In June, MailBlogx covered the profitability and practicality of the Flats Sequencing Strategy (FSS). FSS was initially designed to streamline the postal process.
The USPS has released a draft document titled “A Strategic End-to-End Guide for Flats Planning,” which highlights industry trends, costs and pricing, end-to-end operation, and innovations. Along with the drafted document, the USPS is suggesting feedback.
“Industry stakeholders are welcome to provide comments on the USPS Flats Strategy to help inform us about your concerns and ideas,” the website states. “Although we are unable to respond to individual emails, we will consider all feedback. Thank you for your support.”
In a letter accompanying the draft (p.1), the USPS acknowledges using the power of technology to bridge hardcopy and digital communications. The company also added that they are “partnering with representatives of the mailing industry to explore and determine the key factors that will influence and drive a well-developed mutually beneficial strategy for the flat mail product.”
In the Industry Trends section of the release (p. 4), the USPS stated that Standard Flats saw a large decline from fiscal year 2007-2009, with losses easing (but still declining) in 2012. First Class Flats and Periodical Flats have also declined each year. The Flats Operations End-to-End section (p.24) highlights how the USPS plans on exploring new innovations for the FSS.
Examples of Proposed Automation Strategies (Section 4.5.3):
Flats Characteristics - The Postal Service will continue to work with the mailing industry on refining flat mail characteristics for automation. Basis weight of paper, cover thickness, and binding type all factor in to flats damage. Improving flat mail characteristics will enable the Postal Service to reduce mail damage during automated flats processing.
Caseless Environment - One of the strategic goals of the Postal Service is to reduce mail processing costs by increasing DPS for letter and flat mail at the processing plants. The Postal Service is exploring opportunities to lower or eliminate non-sequenced mail dispatched to Delivery Units. The goal is to eliminate manual casing of letters and flats and reduce carrier in-office time significantly. The Postal Service will investigate adoption of operational methods and processes, as well as implementation of technology solutions, to achieve the desired outcome.
Examples of Proposed Automation Strategies (Section 4.6.3):
Increase FSS Capacity - The Postal Service will work to optimize the existing FSS system to handle more flats volume through multiple initiatives. We will explore modification to existing system components to enable storing of trays. Additionally, the effort will investigate options for increasing tray staging capacity, including updating the RCT insert profile. Further, the effort will involve conducting analysis to find a solution for eliminating bottlenecks associated with the Automated Tray Management System (ATMS).
Camera Aperture Blockage Detection - Investigate technology to detect when there a camera aperture blockage occurs, which can result in obscuring a segment of a mail piece’s address block. The implementation of this effort will reduce rejects, eliminating reprocessing of mail and improve scanning the IMb read rate on the machine.
To read the rest of the automation strategies, or to see the plan, visit the USPS customer support website. The USPS suggests sending feedback to IndustryFeedback@usps.gov with the subject line “Flats Strategy.”