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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Envelope Printing Tip: Intelligent Bar Code Explained

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 11, 2012 11:27:00 AM

Elite Envelope Intelligent Bar Code photo

In a posting in the Federal Register on May 3rd, 2012 under the heading “POSTNET Barcode  Discontinuation,” the Postal Service set a deadline of January 28, 2013 to convert all barcodes to the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) format.

The previous deadline set by the Post Office was postponed due to complaints from some mailers about the cost to retrofit printers and a lack of time to prepare. Since then, the Postal Service has been encouraging mailers to switch over to the IMb with the idea that it will become mandatory eventually.  That date has now been set and it seems highly unlikely that the Post Office would postpone final implementation a second time despite the fact that some mailers are still not happy according to some of the comments on the Federal Register.

IMb has already been in use for some time by many mailers. The Postnet barcode has been in use for decades and contained the actual carrier routing code which allowed for speedier mail delivery; a boon for mailers at the time.  The Intelligent Bar Code allows for the same information plus the ability to identify the mailer, tracking information on the mail piece and data on the type of mail services pertaining to the piece: i.e. Forwarding Service, Return Service, etc.

From the standpoint of a printer or envelope company, converting a customer’s Postnet barcode to the IMb is an easy matter.  It’s just a different graphic image to reproduce with no special inks or anything unusual required. Elite Envelope uses its local (excellent) Post Office reps to supply a PDF of the IMb. Once the file is received, we make a new plate and we’re good to go.

For those using laser printers to spray the barcode on outgoing pieces, there could be some difficulties converting to the IMb.  Some of those difficulties might involve updating software while others could require newer equipment. While it’s never fun having to be forced to invest in new equipment, the benefits to the customer with the IMb are significant and it’s not as if this has just been sprung on the industry. Anyone in the mailing business has been aware of this eventual new requirement for years and should have been making provisions for implementation.

For the print and mail industry, anything that gives end-users better, faster service is a necessary and welcome development. In order to compete with digital communication, we need to be able to provide as many advantages as possible. The IMb increases the value of printing and mailing. How is that not a good thing?

Topics: post office, envelopes and the post office, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes, intelligent barcode conversion, intelligent bar code

Post Office Working to Boost Direct Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 10, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Direct mail photo resized 600Somewhat Lost amid the statistics showing 2011 first class mail volume declining around 7% after similar or greater declines in previous years is the fact that direct mail volume has increased significantly in the past year and now represents around 48% of total mail volume.

It seems that the Post Office is finally starting to get the message that encouraging direct mail and direct mailers is the best way to boost numbers and arrest the decline in mail generally.

According to an October 6, 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Levitz, the Post Office has begun to offer discounts and incentives to small businesses. One program in particular allows businesses to drop off as many as 5,000 pieces to their local post office where they will be delivered to every house on the local mail routes for 14.2 cents per piece. What is most significant about this is that, for the first time apparently, the post office is allowing the pieces to be delivered without addresses. This saves mailers the cost of buying mailing lists and ink jetting or labeling.

The article also mentions the higher rates of success for direct mail in general versus electronic mail. Direct mail will always involve higher costs than electronic mail. However, if those costs can be kept reasonable with some incentives and discounts thrown in for good measure, the higher return on investment should outweigh the costs.

Many of us have often wondered why the Post Office never offered discounts to boost direct mail during the traditional summer slow period.  I guess the current budgetary woes have caused management to focus on such common-sense solutions. Even the tax-hungry state of Massachusetts for several years now has declared a sales tax holiday for a weekend in August which has been very successful in boosting business at retail outlets.

All this is very positive but cannot take the place of the cost-cutting that must be done in order for the Post Office to stay viable.  My town of residence has three post office locations all located within a few miles of each other.  I recently sent an e mail (yes, I know…) to the person in charge of public comments urging closure of two of them.  They are facing many complaints from local residents who like the status quo as well as the postal union who can’t see why they would close branches that are allegedly “profitable”.  Doing the right thing here will be a long, tough slog for sure.

While much of the mail discussed here probably went out without envelopes, I believe that any use of direct mail is a positive for the industry overall. Let’s hope that the post office continues to operate in a business-like manner to encourage direct mail. It may be its only hope for survival.

