first start with the numbers. For 2011, the USPS stepped up its package tracking by implementing a package nesting solution at 62 sites, adding 4,000 ring scanners to over 200 plants and deploying 194 retrofits to its automated package bundle sorters. These upgrades culminated in more than 2.4 billion package tracking events in the past four months. Customers using USPS package services report that they are satisfied with the USPS scan data they are receiving. Considering that the USPS provided 1.2 billion package tracking events over the same period last year, this is an impressive achievement.

the USpS measure throughput, perform a pareto analysis of system failures, interrogate critical pair analysis, better understand missorts, and gauge transportation network effectiveness and adherence to operating plans and transportation. in essence, this helps the USpS to measure and improve their overall efficiency. For letters and flats, the free acS tracing data provided more than 10 billion piece-level automation scans in less than a month (January 7 to February 2). The USpS is now measuring work in process (Wip) on standard and periodical mail. These new Wip diagnostics allow the USpS to better understand mail flow through its processing network, and in theory, should serve as a great tool for minimizing disruptions or adverse impacts to mail flow during its network optimization effort. plant managers can now log on to this new diagnostics tool every morning to identify any “at risk” mail in their plants. The new tools currently provide standard reporting with some adhoc reporting and tools to perform queries and, in some cases, alerts. continued enhancements will improve the current features and add statistical analysis, forecasting, predictive modeling and optimization. The USpS will use this information to improve workload planning, processing and delivery efficiency, labor flexibility, service consistency and reliability. While the benefits to the USpS are significant, the mailing community also benefits. at a time when the USpS is preparing for network optimization, the largest logistical project in its history, mailers should consider taking advantage of the tracking capabilities provided by full-service imb Tracing. mailers need to understand any impact on service delivery, so that considerations can be made as required. Kevin conti is Director of mailing Solutions at pitney Bowes Software.

This increase in tracking and greater customer satisfaction has helped the USpS grow its package business. The change not only benefits package shippers, but more frequent scanning also helps

David robinson is currently the Director of address Quality for pitney Bowes.

in summary, we’ve been reporting for some time that the USpS would encourage full-service imb adoption, as it means so much to their plans to improve their network. Now the USpS has shared both the dates and the justification. We can understand, given their financial situation, why the USpS will hold to the full-service imb adoption dates. as a final note related to this topic, we expect the USpS to confirm full-service imb is required for all future mail promotions beyond the recently announced mobile barcode planned for the summer of 2012.


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Postal Affairs

With Kim Mauch

Preparing for Delivery Delays Timely delivery of mail can drastically impact its effectiveness. Whether timing a coupon to correspond to a key weekend, sending invoices to ensure payment, or scheduling follow-up communication via email or social media, getting the mail delivered in time is essential. Mail owners look to their mail service providers to ensure that the right message is delivered at the right time. We’ve all received a sale notification well after the offer expired — don’t let this happen to your mailings! Earlier this year, USPS announced they will no longer process First-Class mail for overnight delivery. All classes of mail could be affected by delays in processing due to plans to close processing facilities as soon as May this year. Mail that predictably took three, seven or 20 days to deliver will likely be changed by the restructuring USPS has planned. But, there are steps you can take now to eliminate some of the uncertainty. Get educated. Talk to the people working at the USPS facilities you use today to see if they are targeted for closure. If your centers will stay open, check if other facilities will be consolidated into them. Either scenario will affect how your mail is handled locally. You can also read up on USPS plans at In addition to closures, many Critical Entry Times (CETs) and Critical Acceptance Times (CATs) will be updated, especially for processing First-Class mail. You may need to adjust when you drop your mail to ensure it gets processed in a timely manner.  Start tracking your mail. Tracking information is now free for all users of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb), and just in time. By tracking your mail now, you can analyze current delivery times, giving you a baseline for expected delivery times. As consolidations start, you can compare the new delivery times to see where any bottlenecks occur. You can get the raw data directly from the USPS IMb Tracing program, or there are several tracking programs available that can analyze the data for you.  Review your mailing containers. Generally, mail that is more finely sorted is delivered faster. For example, an envelope in a tray going to a 5-digit ZIP code can be delivered faster than the same envelope in a tray with pieces going all over the country. These “mixed” containers are broken out by USPS and processed through more automation equipment, which can cause delays. To create more finely sorted containers, check your settings in your presort setup. You can also create higher density by combining mailings of the same format.


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 Investigate Drop Shipment. In addition to the discounts available by drop shipping, in many cases you can get your mail delivered faster too. By sending your containers to their final USPS sorting facility, you can cut out a lot of the transportation time. For individual trays and sacks, USPS offers Priority Mail Open and Distribute (PMOD). You can ship your trays and sacks up to 70 pounds via Priority Mail, and get your mail to its final Sectional Center Facility (SCF) in just two days. In some cases, the SCF discount on those pieces can justify the costs of Priority Mail delivery. For bigger shipments on pallets, several logistics companies can transport your mail to the final SCF. In many cases, this can be faster than the USPS transportation for Standard Mail. Again the discounts can help pay for the cost of shipment.  Reschedule mail drops. Sometimes your best efforts won’t match sending the mail out earlier. Talk to your customers now about these changes. Let them know that a few extra days lead time could make the difference between a great mailing response and a flop. Don’t wait for facilities to start closing before creating your backup plan. Expect delays to happen, but taking a few steps now can put you in the driver’s seat when changes occur. a Kim Mauch is a subject matter expert in mailing preparation and submission at Satori Software. Contact her at

