Post Office Sunsets Barcodes and IMR

barcodeEPA’s postal affairs liaison Bob Terry of the Alabama Baptist reminds us that in January of 2013 the U.S. Postal Service will "sunset" the POSTNET barcode, the PLANET code barcode, and will no longer support the Intelligent Mail Range record (IMR) file in the Mail.dat file set. This is a change that was announced several months ago.

The change is designed to pave the way for broader use of the Intelligent Mail barcode. The PLANET code barcode is also being eliminated as a tool for tracking mail; the Intelligent Mail barcode will take its place. The IMR file within the Mail.dat file set is being eliminated in favor of other files that offer more detailed information (such as the PDR and PBC files).

If you’re still reading and your eyes haven’t glazed over yet, then you are officially a hard-core mail nerd, and will be rewarded with more postal nerdy goodness.

While the POSTNET and PLANET code barcodes will no longer quality you for automation discounts or be used for tracking mail, that doesn’t mean mail printed with these barcodes will no longer be accepted. But it does  mean that starting in January of 2013, such mail will no longer be eligible for automation discounts.

What does this mean for your publication? Because automation discounts can be quite substantial, you should be working now to convert to Intelligent Mail barcodes. It’s a good idea to plan to incorporate unique mailpiece IDs in your plan from the beginning, since that is a requirement of Full Service.

Similarly, starting in January mail pieces with PLANET codes will no longer receive tracking information. Mailers should be working now to convert to Intelligent Mail barcodes rather than the PLANET codes.

Be warned – the tracking data provided by the Intelligent Mail barcodes is far from user friendly. (“User hostile” might not be stretching things too much.) Most mailers will need a custom-programmed interface to make use of this data, or will need to contract with a third-party provider for this service.

If you use Mail.dat files, check with your presort providers to determine whether the IMR file is currently being created as part of your Mail.dat file set. If it is, work with your provider to determine which of the alternative files that are part of the Mail.dat spec will work best for your operation.

If you use post-presort software, such as DAT-MAIL or Tagmaster, make plans to adjust your internal processes to incorporate the replacement file format. Be sure to submit some of your new Mail.dat file sets to PostalOne! using the Test Environment for Mailers to verify that your new setup will work.

Remember – there are postal price changes coming in January as well. Work now on the barcode transitions so that you’re not scrambling to implement them while also dealing with the new pricing.