Postal terminology and getting up to speed with it, along with some other changes require us to change the way we speak. With the implementation of Intelligent Mail®, "postal-speak" is becoming almost a new language, even to veterans in the mailing industry. Aside from the plethora of new acronyms - which the Postal Service is famous for! - some of the old, familiar terms used to describe the PPU (physical preparation units) of mail are changing.
Packages, Bundles, Sacks and Trays = Handling Units
In the past, the terms "package" and "bundle" were used almost interchangeably to describe multiple pieces of mail grouped together and tied, strapped or shrink-wrapped into one unit. Several years ago, it was determined that the term "package" should really be used to describe a parcel, itself a single piece of mail, rather than to describe a grouping of single pieces of mail (bundle). Now it seems that both of these terms are passé, and the new word for a grouping of single pieces of mail is a "handling unit." This term also encompasses the groupings of multiple bundles into what used to be called sacks and trays.
Pallets = Containers
Larger physical preparation units (i.e., pallets, gaylords, rolling stock, APCs) are now called "containers." Essentially, any unit capable of containing multiple handling units (bundles, sacks, or trays) is now considered a container. Even referencing the process of placing the "handling units" into/onto the "containers", previously called "palletization" is now often times referred to as "containerization."
So, are the old terms, such as bundle, sack, tray and pallet disappearing from the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®)? Certainly not yet, as the mail preparation regulations in the DMM still refer to all of these terms. What we do see with increasing frequency is use of the new terms, such as "handling unit" and "container" in announcements, and in USPS® technical guides and specifications.
WDTMTM (What does this mean to mailers?)
For now, it simply means that we must become familiar with and understand these new terms so we can start using them in our daily conversations. Long term, however, it may be a signal that the USPS plans to standardize the physical preparation of mail so there will be fewer and more consistent methods of mail preparation across mail classes and processing categories.
STFFE (Stay tuned for future e-tips!)