ApplicAtion Article

Start to Mail – All in One Program

Contact Zone, Melissa Data’s new data integration program optimized for data quality, allows companies to reach more customers at a lower cost by cleansing, validating, and updating contact data, and preparing it for mailing. Its wizard-based user interface will have users up and running in minutes, performing operations in real-time, or scripting batch jobs to run periodically. Contact Zone connects to virtually any database, operating as the central hub for all data cleansing needs. “Out of the box, Contact Zone can talk to every file format and database, including text files, Oracle, SQL Server, dBase, Excel, Salesforce, SAP, Access, XML, DB2, MySQL and more,” said Bud Walker, director of Data Quality Tools at Melissa Data. Contact Zone provides capabilities for address verification, including the ability to parse, validate, correct and standardize U.S. and Canadian addresses. The program also offers integrated U.S. and Canadian change of address processing, deduping and presorting for First Class and Standard Mail to maximize postage savings. It also enables verification of U.S. and Canadian phone numbers, email addresses, and the ability to assign latitude and longitude coordinates to the 11-digit rooftop level for highly accurate geocoding. “Contact Zone allows for the automation of mailroom operations with powerful batch capabilities – you can script many processes together in one workflow,” remarked Walker. “Essentially, what we are creating is a data quality hub,” Walker continued. “It’s a data quality command center where you can do advanced processes that were previously available only within the programming or development components that we offered, or through Web services. In the past, you had to know how to use them; you had to know how to connect the databases that you were talking to and understand the file formats, and you had

to know how to update or insert the clients’ data into your target database for your data warehouse,” explained Walker. Contact Zone offers an easy approach to data quality for business users and data stewards with no coding experience. The product provides a uniquely simple graphical user interface (GUI) to map data transformations from any type of source database to any type of data warehouse, making clean, deduplicated records a reality for all users – not just in terms of affordability, but also from a technical standpoint. Because of its ease of use and the ubiquitous nature of its capabilities, Contact Zone can be employed by any size and type of company, from mom-and-pop mail houses all the way up to large enterprises, said Walker. New data transformation options will be added to the product, including capabilities to verify and standardize global addresses and telephone numbers. “We are bringing all of the capabilities Melissa Data has into this program,” said Walker. Contact Zone will debut at the National Postal Forum, April 1-4 at Melissa Data’s booth #1033, and is available for free download and trial at

Melissa Data

Money-Saving Strategies for Mail How to reduce mailing costs after the rate increase By Adam Lewenberg


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January, we had an across the board rate increase on all USPS classes. This article is designed to be a high level resource guide where you can get links to more in-depth information on different ways to save money around mail to offset this increase. With all of the programs offered by the USPS, it can be daunting to know if you are capturing the most savings available. This guide will give you a simple way to know what is out there and where you can go to get more information. We are going to focus on the most applicable domestic savings applications that should be easy to implement in your organization.

Barcoding your Mailings (Up to 83% Savings!)

ings can increase dramatically. Also, with the new January 22, 2012 rates, the second ounce is free with all First-Class Mail — Automation. This can allow mailers to add extra marketing information at no additional postage costs! Mailers who are sending similar, non-personalized pieces can get bigger discounts using Standard Mail. This is designed for a newsletter or a solicitation where every piece is the same and the customer can live with a slightly slower delivery. Things like invoices, statements and checks have to go First-Class Mail because every piece is slightly different or has personal information. Check out the Standard Mail Eligibility test provided by the USPS to see what class your mailing qualifies.

Postage savings is the main reason most companies barcode their mailings. (See the chart below) As the pieces get larger, the sav-

Pros to barcoding:  It saves you postage

Here are the minimum requirements to barcode your mailings:

 Cleans addresses prior to sending

 Pieces — At least 500 pieces for First-Class Mail or 200 pieces for Standard Mail.

 Keeps track of customer moves  Processes mailings with automatic sorting and forms creation  Plus, not to mention faster delivery.

Cons to Barcoding:  Software and hardware costs

 Software — Need software that meets all USPS certifications.  Permits — Need to have at least one permit from the USPS  Preparation — All mailings must have barcodes on each piece, be sorted, placed in trays with tray tags, have reports attached and brought to the USPS for processing.

 There are many steps to barcoding that require resources, such as taking mail to the USPS, and keeping software up to date.

Additional Ways to Reduce Costs with Barcoding:  Density — The more pieces you have going to a specific area, the better the rates.  Destination Entry Discounts — For Standard Mail, you can get deeper discounts (up to $.043 per piece) by delivering it to the destination post office, sectional center or auxiliary service facility. This is great for mailers with a local mail list. Services are also available that can transport mail throughout the country to help you qualify.  Intelligent Mail Barcodes — For mailers using this new barcode, there is an additional $.001 (Standard Mail) and $.003 (First-Class Mail) discount that can be applied.

Commercial Base and Commercial Plus (Up to 32% Savings!)

 Presort Services — Many companies want the benefits of automation and barcodes but cannot cost effectively manage it inside their operation. These providers have one or several sorters that are similar to what the USPS uses in their facilities. Presort providers work on a revenue split arrangement with the customer and USPS.

There are additional discounts from two percent to 32% off the retail rates for mailers who submit their pieces through an IBI meter (most mailing systems from the last five years), PC Postage, Click-N-Ship ( or a permit imprint. These rates are available for Priority Mail, Express Mail, and FirstClass Mail Package Service. a MARCH - APRIL 2012


There are two different tiers of savings:

Commercial Base — Two percent to 21% discount for single piece rates that you can get for all of your packages.

Commercial Plus — This is an additional one to 15% discount if specific volumes below are met.  Express Mail — 5,000 pieces in the previous four quarters or who have a customer commitment agreement with the USPS.  Priority Mail — 5,000 at one time or 75,000 total pieces in the previous calendar year, or who have a customer commitment agreement with USPS.  First-Class Mail Package Services — There is a Plus service but the rates can be higher than the Base rates. Note: To reach the Commercial Plus volumes, it can be for your combined usage across multiple locations. Also, most postage meters do not have Commercial Plus rates and can only do the Base pricing. You may want to contact your vendor for different options. Additional Savings — Commercial Plus has a rate for .5 lbs for Priority Mail starting at $4.39 compared to Retail and Base pricing which starts at one pound at $5.20 and 4.90.

Additional Savings Ideas Here are some additional strategies for you to consider helping lower postage and shipping costs. 1. Compare USPS Rates to FedEx and UPS — USPS can provide faster delivery (to specific zones) at lower costs for light weight items (less than 10 lbs) and should be shopped regardless of your discount. Here are the main reasons why:

Electronic Confirmation Services Up to 100% Savings! The USPS has different levels of tracking available with prices based on service levels. The three that we will discuss are Return Receipt used for Certified Mail, Delivery and Signature Confirmation. Inside each of these categories they have a Retail and Electronic rates.  The retail fee can be purchased at your local Post Office or you can get supplies that can be used in your office through a postage meter.  The electronic fee is for mailers who purchase postage online (for example, using Click-N-Ship) or are capable of sending and receiving electronic files of their shipments. Postage Meter vendors will typically offer this function as an optional item at an additional fee. PC Postage providers can also provide this service. The savings for Electronic Confirmation can be significant as you will see in the following charts. A Certified Mail with Electronic Return Receipt will cost $4.10 instead of $5.30 ($1.20 Savings!). Also, every Priority Mail and First-Class Package Service can have Electronic Delivery Confirmation for Free!


