Panel proposes 'intelligent mail' tracking system

Panel proposes 'intelligent mail' tracking system

A panel of corporate executives and a postal official are advocating the development of a system that would allow the Postal Service to track every piece of mail it handles from pickup to delivery.

The intelligent mail proposal was one of several recommendations made by the Mailing Industry Task Force, a group of 12 executives from companies in the mailing industry, and deputy postmaster general John Nolan. The task force released its recommendations last week at the National Postal Forum in Denver.

'Knowing where every piece of mail is is very valuable,' said Nolan, who co-chaired the task force. 'We're finding that the scanning equipment that's available today is very powerful and relatively inexpensive.'

The task force suggested that the Postal Service work with the private sector to create a Web-based tool to measure the service's performance using USPS' PLANET Code and two-dimensional bar code technology. The Postal Service now uses the PLANET Code to identify each piece of mail. A two-dimensional bar code would contain an entire data file and provide information beyond merely identifying the letter or package.

Many advantages

By combining the two technologies, the Postal Service could give complete tracking information via the Web to senders and receivers. The technology also would let USPS anticipate where it needs to use its resources, determine how to balance shipping loads and let mailers better plan mass mailings.

Such a system would be a boon for shippers, said Michael J. Critelli, chairman of Pitney Bowes Inc. of Stamford, Conn., and co-chairman of the task force.

'Knowing when the check is really in the mail' is important, Critelli said. 'Aggregation of data can measure performance and help shippers plan mailing. I think it's a very powerful tool.'

The intelligent mail system would also improve security, a key concern in light of evidence that deadly anthrax bacteria were shipped through mail recently, Critelli said.

Another benefit, task force members said, would be that extra costs would not be passed on to consumers because of the system's low price. 'The additional cost almost doesn't exist,' Nolan said. 'It would be a byproduct of the sorting process.'

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