Migrating to Intelligent Mail® Barcodes
The United States Postal Service® (USPS®) announced that effective May 2011, flat-size and letter-size mailings with POSTNET™ barcodes will no longer be eligible for automation discounts. As of that date, mailers wishing to obtain automation discounts must print the Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) on their mailpieces rather than the POSTNET barcodes. This applies to letter and flat-size mail only, not to any parcel mailings.
Continued use of POSTNET barcodes?
Mailers who continue to print POSTNET barcodes on their mailpieces after May 2011 will not encounter any problems with the USPS accepting and processing their mail, however, these pieces will no longer be eligible for automation discounts. (This means that the USPS will still enjoy all the benefits of using those barcodes to sort your mail, but you won't enjoy the benefits of the automation-compatible postage discounts!) Since many mailpieces are printed well in advance of mailing, particularly Business Reply and Courtesy Reply mailpieces, we encourage mailers to convert to the IMb as soon as possible.
Intelligent Mail Barcode Specifications
The Intelligent Mail barcode is very similar in appearance to the POSTNET barcode, except that it has bars of three different heights rather than just the two bar heights in the POSTNET barcode. The IMb represents a great deal more data than the POSTNET barcode, but does not require a much larger "footprint" than the POSTNET barcode, so most printing equipment is capable of printing both types of barcode with some software modifications. Mailers should check with their printers or their printing equipment suppliers to insure that there are no issues with printing the IMb's. The specifications for the IMb may be found on the USPS' RIBBS web site.
USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode Services
The USPS Intelligent Mail program offers two service level offerings: Basic and Full-Service. However, it is important to note that regardless of your participation in either of these service offerings, you MUST print the IMb on your mailpieces starting in May 2011 if you want to be eligible for automation discounts. For more information regarding the Basic and Full-Service options, it is helpful to download and read a white paper on Intelligent Mail services recently published by Window Book.
It is also important to note that any Reply Mail pieces that are included with automation mailpieces after May 2011 must also be printed with the Intelligent Mail barcode. This includes both Business Reply and Courtesy Reply pieces. Examples of this would be reply cards that are bound into or enclosed loose with magazines or catalogs, enclosed in letter size First-Class or direct mail pieces, or are part of a folded letter-size mailpiece. If there are Reply Mail pieces containing POSTNET barcodes included with automation letter size or flat size mailpieces after May 2011, the automation rates will be disallowed on the host mailpieces, even if those host mailpieces themselves are printed with the Intelligent Mail barcode. Mailers should be working with the suppliers of these Reply Mail pieces NOW to make sure they are aware of this change and that all remaining stock of Reply Mail pieces containing POSTNET barcodes are used up or destroyed prior to May 2011. Mailers should also be planning to add a quality control check into their production processes to check the barcodes on any Reply Mail pieces.
IMb Migration Assistance
If you need assistance starting your migration to Intelligent Mail barcode services, Window Book offers our Intelligent Mail On-Ramp Service (IMORS) to help you make a smooth transition.
In addition, the USPS provides a PowerPoint presentation regarding the transition from the POSTNET barcode to the Intelligent Mail barcode. We encourage mailers to log on to the USPS RIBBS web site to review this document as soon as possible.