Topics: direct mail, post office, envelopes and post office, post office problems, envelopes and the post office, direct mail solutions

Envelopes, Printing and the Post Office: What Would Ben Franklin Do?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 26, 2011 11:15:00 AM

Ben Franklin photo resized 600

Among the many talents and skills displayed by Ben Franklin during his illustrious life, perhaps two of the lesser known were that he started his professional career in the printing trade and was also one of the pioneers of the present-day postal service.

After returning from his apprenticeship in England, Franklin struggled to build his printing business and also took over a struggling newspaper which he renamed the Pennsylvania Gazette (later to become The Saturday Evening Post).   At the age of 31, he was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia at a time when the colonies had a very rudimentary and inefficient mail delivery system.  Ben Franklin applied his prodigious intellect to the task of improving mail service and delivery and was later appointed by the Crown to head the Post Office for all the colonies.  During this time Franklin effected many changes and reforms and reported a surplus for the first time in 1760.  He was later appointed the first Postmaster General of the United States by the Continental Congress in 1775.

So, if Ben Franklin were alive today, he would be the perfect candidate to consult on the problems facing the Post Office as well as those in the printing and envelope industry.  Ben is perhaps best known for the nuggets of wisdom he wrote in his newspaper columns. I’ve selected a few that might apply. See if you agree with me.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” - It’s unlikely that had Ben Franklin been in charge of the postal service during the past hundred years or so that we would have over 31,000 post offices spread throughout the United States with all the attendant costs.  It’s also unlikely that he would have supported a unionized work force for a service that is a government monopoly.  This has led to compensation and benefits that far exceed those in comparable private sector positions and unfunded pension and health care liabilities which are starting to have a crushing effect on the viability of the agency.  One suspects that if he were calling the shots today, Ben would apply one of his most famous aphorisms, “A penny saved is a penny earned”.  With regard to the $10 billion loss projected for the current fiscal year, we could at least hope that “After crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser”

With regard to printing and envelopes, I offer this advice from the sage of Philadelphia: He that speaks much, is much mistaken”.  Now that might sound ironic coming from someone who writes a weekly blog on the envelope industry but I’m suggesting a broader context. We are in business at a time of major change.  I believe the way forward is to listen and be aware of what is going on around us. Our customers will tell us what we need to do by their behavior. The companies that pay attention to the changes in the market and can adapt quickly and profitably will survive. We must take responsibility and effective action because ultimately “He that lives upon hope will die fasting”.

Topics: envelopes and the post office, envelope industry, envelopes and printing, printing and envelopes

Envelopes and the Post Office

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 12, 2011 12:58:00 PM

As the old song goes “Love and Marriage…go together like a horse and carriage”; kind of like envelopes and the post office although it doesn’t have quite the same ring, I admit.

These are tough times for our postal service. Years of overspending and kicking the can down the road have brought the agency to the brink of fiscal catastrophe.  The postal service lost $8.5 billion in 2010 and its financial prospects for the current year are reportedly even more bleak.  After telling us for years that they take no taxpayer money (not quite true when you consider that they pay no corporate or property taxes and have a monopoly status and price protection courtesy of Uncle Sam), Congress is now considering some sort of bailout to prevent a complete collapse of mail delivery.

post office problems

Postmaster General  Patrick Donahoe has proposed some tough but necessary medicine. In his recent testimony before a congressional committee, Donahoe laid out a plan that would give management of the post office the power to lay off more employees, eliminate thousands of post offices as well as Saturday delivery and bring health and retirement benefits more in line with the private sector.  Predictably, these measures, which any private business would have implemented long before this point, have been met with scorn by the head of the Postal Workers Union who termed Donahoe’s plan “outrageous, illegal and despicable”.

Since approximately 80% of the Postal Service’s costs are for labor, any significant savings for the agency will have to come from that area. Obviously, that will be over the union’s dead body so there will likely be much rancor and very likely gridlock for the near term.

The unintended consequences for such inaction will be to put hundreds of thousands of jobs in jeopardy. According to the Wall Street Journal, the $1.1 trillion mailing industry employs more than 8 million people in direct mail, financial services, printing and envelopes, charities, periodicals and other businesses.  Any increased costs to mail will make it much harder for these companies to remain competitive. 

The number of first class pieces processed by the Post Office has declined nearly 20% in the past four years. There needs to be a recognition by our political leaders in Washington that when your business declines, you need to reduce your costs to stay viable. Postmaster General Donahoe seems to understand this very well. It remains to be seen whether his political masters have the fortitude to allow him to do what is necessary.

Topics: post office problems, envelopes and the post office

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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