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a. Regardless of your discount with the private carriers, they typically have a base rate that they do not go below. When you take this rate, plus the additional fees for residential, delivery area surcharge, fuel surcharge, address corrections and Saturday delivery, USPS may be a bargain. b. The USPS has amazing rates on light weight packages less than 13 ounces ($1.64-3.28 vs most private carriers that start over $5.00). No one can typically come close to these rates, which is why the main e-tailers will typically send these items through the Post Office. This is especially common now that Delivery Confirmation can be added for free! c. When comparing Ground Service to USPS Priority Mail, many areas will get faster delivery. d. Packaging is Free for Priority Mail and Express Mail with special rates for flat rate boxes. 2. Consider Media Mail, Library Rate and Bound Printed Matter for printed material and DVDs — If you can live with the 3-8 day expected delivery time, these services may be a huge win. You can ship one pound starting at $1.86 and 10 lbs starting at

3.39! You need to pay special attention to the type of material you are sending (as well as where it is going with Library Rate) to make sure it qualifies.

3. Folding your Flats — If you are sending out light weight items in flat sized envelopes (9X12 or 10X13) you may be able to save by folding them in half into 6X9 envelopes. The savings is significant in two ways. a. The postage savings is huge because you are changing from a Flat to a Letter category. b. The envelope costs are much less expensive.

The goal of this article was to give you either some direction or review of the different savings available. Hopefully with this overview and the links provided with deeper detail, you can find strategies to lower your mailing and shipping costs and offset this year’s rate increase. Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS is President of Postal Advocate Inc. with over 18 years of experience in the mail industry. Their mission is to help entities with large numbers of locations, reduce mail related expense, and make their spends easy to manage. He can be reached at 617.372.8653 or a MARCH - APRIL 2012


By John Kline



Ways to Error-Proof Your Mail

Identifying and eliminating the root cause of the most common errors Back in the 1980s, a major phone handset manufacturer developed a business management strategy known as Six Sigma — where companies proactively took steps to improve quality by identifying and eliminating the cause of errors. The name “Six Sigma” comes from the manufacturing industry and describes a process where 99.99% of the output is defect-free. When you think about it, all of us involved in the creation and production of mail are in the manufacturing industry. We start with inputs and raw materials, manage processes, and yield a finished product that is built to certain specifications.


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For many years, some mailers assumed that a certain percent of “defects” were simply part of doing business. Today, with rising costs, stricter regulations, and heightened expectations, market leaders are taking steps to identify and eliminate the root cause of these errors. While most of us are already running pretty tight operations, there’s always room for improvement. Error-proofing mail is often necessary to control costs, but risk management is also a top business priority. There are the evermounting compliance requirements such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and Graham-Leach-Bliley — not to mention expanding global regulations. Mailers need to quickly respond to these challenges, anticipate evolving needs and seize new opportunities, all while operating within more stringent controls. On top of all that, we have internal mandates to significantly enhance mailpiece appearance, while improving processing performance and reliability. The bottom line is that we need to improve our processes and errorproof our mail. There are many software and hardware systems and solutions in place available today that can help us get there, but just what should we be looking for when we implement these systems? In speaking with major mailers, we’ve uncovered 10 best practices that outline what solutions should be able to do in today’s business climate: 1. Barcode Identifiers. Solutions need to be able to assign a unique identity for each page in a mailing, giving you the ability to track and trace each page as it travels through your system.

The ability to assign a unique barcode to each page is imperative, as this may be the only way you can verify that a mailing was produced, processed and prepared for shipment. 2. Early Tracking. Before a document becomes a piece of mail, tracking must begin. Hardware and software solutions need to enable oversight from start to finish. After a document is created, it must be identified and tracked before it is printed and becomes a piece of mail. 3. Start-to-Finish Validation. The importance of validation becomes more evident when we consider that we must know the “as planned” information in advance, in order to validate against any future errors. If your solutions and operators have knowledge of what’s supposed to be produced, it can be compared to what is actually produced, and validation can be achieved. 4. Accurate Metadata. Since documents and mailpieces are rarely a one-to-one relationship anymore, your solutions must be able to recognize the metadata associated with an individual mailpiece — and mailpieces are rarely limited to one piece of paper. As multiple documents or pages are often contained in one envelope, your solutions must be able to verify that the correct documents, with the correct numbers of pages, are delivered to the correct addresses. 5. Piece-level Tracking. Growing privacy concerns mean that solutions should be able to track and trace, and drill down as deeply a MARCH - APRIL 2012


as one individual piece of mail. Think about HIPAA: your customer’s medical information cannot be delivered to someone else. That could be disastrous for the customer, and your operation. 6. Audit Capabilities. Your solutions must have auditability, especially with all those privacy concerns in mind. How do you know that every piece entered the correct envelope and then entered the mailstream? Your solutions should be able to generate a report that can prove that happened, and show history that an individual mailpiece was assembled correctly and delivered. 7. Preference Management. Hybrid mailing is increasing in importance every day. Can your solutions recognize when and where a document is to be physically printed, when it is only electronic delivery or when it is a hybrid mailing? This is important since this flexibility can help drive lower paper volumes and avoid unnecessary printing. There’s an added boost to customer satisfaction when you communicate via their preferred channel. 8. Print Stream Engineering. Can you combine smaller jobs to increase efficiency? Do your solutions have the ability to share jobs across multiple networked inserters as needed, while maintaining job integrity assurance? Is it able to eliminate the guesswork involved with sophisticated document merging, including matched pieces from multiple inserters? 9. Jam Recovery. What happens when there is a jam, or a crinkled piece of paper in your processing? Your inserter must track every sheet of paper at all times and know where the sheets are, if they jam, crinkle, overlap, or mis-feed. Form printing to insert; any operation can benefit when tightly controlled by an integrated control system. 10. Automatic Reprints. Some solutions require human intervention to resolve an issue or manually assemble mailpieces within the work cell. The assumption, then, is that the operator has followed a process accordingly. Of course, a manual process

