March 3, 2017

Mailing Automation: Changes in U.S. and Europe to Keep Your Eye On

By David Day As an industry, we have been predicting the death of print and mail for well over a decade. However, each year the printing and mailing of critical transactional documents such as bills, statements and policies continues on. Print volumes are likely to continue in high volumes for many years to come, even … Continue reading “Mailing Automation: Changes in U.S. and Europe to Keep Your Eye On”

By David Day

As an industry, we have been predicting the death of print and mail for well over a decade. However, each year the printing and mailing of critical transactional documents such as bills, statements and policies continues on. Print volumes are likely to continue in high volumes for many years to come, even if the trend is showing a decline. There are many print and mail operations managers - such as in-plant operations or print-service providers - who have business problems that continue to need to be solved. As technology continues to change the way and the speed at which we do things, print and mail providers have to adapt or be left behind by the competition.

Many organizations have an understanding of mailing automation practices and operational efficiencies that can translate to a healthier bottom line, less person hours per process and smoother, more efficient production workflows. However, the latest advancements are not always on our project plans. Let’s face it, we are all busy people and sometimes it isn’t possible to keep up with our knowledge of the opportunities that exist in our industry.

That said, there are some changes that went into effect in January 2013 as part of new requirements mandated by the United States Postal Service that U.S. print and mail providers will want to make sure they are aware of. In the United Kingdom, there are upcoming changes to their mailing processes being put in place by the Royal Mail that seek to create greater efficiencies, value and service.

Forthcoming barcode solutions from the UK’s Royal Mail

The UK’s Royal Mail has been looking to put more postal automation capabilities in the mail stream for a while now. The most recent of these projects was the Red Tag solution; an endeavor that made it to the pilot phase before being rethought by the Royal Mail. Now in 2013, there is a new solution on the table , which seeks to add value and efficiencies to the postal processes for mailers in the UK. The basic premise is that the Royal Mail’s forthcoming barcode solution will give mailers web-based reports, insight into direct mail, rapid identification of returns and a superior customer experience.

But what benefit does this provide mailers? First and foremost, the goal of the Royal Mail is to do what other postal systems around the world have also sought to do; create accessible and accurate management information. Some of this is to combat electronic distribution by raising the value of the mail piece, but it is also to create operational efficiencies within the print and mail workflow so the cost of the entire mailing process is reduced, in effect allowing mailers achieve a better bottom line.

As we take a closer look, web-based reporting will help mailers monitor performance for the entire mailing workflow. Direct mail insight will provide increased integration with digital channels while giving mailers the opportunity to create an increase in response rates. For returns, the rapid identification will answer the call for greater efficiencies at call center operations and in turn create improved customer satisfaction. Link all of the above together, and you can see a road towards a complete transformation for the mailer in their experience with their postal service and some positive bottom-line impacts for the mailer.

For those in the UK, you’ll want to keep your eye on the Royal Mail's forthcoming solution.

United States Postal Service (USPS) Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb)

There have also been some exciting changes recently on the United States Postal Service front. We have been waiting for the retirement of POSTNET barcodes and the requirement to use the new Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb) for some time. On January 28, 2013, the USPS put into effect the requirement to use Basic IMb (meaning you have to have an IMb barcode on the mail piece) in order to qualify for automation pricing.

Why is this a big deal for print and mail providers, especially those mailing high-volume transactional documents? The automation pricing is up to 47% less than retail rates. You can imagine the heartburn an increase in rates anywhere near 47% could cause in a print and mailing operation.

Now, we know most of you out there have probably mitigated the basic concern of implementing Basic IMb, but what about the Full-Service option that becomes the minimum requirement to keep automation rates come January 2014? We can already hear your response: “How does it help me and my organization?”

We are glad you asked. The Full-Service option gives mailers access to additional postal discounts, free information on USPS delivery performance of mail pieces and free access to address correction services.

There is a catch though, and one that might be the barrier to your workflow-operations environment adopting Full Service; if you opt-in you have to provide certain things to the USPS including an IMb barcode populated with unique serial or sequence numbers whose uniqueness you need to maintain for a minimum of 45 days after it is in the USPS’s possession. This applies to mail pieces, trays, sacks and containers as well as the submission of electronic mailing information, including an identifier of the mail owner and mail preparer.

How do you do this? There are solutions available, including the PRO Mail Tracker and PRO Unique ID Manager from Crawford Technologies. These products create a seamless and efficient integration of Full-Service capabilities into your existing print and mail operations environment without changes to your existing systems or environment. In additional, if you implement a solution for Full Service today you will be ahead of the curve since USPS has plans to require mailers to conform to their Full-Service standard in 2014.