Kim Mauch has over a decade of experience absorbing the ins-and-outs of effective mailing preparation and submission processes with a heavy emphasis on new USPS technologies including Intelligent Mail and electronic documentation.
In her current role as postal products specialist for Quadient, Kim educates customers on how to efficiently meet the latest USPS regulations.
She has presented at MailCom, National Postal Forum and numerous educational forums, including full-day channel training sessions, online webinars and high-profile customer training programs.
Have you started using the Intelligent Mail barcode yet? Some mailers think the IM barcode is too difficult, and have postponed their implementation. Fortunately, with a few easy steps and a little up-front work, you can upgrade your barcode from POSTNET with little trouble. Here are some tips to make the transition easier.
Building the Barcode Data
The biggest improvement with the Intelligent Mail barcode is the additional data it contains. While POSTNET only contains 11 digits of information, the IM barcode holds a whopping 31 digits — without using much more space. Here is a list of the new data fields, and where you can get this information:
- Barcode ID — This field identifies how the piece was sorted if you are printing an Optional Endorsement Line (OEL). This field is usually generated by your PAVE software.
- Service Type ID — This field tells USPS what services the mail piece is using. In addition to the mail class (First Class Mail, Standard Mail, etc), this field identifies pieces using OneCode Confirm and other additional services. This field is usually generated by your PAVE software.
- Mailer ID — This field tells USPS which mailer sent the piece. You can get a 9-digit Mailer ID for free from http://gateway.usps.com.
- Sequence Number — This field uniquely identifies each mail piece. Required only if you are using services like Onecode ACS, Confirm or Full-Service, this field can usually be left empty.
- Routing Code — This 11-digit code contains the ZIP +4 and Delivery Point information that was originally used in POSTNET barcodes. This field is usually generated by CASS software.
Encoding and Printing Fonts
Most mail printing programs, especially those included with mailing software, have Intelligent Mail encoding built in. This converts the 31 digits of the IM barcode into the 65 bars that make up the Intelligent Mail barcode. If you are using a program like Microsoft Word to print your addresses, you will need to apply the barcode font to the encoded digits. You can download several barcode fonts from the Satori Community. The fonts are available for free: Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMb™) Fonts. For proper scanning, use a 16-point size with these fonts.
Printing Tips and Tricks
Here are a few additional tips that can make printing the IM barcode a little easier:
- The IM barcode has 3 more “bars” than the POSTNET. Allow an additional 1/4″ width in your mail piece design to ensure the proper white space around the barcode.
- Use the IM barcode in the exact same place on all mail pieces to prevent any ink distribution problems caused by “floating” address lines. You can place the IM barcode at the top of your address block, or use it as a separate field to ensure it is located at the same place for each address.
- Always make sure you are using quality ink cartridges, and that the ink is flowing well. Keeping up with your printer’s maintenance will help, and if you are having difficulty with your print quality, contact your printer dealer or manufacturer.
- If your printer tends to deposit lots of ink for each of the bars, use Satori’s IM Light barcode font. This prevents “overspray” and ink bleeding, causing scanning problems for USPS.
- If you have a small envelope window or postcard, use Satori’s IM Narrow barcode font. This font is the smallest still within the USPS specifications, allowing for more mail piece design flexibility.
- When first starting to use the Intelligent Mail barcode, print 30-50 sample pieces and have your MDA (Mailpiece Design Analyst) or BMEU clerk scan them through MERLIN. This will catch any problems with your barcodes before you submit your first Intelligent Mail mailing.
- If you suspect that your barcode isn’t printing correctly, try printing a sample to laser or inkjet printer and compare it to the suspect mail piece. Improper setup of some high-speed addressing printers can result in skewed or incomplete barcode information. Talk with your printer vendor to ensure that your printer is properly configured.