is not necessarily trackable. Today, manual processes may no longer be good enough, especially with today’s privacy regulations. Do you have an automated touch and toss process — if an operator touches it, does it gets thrown out? Can your solution then take the unique identifier on that damaged page and create the reprint? This process could allow the controls and tracking needed to ensure accurate mailpiece recovery. Each of these best practices can help streamline processes, lower operational costs, and improve the quality of mail. However, organizations should consider an end-to-end integrated print and mail solution for even greater success with driving error-free mail. Integrated solutions provide seamless processes integration, improved workflow and increased efficiencies and ultimately yield the greatest level of integrity needed to produce error-free mail. Non-integrated solutions, disparate bolt-on solutions, and manual steps can leave process gaps and room for error. Another benefit of an integrated solution is they are typically more scalable to allow smaller operations to start with an appropriate level of integrity they need and then easily expand as their changing needs demand. And, as an added benefit, integrated solutions streamline processes and lower operational costs. If your mail inserting applications are less complex or your equipment budget is holding you back, consider getting started with solutions that provide a foundation that can be easily upgraded to accommodate high mailing volumes and sophisticated applications and equipment. At the end of the day, it’s all about process. But it starts with the mindset that quality is important and achievable — if you take the time to identify and eliminate the imperfect solutions that lead to errors. Best of all, as you approach a 99.99% level, you’ll benefit from lower costs, fewer manual processes, and more satisfied customers. John Kline is Vice President, Global Inserter Solutions, Document Messaging Technologies, Pitney Bowes Inc.


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A vision and integrity solution can be vital By Robert Ellis

Staying in the Mailing BuSineSS Means Upgrading the QUality


lenty of mailing operations still use decades-old manual methods to ensure the integrity of the documents they produce. in a world where mailed communications are constantly challenged by less-expensive communication channels, companies that continue to rely on semi-effective and error-prone systems to ensure accuracy in document operations are finding it difficult to compete. any practices that lower the effectiveness of mail or add to the cost to produce the mail must be replaced. Today, mailers need more dependable solutions that can handle highly personalized and targeted communications. already at a disadvantage from a cost perspective, mail must be highly efficient and accurate to achieve an acceptable return on investment. Errors and waste that happen before the documents even enter the mail stream cannot be tolerated. One of the most versatile and affordable ways to give mailed communications the best chance of success is taking advantage of the many benefits provided by a vision and integrity solution. Lower Risk, Lower Cost, More Productivity an integrity system is the nerve center of most successful document operations. Work that is processing throughout the operation is constantly monitored. Data from individual items is collected from vision systems in real time and passed to a centralized database. Business rules can detect when items are out 24

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of sequence, missing some critical elements, or can match the collected values to the database. integrity software will notify the operator of any processing errors as they occur so they can be handled immediately. integrity systems can be installed on inserters, printers, saddle stitchers, perfect binders, and all kinds of finishing equipment used in document workflows. Document producers are demanding that their mail be error-free, trackable, and produced at a reasonable cost. Some document center managers believe they can achieve these objectives using their old manual methods. But we know there are significant risks in neglecting to upgrade control and tracking capabilities in document operations: loss of customers Errors that result in mailpieces that are incomplete or confusing can cause big problems. customer service call volumes increase, response rates plummet, and apologies must be made. mail centers that continue making mistakes will see customers take their business to another service provider. public humiliation There is no shortage of news stories about mismatched documents, privacy violations, or other mistakes that make it into the mail and get the attention of the media. almost all of these errors are preventable with solutions that are on the market today.

Cost of rework It’s not uncommon for organizations to re-print and re-mail an entire job that had some errors. They have no way of identifying the mailpieces that were wrong. Fines In the case of personal information that is protected by law or regulation, organizations can be subject to fines and penalties for accidentally disclosing private information to unauthorized individuals. An increasingly common reaction is to provide free credit monitoring services to affected parties — at a substantial cost to the mailer. There is an endless list of printing, finishing, and mailing mistakes that can happen. Some of the most common errors include inserting pages from multiple accounts in a single envelope, mismatching personalized pieces, missing pages, missing pieces, duplicates, out-of-sync duplexing, improper print positioning, poor print quality, and inaccurate folding. Manual Methods Don’t Address Today’s Requirements For years, document operations managers relied on batch balancing and spot-checking to ensure integrity. The main components of these methods are human eyes, meter counts, and a clipboard. There are obviously some drawbacks to this legacy approach: Unreliable Batch balancing can’t catch all the errors. The meters on the inserters don’t know that one account was missing and another was printed twice (due to a jam and restart in the print room). Spot-checking only validates the accuracy of the pieces that were checked. All intervening

documents are simply assumed to be correct. Today’s document composition engines are capable of creating documents “on the fly.” Widespread use of variable images, white space management, and dynamic document composition makes spot-checking a risky proposition. Time-consuming Jams and misfeeds on equipment contribute to the majority of the problems — especially in an environment where integrity controls are rudimentary or do not exist at all. To lessen the number of jams, equipment operators may reduce the processing speed. Or they may stop the machines at regular intervals to check the integrity of the material. And when an error is detected, production often stops until the source of the error is found and corrected. Expensive Many operations utilize special crews to find and correct errors. Procedures may involve weighing individual envelopes or visually inspecting them to find one that may hold an extra page. If an error that is discovered via the batch balancing method cannot be found within a certain amount of time, the entire job may be re-printed and re-inserted. And shops that run applications featuring multiple pieces of personalized information often resort to hand-matching, resulting in excessive labor costs. Indefensible Choosing not to use available technology to ensure accurate results is a weak argument when confronted with a customer who is experiencing financial or public relations fallout from a mailing gone bad. Customers expect a MARCH - APRIL 2012


document operations that process mail to have made the investments in the hardware and software necessary to do basic mailpiece integrity. Quite simply, accurate and automatic controls are mandatory functions for any company that produces mail today. This is now an entry-level requirement. How Integrity Systems Solve the Problems Integrity solutions help companies overcome all the limitations of manual quality control. Vision systems with integrity software can perform multiple functions simultaneously and in real time. This capability enables higher throughput, more accurate results, and lower production costs. By inspecting every page, piece, or parcel as it passes through a step in the document workflow, vision systems can verify the presence and the accuracy of every item — a huge advantage over spot-checking. And, unlike batch balancing solutions, which can only be done at the end of the job, vision and integrity systems can notice an error, alert the operator, and stop the equipment immediately. This allows the operator to quickly locate the problem, repair it, report it, and get the machine running again. Productivity and report ability is greatly improved. Integrity-based automated controls can also enable cost reduction strategies such as merging several small jobs into larger ones. The vision system will scan and the integrity software will track each document. Even though the mailpieces may have been mixed among documents from many different applications, the integrity of each of the originating jobs is maintained.


