The US Postal Service looks likely to require use of its new Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) on all commercial parcels from this summer.
The IMpb system was first introduced in early 2012 allowing parcels to be tracked through the USPS processing network, replacing existing Delivery Confirmation and Signature Confirmation services.
The code includes customer account information, address routing data, payment information, mail class and service information.
Parcel shippers seeking presort discounts or special pricing for entering parcels directly at a local USPS facility have been required to use the IMpb since 28th January 2013.
But USPS launched a public consultation today in the Federal Register proposing to extend the requirement to all commercial parcels as of 28th July.
The proposal also states that commercial parcel shippers would be required to submit an electronic shipping manifesto along with their shipments.
Only Express Mail parcels entered through an Express Mail Corporate Account would be excluded from the requirements.
The process for registering for the IMpb system can take a minimum of two weeks, with mailers having to request access, enroll in a transition process, sign up to access shipping manifest system and go through printer certification.
The Postal Service said that the reward for using the IMpb on commercial parcels was that customers would receive an improved service, and USPS would be able to provide a more efficient service.
Parcel shippers using the IMpb are offered full piece-level visibility on their shipments through processing and delivery, and as well as accurate service reporting, data can help identify and correct any service glitches.
Delivery Confirmation is provided at no extra charge for IMpb users, other than for certain products like certified and registered mail.
USPS said it is currently looking into simplified options for customers sending parcels through its economy Standard Mail service, particularly with a view to direct mailers sending product samples. Alternative processes are being investigated that might allow use of the regular Intelligent Mail barcode used on letters.
The Postal Service promised help for smaller and mid-sized mailers if the IMpb requirements do become mandatory for all commercial parcels.
“The Postal Service intends to provide pre-printed IMpb-compliant tracking barcodes to permit imprint and postage meter mailers for use with non-presorted mailings,” USPS said, adding that Merchandise Return Service clients would receive tools to allow their customers to print off compliant shipping labels for returns.
Massachusetts-based Mail software house WindowBook said in its recent white paper on the IMpb that the Postal Service is looking to mandate the barcode because it has an increasing pressure to meet its set delivery standards.
“The only way they can try to improve their process and delivery system is by measuring it, and the IMpb is the most accurate way for them to track the mail as it contains more data than the previous barcode,” wrote WindowBook CEO Jeff Peoples in the paper.
“The IMpb will enhance efficiency and delivery standards, add value to its package product line, increase competitiveness, and improve tracking.”
Source: Post&Parcel/Federal Register/WindowBook