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Are you ready for May 2011? Here are some often overlooked IMb angles

Jan 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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As of May 2011, mailers need to use the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) with either Full Service or Basic options to be eligible for automation discounts on letter-size and flat-size mail pieces. Although the USPS will still accept mail printed with POSTNET barcodes, mail printed with POSTNET barcodes will be ineligible for automation discounts. Mailing software provider Window Book offers these tips.

No free lunch or mail tracking

As in the past, mail tracking from the USPS is available, but there are charges associated with this service. This tracking service retains the Confirm name; the only difference is the barcodes used to provide the tracking scans and the associated technology to provide the tracking data. The PLANET code previously used for this mail tracking service will be replaced with the Intelligent Mail barcode effective May 2011.

Go ahead and code that sack, tray or container label

The USPS prefers that as much mail as possible is tagged with IM coded tags — it streamlines mail processing. Mailers are encouraged to use IM coded sack, tray and container labels, even if they aren't claiming Full-Service discounts or submitting electronic documentation (eDoc).

Don't forget to change the reply cards

Many reply mail pieces are printed far in advance of distribution — don't overlook them when implementing IM. Just as with other mail pieces, effective May 2011, all reply mail, whether business reply or courtesy reply, must be printed with a valid IM barcode to obtain automation discounts.

The USPS will still accept reply mail printed with Postnet barcodes after May 2011, but neither these reply pieces nor the host piece containing bar-coded reply pieces are eligible for automation discounts. If you produce magazines, newsletters, catalogs, flyers, direct mail pieces or anything else that contains reply mail pieces, convert the reply pieces to IM barcodes prior to May 2011.

Hidden ACS costs?

Obtaining address corrections through Address Change Service (ACS), free of charge, is perceived as a key IM benefit. Although the service is free to eligible mailers, some may encounter hidden costs.

Depending on which service was used (Traditional ACS, OneCode ACS, etc.), the USPS has different systems for providing the ACS data. Therefore, buying or developing different systems to retrieve and process the corrections can be costly. Also, not all ACS transactions are free. For example, if there is an issue with the IM barcode readability, or the mailer has not updated recent ACS corrections before mailing again to the corrected address, the ACS correction might incur a charge. If a hardcopy ACS correction is provided, substantial charges might result.

The Facility Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) system is a means for mailers to make drop ship delivery appointments at destination postal facilities.

  • For mail that is not drop shipped but subject to a Customer Service Agreement (CSA): The FAST CSA information — such as the trip ID numbers — are required to be transmitted electronically to the USPS.
  • For IMFS mail that is drop shipped to additional entry points: Making drop ship appointments using FAST is required.
  • For mailers entering mail at origin postal facilities, not subject to a CSA: No FAST information is required.

Window Book offers a free 29-page white paper: “Intelligent Mail Full-Service: Critical Steps to Understanding and Implementing.” See

It's a little known IM fact

  • Bundles, sacks and trays are now called “handling units.” Handling units are placed on pallets or into rolling stock, all-purpose “containers” such as gaylords.
  • Small volumes of sacks or trays of Full-Service mail don't have to go into containers. The USPS can properly track and account for these units using the IM barcode on the handling unit itself.

Read more about IMb and other mailing requirements at Search: BARCODE