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Camera Solutions Match Requirements Vision systems typically utilize two different types of cameras. Areascan cameras are focused on a specific portion of document real estate, such as the location of the document control barcode or the window of the envelope. Line-scan cameras inspect the entire document. Multiple areas of interest can be defined where data can be captured, compared, and recorded. Some organizations record scanned images to their database for archival or proof of processing. Besides mailing, vision systems are useful in other areas of a document operation. They are used to track and verify the accuracy of documents as they are stitched or folded, for instance. Book publishers use vision systems to verify that every page is present before sending the material along to the binding steps. Producers of credit cards or fulfillment gift cards use vision systems to compare the card to the carrier sheet. This capability allows the mailers to avoid sending a card to the wrong recipient. Some marketers use cameras to scan information on documents to control ink-jet printers that place variable messages or offers on the outbound envelopes. Many users of vision systems invest in the technology to satisfy their requirements for item tracking and control. Once installed, they find new markets and revenue streams are enabled by the same equipment. For controlling and tracking items, vision systems can read linear and two-dimensional barcodes, use the text itself, or even rely on

An exciting game played by most mail centers:

STATEMENT HUNT Using cameras with integrity software to control the purity of mail pieces as they are processed is a critical function of integrity systems technology. But there are other benefits as well. The status and disposition of individual mailpieces will be recorded in a centralized database as they are processed through the workflow. This functionality helps tremendously when fielding inquires of the “where’s my statement?� variety. Instead of interrupting operations managers to manually determine which jobs (probably) included the document of interest, and then combing through stacks of log sheets, piles of reprints, or picking through mail trays, a query of the account number in the tracking database reveals the date, time, equipment, operator and final disposition of individual documents. Accurate information is gathered in a matter of seconds and can be relayed to the customer while they are still on the phone. This is a huge improvement in productivity and customer satisfaction. Game over!

image or pattern recognition. Marketers and others who are sensitive about applying unsightly barcodes to their documents will be pleased to know that vision systems can read codes printed in invisible ink or utilize the data already present in the USPS intelligent mail barcode. It is not necessary to compromise document design to gain the benefits and peace of mind delivered by modern vision and integrity solutions. Keeping Mail Relevant Requires Better Execution Printing firms, mailing bureaus, marketing service providers, and in-plant document operations that are building for the future have embraced the value that integrity systems provide. They understand that the standards have been raised for printed documents. Formerly acceptable levels of accuracy must be exceeded if physical documents are to compete with the digital communication channels that exist today. Traditional, manual methods of integrity control are costing companies extra money spent on excess production costs, re-work, and loss of business. An investment in an affordable, modern, and versatile integrity system enhances their ability to compete and opens up new opportunities. Robert Ellis is President of Document Data Solutions, a firm dedicated to providing unrivaled vision, printing, quality control, and integrity system solutions. For a free evaluation of how integrity systems can prepare your company for the future, contact or visit a MARCH - APRIL 2012



or many years, image processing and address recognition technologies have been used to speed up mail sorting and reduce manual data entry costs. The need for automation has only increased with today’s competitive postal business, changing customer behaviors, and uncertain mail volumes. additionally, continued growth in parcel volume is sparking greater need for automatic parcel sorting. Since parcel processing is laborintensive, reducing costs associated with parcel sorting and delivery has also received increased urgency. postal and courier parcel sorting centers currently introducing or upgrading parcel sorting systems are at an advantage over mail centers that automated letters and flats in past years. Today, more mature technology and business models provide higher savings to make solutions viable. Furthermore, accumulated experience can help in arriving at the most efficient and cost-effective solutions for automated parcel sorting.

New OppOrtunities in Parcel automation Facing the trends and challenges in mail and parcel sorting automation head-on By Kaz Jaszczak 28

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in particular, innovative universal Optical character recognition (Ocr) solutions, already implemented in letters and flats sorting automation, may be adapted and successfully applied to the shipping of parcels. These modularized systems are not tied to specific hardware platforms and can be easily implemented to provide an accurate, fast, flexible, and cost-effective solution in an existing environment. Until recently, suppliers were offered only integrated solutions that included both Ocr and transport components. This tight integration of sorting equipment and Ocr modules hampered the periodic replacement or update of just one of the components. an Ocr/Video coding Systems (Ocr/VcS) open interface standard was created over the past two years to enable postal operators to work with different suppliers for needed replacements or expansions to sub-systems without incurring significant engineering costs. Universal Ocr systems that may be considered separately from the upgrade of sorting equipment make it possible to unify automation efforts and provide address recognition improvements for several mail stream types simultaneously.

A Host of Benefits There are other advantages of universal technology that are worth considering. First, the capability of an Ocr engine to provide high performance levels on both machine-printed and handwritten addresses makes automation investments more viable despite the ratio of handwritten and machine-print addresses in the full mail stream. Second, universal technology automatically identifies and locates address blocks and labels on any parcel despite its format. it also requires comparatively lower expenses to adapt (for address formats and structure, coding rules, unique handwriting styles, etc.) for specific countries. This approach requires lower development expenses and makes even small business opportunities feasible and attractive. Universal Ocr solutions were designed to answer the entire range of market needs and proved their efficiency in a number of postal and parcel automation projects worldwide. The software incorporates the latest achievements in artificial intelligence in areas such as neural network technology, fuzzy logic, hidden markov models, multiple independent engines, and contextual informa-

tion. Using these innovative methods, universal OCR successfully resolves address location and recognition challenges that parcel images pose. In particular they allow the software to successfully solve the task of “Region of Interest” (ROI) location. Though often underestimated or taken for granted, ROI location is a necessary step in applications in postal and courier parcel sorting and is key to the success of the solution overall. In cases where parcel images contain several blocks of information, like sender’s address, company logos, and barcodes, as well as the destination address, ROI location is one of the main challenges. Finding the small address block amidst different pieces of data should be approached in a very precise way, yet the process must have flexibility to accommodate different applications. First, it is necessary to separate the image of a mailpiece from the background. Here, an ROI is the image of the mailpiece, which is found within a larger image, which also captures a piece of a conveyer belt used to transport the mailpiece.

