Prototype for USPS wins Lockheed sorting system contract

Prototype for USPS wins Lockheed sorting system contract

The Postal Service yesterday hired Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Distribution Technologies division to install an automated small-package processing system in 74 postal facilities by June 2005.

USPS awarded Lockheed a $300 million, 33-month contract after a successful one-year prototype of the vendor's Automated Package Processing System at the Postal Service's Minneapolis processing and distribution plant.

The system will take the manual process of sorting parcels, letters and oversize flat mail, such as magazines, and automate it with three separate technologies. It uses optical character recognition, bar code reading and video coding technologies to sort small packages.

The system will double the number of small packages processed per hour to 9,500 from about 4,500, said David Shivy, Lockheed Martin's engineering manager for the Automated Package Processing System program.

Shivy described the process. As bundled mail travels on a conveyor belt, the system automatically sorts it into a single column. Each mail piece is weighed, sized and typed. Information is stored in a database so employees can track mail through the system.

An optical character recognition scanner then reads the address'a digital camera takes a picture of each piece of mail from several angles, and a computer matches the address with the national address database. The mail then is automatically sorted into bins to be sent to the next destination.

If the computer cannot determine the address, the digital photograph is sent to a postal employee, who then reads the address from a computer screen and directs the system where to send the mail piece.

'We will be able to accumulate the data for the amount of volume, the weight of the mail and the addresses it is going to,' Shivy said. 'This type of intelligent information about the mail will be available for other parts of USPS.'

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