Tracking letters, transactional documents and other materials throughout the production process and as they move through the USPS mail stream is critical. Most obviously, health agencies, insurance companies, and government bodies that distribute sensitive or confidential information must make sure that data is used correctly and deliveries are made on time.
Such tracking is also becoming more important for marketers, especially in an age of multichannel communications. Direct mail, for example, is an investment that has to deliver the desired ROI. Print/mail service providers must assure them specific pieces will reach the intended recipients at the right time to coincide with digital or other types of messaging. When personalization is factored into a marketing program, tracking is even more imperative.
Mail service providers have enhanced tools to provide just these assurances. During document production, they control creation and assembly with their Automated Document Factory (ADF). Once service providers turn mail over to the postal service, Informed Visibility (IV), a newly enhanced program from the USPS, delivers greater visibility and transparency into the status of mailed pieces.
Automated Document Factory
The first step in producing effective documents is ensuring data is properly managed and deployed. An ADF is a system that verifies the print/mail operation has properly prepared and accounted for every page, document set, and envelope. Equipment-mounted cameras scan documents as they are processed and compare them to data files of expected materials. Any discrepancy, such as a missing or duplicate page, causes the ADF to stop the machines and alert the operators.
Besides managing complex workflows on a piece level, ADF systems also help document operations track and manage jobs. The ADF makes sure the print/mail operation processes all work according to the schedule and serves as an early warning system should a machine show signs of impending failure. The ADF can automatically reprint damaged documents, ensuring every mailpiece is processed and delivered on time to the USPS.
How IV worksUnder the previous tracking system, the USPS scanned individual pieces of mail as they entered a postal facility and moved to various distribution centers. The system worked well for letters, but it often omitted flats—pieces of printed matter such as magazines, newsletters, or catalogs that enter the mailstream already bundled for delivery. This created gaps in the tracking system and prevented real time updates.
With today’s upgraded IV, individual mail still gets scanned as before via the Intelligent Mail barcode, but IV also scans containers or bundles of flats. When a container is scanned, the USPS tracks all pieces associated with that container based on information provided by mail service providers.
The IV process fixes the visibility gap with end-to-end tracking and provides precise estimates for when a piece will drop into a recipient’s mailbox. When a mail carrier arrives in an area to deliver the mail, his or her hand-held device records their location. Since the system knows what documents or products the postal service loads onto each delivery vehicle, IV can generate a near real time estimate for when an item will actually reach the recipient.
Benefits of IV
The benefits of real time tracking with Informed Visibility are many.
- Organizations that distribute sensitive information can rest assured it’s delivered on time, and meets mandated regulations.
- Marketers distributing printed materials can coordinate delivery with a telemarketing or email message in a time-critical fashion. Timing can make the difference between outstanding success or lackluster results.
- Planning becomes much more efficient as managers can gauge how to allocate resources for outbound mail but also for inbound returns, donations, or payments for example.
- Real time tracking also identifies busy times and bottlenecks in the system so the USPS and mail service providers can resolve any issues before they negatively impact delivery.
Mail service providers now have more tools to manage data and documents more efficiently than ever. For a detailed description of how Lanvera executes and distributes critical business communications securely and accurately through the entire document lifecycle, contact us today.