Despite the difficulty of the task, the best modern technologies successfully locate ROI on parcels and bundles. The most advanced algorithms rely on two main approaches: 1. Heuristic algorithms, in which a set of rules is created to describe the possible layouts of various elements of a mailpiece. During the location process, an algorithm tries to classify an input layout by matching it against a set of fixed layout descriptions. 2. Neural net technologies, used to recognize relationships between items on a mailpiece. The neural network is trained on a large image set of mailpieces and uses accumulated knowledge to locate the ROI during the mail handling process.

The software separates the ROI, cleaning up the image for processing. Then, the second-level ROI represents the required information found in either a “simple” address block or a label containing an address block. Finally, for labels, which contain additional information such as return address, phone number, account number, or barcode, the destination address block is located. While processing labels, a new ROI location task is assigned to extract the destination address data only. Sophisticated ROI algorithms filter out irrelevant objects at this stage. Universal OCR removes background noise from the parcel images and identifies address blocks and labels, as well as detects images missing a destination address. Unique label-type independent techniques can be used to locate address blocks on any parcel and provide a universal solution for a mixed stream of packages. When the address is located, the software reads machine-printed and handwritten addresses on parcel images that are often of poor quality, rotated at random angles, skewed, and often include multiple types of “noise.” Universal address recognition solutions are now available to parcel processors to locate and recognize country-specific addresses on any parcel. These solutions enable global automation and raise quality and data accuracy standards regardless of geographic location. Kaz Jaszczak, Director of Business Development, Government Postal and Commercial Mail for Parascript, has more than 25 years experience in research and product management. He can be reached at or 303.381.3153. a MARCH - APRIL 2012


What to See at NPF

Profitability and ROI rely on having the fewest operators, maximizing production in a shorter run environment and controlling operating costs. Forerunner inserters are designed to be run by a single operator and are perfect for short to mid-length runs, come equipped with our productivity management to help software operators become highly efficient quickly. Bell and Howell 800.220.3030

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Enabling Lifetime Customer Relationships


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Create and deliver personalized, relevant communications across print, mail, web, email, call center and mobile to engage customers. Maximize postal discounts and deliverability by correcting customer addresses, updating data for customers who move, and complying with USPS regulations. Reach customers through alternate channels like email and SMS. Pitney Bowes Software 800.327.8627

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Run, Don’t Walk


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Many companies claim to have Walk Sequence services, but only a true DSF2 licensee like Bell and Howell can provide you the fastest turnaround, greatest postage discounts, and most competitive rates for your Saturation and Walk Sequence mailings. Check out the facts about DSF2 services and actual licensees at Bell and Howell 800.337.0442

Postage Savings on That?


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You name it, it’s likely ID Mail has it covered. Automation discounts and postage manifesting for 1st and Standard class letters, flats, and parcels. BPM, Media, Library, Marketing Parcels, Parcel Select Lightweights, and Priority Mail are all covered by one of ID Mail’s automation systems. Whether an OCR solution for less than $20k or a fully automated sorting system for $200k, US domestic, incoming, and international mail, ID Mail Systems has a solution for you! ID Mail 860.344.3333


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Enter a New Dimension in Data Cleansing: the Contact Zone

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Contact Zone from Melissa Data allows users to reach more customers at a lower cost by cleansing, validating, and updating contact data, and preparing it for mailing – all in one workflow. Contact Zone connects to virtually any database, operating as the central hub for all your data cleansing needs.

The K305 is truly the most flexible inserting system, ideal for smaller jobs and quick changeovers. With its impressive filling capacity of up to 12mm and its ability to deliver monthly volumes of up to 250,000 cycles, the K305 will provide a cost-effective solution for various types of envelopes and inserts that are standard or even custom made.

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Transform Your Mailing Operation


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Processing at speeds of up to 70,000 pieces per hour, the Criterion APEX sorting system delivers high efficiency and reliability to your mailroom operations. Designed to process the full spectrum of business and collection mail, in uniform or mixed batches, the APEX offers features that ensure you have maximum throughput and minimal processing time. Bell and Howell 800.220.3030

Smart Mailers Track. Do You?


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Visibility, predictability, and accountability are essential elements to any effective multi-channel marketing campaign. Harness them with the Intelligent Mail barcode and Bell and Howell’s Track N Trace. Know when your mail will likely arrive, coordinate marketing channel efforts, and monitor USPS performance. That is truly intelligent mail. Bell and Howell 800.337.0442


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Reality Check

With Wanda Senne

The Mailing Industry and Flu Season: Not a Good Pair


either rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night… but the cold or flu is another thing! how did you survive the cold and flu season (which the cDc claims historically peaks during February)? i hope better than i and some of my fellow co-workers did! The reality is that data management, mail design, printing, production, mail entry, and delivery are affected if the people behind those processes are sick! i cringe considering the germs i will encounter at airports, hotels, and other public areas during my upcoming trips to association meetings and the National postal Forum in Orlando! Did you know that cell phones have 18 times more bacteria than toilet handles? Germs have long been the topic of concern; even The Washington Post published an article on November 22, 1896 discussing the germs on postage stamps. Good thing we’ve come a long way from licking water-activated postage, but we’ve still got a lot to consider if we’re going to try to stay healthy and keep the mail moving. my sister Jan, the rN, and WebmD helped me to understand the difference between cold (transmitted through touch) and flu (transmitted by air) upper respiratory illnesses: no cure for a cold that should resolve itself in seven to ten days; antiviral drugs are prescribed for flu. check out WebmD for a great symptom chart — know the difference for more prompt treatment to get back to the mail!

