Nuts & Bolts: USPS Unleashes the 4-State Customer Barcode
After a large-scale test that included more than 24 million mail pieces, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has formally launched its 4-State Customer Barcode (4-CB), an advanced mail coding technology that combines the capabilities of POSTNET and PLANET codes, and will be the cornerstone of the USPS’ OneCode Solution suite of services.
The 4-CB includes 31 digits that translate into 65 vertical bars each in one of four states—full bar, ascender, tracker or descender. Although just slightly longer than the POSTNET code, 4-CB can carry more service-level and identifying data, thereby adding functionality without multiple barcodes and human-readable information. According to the September edition of the USPS Memo to Mailers, benefits of the 4-CB include: the ability to mix and match multiple services within one mailing group; unique identifiers for senders and for up to 1 billion mail pieces within a group; differentiation between recipients at the same address; enhanced mail service diagnostics; and improved USPS automation. The consolidation of multiple lines of information into one code also frees up more room on the outer envelope for marketing messages.
As of the initial launch in September 2006, mailers are able to use the 4-CB on letter mail for the Confirm Service, known now as OneCode Confirm, and for Address Change Service for First Class mail, known as OneCode ACS. The 4-CB will be available for OneCode Confirm on flats in Spring 2007. Additional functionalities of the barcode, including presort identification and support of multiple mail services, are planned for future implementation.
Migration to the 4-CB is not mandatory, and the USPS will continue to support PLANET, POSTNET and other codes. The USPS does, however, anticipate that use of the code will be required to qualify for automation discounts as early as 2009. To aid mailers in their adoption of the 4-CB, the USPS has made available a number of downloadable tools and resources—including videos, guides, a barcode encoder/decoder, encoder software and all necessary fonts—on its Rapid Information Bulletin Board System at http://ribbs.usps.gov/OneCodeSolution/.