Intelligent Mail® Barcode

May, 2011 was to have been the month that business mailers were mandated to begin using the Intelligent Mail® barcode (IMb™)—touted by the USPS as a key factor in reducing the cost of automated mail. To date, more than 41 billion pieces of mail have been processed using the IMb. However, in one of his first acts as new postmaster general, Patrick Donahoe, decided to indefinitely delay the mandate, continuing to offer automation prices for mail with POSTNET barcodes. It became clear that a sizeable percentage of business mailers weren’t ready for the switch.

The USPS remains committed to implementing IMb, and most USPS observers believe a new deadline will be announced at some point. In addition to cost savings, the IMb allows USPS to track mail through the system and monitor its service performance. Mailers can also gain end-to-end visibility into the mailstream and save time by submitting electronic documentation (required with the full-service IMb option. Printing Industries of America members would be wise to plan their transition to at least the Basic IMb option.

The Barcode
The IMb is comprised of 65 vertical bars that encode a barcode ID, service type identifier, mailer ID, serial number (used in the full-service option to track individual pieces of mail through the postal system), and the routing code. It’s considerably more sophisticated than POSTNET in that it contains all the information needed to purchase special USPS services, specify the class and type of mail, identify the mailer, and track and deliver a piece of mail. Self-mailers and envelopes no longer have to be cluttered with excess postal information, other than the recipient’s name and address.

Steps to Getting Started
To get started with Intelligent Mail here are a few basic steps recommended by the USPS:

  1. Talk with your local Business Mail Entry Unit specialist or MDA to receive guidance on how to best meet your mailing needs with the Intelligent Mail options the Postal Service has provided. Learn more.
  2. Apply for a Mailer ID (MID), which you will use to identify your mailpieces and mail aggregates. Learn more.
  3. Register for Business Customer Gateway access, which you will use to submit electronic documentation. Learn more.
  4. Learn about the suite of Intelligent Mail barcodes: Intelligent Mail barcode for letters, cards and flats, Intelligent Mail Tray barcode, Intelligent Mail Container barcode and Intelligent Mail Package barcode. Learn more.
  5. Determine your interest in using OneCode Confirm® or Address Correction Service (ACS®) Services. Learn more.
  6. Access guides and specifications for Intelligent Mail. Learn more.
  7. Review presentations about Intelligent Mail. Learn more.

Published on Thursday, March 10, 2011 (updated 05/30/2014)

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