Now that we’re focused on germs, how long do they live? microbes can live on household surfaces for hundreds of years; however, most don’t, and some like hiV live only a few seconds and die almost immediately when exposed to sunlight. a virus needs a host to reproduce and the life span is shorter than bacteria (which reproduce on their own). Bacteria and virus cannot live on dry surfaces with less than 10% humidity; move to the Southwest! The cDc states that human flu virus can survive on surfaces between two and eight hours and are killed best by heat (167 212° F); even the Southwest doesn’t get that hot! The mayo clinic reports that cold-related germs seem to live longer on hard surfaces than on fabric or other soft surfaces. Remedies: While there is no cure for the common cold, americans spend at least $4.2 billion each year on over-the-counter products searching for one. remember your mom asking, “Did you wash your hands?” The mayo clinic suggests frequent hand washing with soap and water, and to stop yourself if you are about to rub your eyes or face unless you’ve washed your hands. Ottawa University reminds people to wash palms and finger tips for approximately 20 seconds (length of time to sing the alphabet Song according to puffs) 32

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and especially around rings as bacteria can hide under them. if you haven’t taken your wedding ring off since that special day (maybe because you can’t anymore) well, not much i can recommend. Hand sanitizers don’t kill 99% of germs; research showed actual percentage at 46% to 60%! however, when a sink, soap, and water are not available, the cDc recommends using hand sanitizer brands containing at least 60% alcohol. Night-time Vicks VapoRub on your chest; my mom even slathered it on my feet, covered by a flannel neck cloth and socks! moms are still doing this with reported success — especially on children. Vitamin C, popularized by Nobel prize winner linus pauling, is now reported to reduce the duration of a cold by only a matter of hours. however, people under extreme stress experience better results from taking vitamin c — does working in the mailing industry fall into that category? Echinacea in laboratory studies reduced inflammation and appeared to boost the immune system, but use outside the lab has not provided evidence to support prescriptions. Zinc taken within 24 hours onset of cold symptoms can reduce the suffering by about one day… BUT to me, the tablets taste BaD and caused stomach upset. considering dosage is recommended every two hours i’ll pass on this one. Honey in tea: the warm tea offers comfort, but caffeine shrinks blood vessels in the nose and could make you feel more congested. (Note: children under age 1 risk botulism from honey) Marshmallow (althea officinalis) and licorice root have been used to treat cough and sore throat but licorice root can negatively interact with some medicines and effects blood pressure. There are many more remedies i came across, but the bottom line is: a single sneeze can travel up to three feet — so cover your mouth to avoid christening your co-workers and associates, and wash your hands before you touch your face to reduce the germs and potent cold or flu. The next time i get a cold, maybe i should just think positively as one cough-drop manufacturer suggests by printing “a little pep Talk in Every Drop” on the lozenge wrapper: “Get through it,” “Seize the Day,” and “Be Unstoppable”. a Wanda Senne is the National Director of postal Development for World marketing. contact her at or 770.431.2591.

ApplicAtion Article

Using Message Relevancy to Drive Customer Loyalty By Mike Maselli, Vice President, Marketing and Product Management

This is the third installment of “Using message relevancy to drive customer loyalty” by Mike Maselli. The second installment of this paper covered how to develop messages relevant to your customer profile targets.

WHITE SPACE MANAGEMENT There are many ways that a marketer can design documents with relevant messages. White space management is a technique used by many to increase communication value. One method is to use any remaining space at the end of the last page for messages, another is to push down information and start the document with messages — only if it means not adding additional pages and raising the cost of materials and postage. A little more difficult, but potentially more effective, method is to insert messages near related transactions — very similar to how Web searches work. For example, advertisements on a wireless phone bill for additional minutes would be placed near the used minute’s details, and advertisements for a larger data plan would be placed near the details about the amount of data downloaded.

ProTECTING THE ENvIroNMENT A recent influencer of customer loyalty and delivery preference is the environment. Lately it seems that the ‘green’ message is coming from every direction, from corporate statements to consumer products to mail. Many people started converting to electronic delivery as a way of protecting the environment, but then messages on printed documents about the use of recycled materials and ink based on renewable resources suddenly made the traditional printed document again an acceptable means of communication. InfoPrint Solutions Company noted results from a recent survey that three out of four respondents would consider opting for traditional mail delivery if they were informed that it had less negative environmental impact than email. For now, simple environmentally friendly statements are probably enough to satisfy the average mail consumer. But down the road mailers will need to highlight more than the use of recycled paper and vegetable-based ink. They’ll need to have plans and programs in place that follow guidelines such as the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14000 series that impact complete product lifecycles. This includes compliance with requirements for reducing energy consumption, waste, and toxicity in the production and distribution process, and developing recover/reuse/recycle for each phase of the production lifecycle.

TrACkING THE EffECTIvENESS of your EfforTS It is also important to validate and measure your efforts so that you can continuously improve response rates. Online promotions are easier to track using various analytics tools. These tools provide information about the number of users accessing a web page, how long they stay on the page and site, the average number of pages they view, their transaction funnel and click path, abandonment rates, purchase details—virtually every data point is available. Print promotion results can be harder to track, but a unique identifier such as a quick response code or custom URL can be added to the print piece to track responses to the calls to action. Tracking this type of data will allow you to answer many questions from your project sponsors, including whether your efforts influenced results and satisfied the business justification that was used to fund the project. It can also inform as to whether your particular message types are sustainable/repeatable and profitable enough to warrant a monthly, quarterly or yearly reprise.

THE TIME To STArT IS NoW Customer loyalty develops over time, and if done right can translate into tangible business results. Many companies have realized that their bills and statements can play a major role in building relationships and customer satisfaction, all of which translates into loyalty. Using these vehicles to deliver relevant, targeted information in each customer’s preferred delivery method, and applying best practices and leveraging advanced data management and tracking technologies, can improve the relationship a company has with their customers and grow their bottom line. © 2012 Bell and Howell, LLC. All rights reserved. Bell and Howell and the Bell and Howell logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Bell and Howell, LLC. All other trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners. Specifications are subject to change without notice.

