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?