Bell and Howell

Pushing the Envelope

With Kate Muth

The USPS — Stuck in the 20th Century?


hile watching the academy awards ceremony, i was struck that the film industry (hollywood, for short) and the postal Service have something in common. They seem stuck in the past. These two industries can’t shake their nostalgia for a bygone golden era. in the case of hollywood, it seems filmmakers and the “industry” as a whole don’t want to let go of their storied past, even as filmgoers send clear signals they are embracing the future, which includes watching movies at home, or anywhere and anytime on their handheld devices.

disappear and the post office as a community hub is certainly a part of our country’s rich history. But we can’t anchor the postal Service in the past and expect to survive into the future. No other industry clings to its history at the risk of its current survival. look at Verizon. it didn’t fight to save landlines as a cultural institution dear to our nation’s history; it jumped into the cellular phone and fiber optic businesses. Even hollywood is discovering that it needs to adapt to a fickle viewing public that no longer seems interested in shelling out $11 to watch a special-effects laden movie at a theater.

Let’s not mire the Postal Service so far in the past that it never gets to experience its future. For the postal Service and the mailing industry, this nostalgia is a little different. it’s not the postal Service that is clinging to the past; it is politicians — taking their cues from constituents (which include workers and customers) — that seem to want to freeze the postal Service in time. The postal Service itself is anxious to move into the 21st century, as evidenced by its five-year business plan and ongoing efforts to shrink its physical footprint and downsize its workforce. With its proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery and change its service standards, the postal Service is saying, quite boldly, that this is no longer the 1990s (never mind the 1950s). its recent plans and proposals underscore its realization that it needs to be a leaner, smaller delivery entity. it cannot afford excess capacity in an era of declining mail volume. it’s also time to put the retail outlets where the people are, such as where we go shopping or where we do our banking and other errands. more and more frequently, americans are shopping at home from a computer, or on the go from a mobile phone or smart device, such as an ipad or Nook. it makes sense for the postal Service to sell its retail services online as well. But each time the postal Service takes small steps into the future, it gets yanked back into the past. lawmakers have railed against the postal Service’s plans to close more than 200 processing facilities because it means a loss of jobs. and it seems any attempt to close low-activity post offices, no matter how small, elicits a public outcry about the loss of a town’s identity and sense of community. it is sad to see rural american towns


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i have read a lot of commentary on the postal Service over the past few years and much of it poses serious and difficult questions about what a future postal system should look like in this age of communications and instant information. it certainly isn’t easy to bring a hardcopy delivery infrastructure into the digital age with so many stakeholders presenting different ideas. But i think there is a very simple and straightforward question we haven’t asked that we need to: is the postal Service a jobs program? if the answer is yes, then perhaps we need to rethink the entire business plan with this in mind. and maybe congress needs to pony up some stimulus funds. But if the answer is no, the postal Service is not a jobs program, then we need to let the organization right-size its physical and human infrastructure for the current and future mail needs of this country. Once we have that leaner postal Service, we then need to figure out what its universal service obligation should be in the digital age. it may not make sense to deliver mail six days a week, to the door, as americans rely more heavily on other forms of communication. it might also mean that universal service includes digital services from our nation’s postal system, such as the postal Service providing an email address tied to the physical address. Just like the postal Service itself, the universal service obligation was not meant to be static but to evolve as the nation’s communications needs change. let’s not mire the postal Service so far in the past that it never gets to experience its future. a Kate muth is president of muth communications, a writing, editing and consulting firm. contact her at

ApplicAtion Article

Gaining Optimum Value for the IMb The number of United States Postal Service (USPS) incentive programs designed for mailers using the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) is increasing. Intelligent Mail technology will impact legacy systems, business unit applications, document creation, database management, marketing, call centers, billing operations, and IT resources. This means that mailers will have to cope with changes in the way they prepare their mail and the way in which the USPS delivers it. Let’s explore the impact of the new incentives and how mailers can benefit from effective use of the IMb, while improving mail delivery. Mail Preparation USPS network optimization will require mailers to understand how changes in drop-ship locations affect their operations. Advanced presort software will keep track of changes in facilities and point to different induction locations. This will maximize postal savings, boost productivity, and increase customer satisfaction with precision presorting. As for electronic induction, Mail.dat will inform mailers of impending changes coming to the Induction process.

For example, as Intelligent Mail technology evolves, simpler induction processes will enable mailers to reduce the overall costs of mailing. And new automated methodology should enable the USPS to reduce or eliminate the manual processes required for special services. eDoc has already proved its value, as you can see from the charts below. In addition, the USPS has stated that all future mail incentives will require eDoc to participate. Informed Visibility of Customer Information The biggest benefit of the Intelligent Mail program resides in the insight and informed visibility it offers. Mailers will have the ability to see information on piece, tray, container and transportation scans and information. The USPS will provide mailers with broad data that has the scan data within it. Mailers can then integrate that information into their data systems to do more detailed tracking. Leading-edge solutions can help marry business data with the IMb so mailers can see who, what, and where information about their mailings.

Within leading presort solutions such as MailStream Plus, new releases of Mail.dat will inform mailers of new incentives and fee codes. In addition, Mail.dat will extend the ROI mailers can receive through proper preparation of mail, acquisition of IMbs for automated induction, and information about changes resulting from network optimization. Mail Delivery Fewer induction locations, USPS workforce reductions and procedural changes will have a domino effect on such mailer activities as lettershop production scheduling, call center staffing and training, point-of-purchase displays, and fulfillment services. The topics to keep in mind include: } Service Standards: As USPS makes changes in its delivery standards, mailers will need to understand the impact of these changes in delivery routes and projected in-home dates. } Visibility (When and Where): Look for applications that provide reports, increased visibility, and the ability to measure whether USPS meets its delivery standards. With Intelligent Mail barcodes, you can track the location of individual pieces. } Return Mail/Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA): Leading solutions enable mailers to understand percentages of undelivered mail and obtain information electronically about undeliverable addresses to correct them. With the right address management workflow products, you can review and update address data. Electronic Documentation As the 21st Century moves into its second decade, the benefits of eDoc will become ever more clear. And the development of new technologies should bring about new economies for the USPS and the ability to offer better, more useful services to mailers.

Get more informed visibility that answers: “Where’s My Mail?” For more information on the USPS transformation initiative, gaining optimum value for the IMb and improving mail delivery please download the new Pitney Bowes Software white paper at goto.

Pitney Bowes Software One Global View Troy, NY 12180 1.800.327.8627

Mailing Systems Technology March-April 2012  

Mailing Systems Technology March-April 2012

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