Three Things to Consider While You Wait for the Flats Decision
This week’s Target Practice was supposed to discuss designing flats for machining and automation, but the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) foiled our attempt, just as it’s frustrated hundreds of direct mailers with its recent confirmation of upcoming rate changes.
On May 2, 2007, the USPS released a statement reiterating that all new rates are scheduled to go into effect on May 14 (except for those lucky Periodicals, which are off the hook until July 14), but “still pending is the [Board of] Governors’ request that the PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission) reconsider its decision relating to Standard Mail flats.” The kicker? “No date has been announced for that decision,” reads the release.
“The bottom line: I cannot give recommendations [regarding flats] when it’s in such a state of flux,” says Mary Ann Bennett, president of The Bennett Group—a training and consulting firm that specializes in the development and delivery of educational products and services for the mailing industry—in Rochester, N.Y.
Because it’s impossible to get a general consensus about the flats case, with local post offices giving out conflicting information and creating mass confusion among mailers, it’s probably a better idea to focus on what you can control—and what you can change—to take advantage of the postal overhaul.
#1: Recognize Reality
“Even though they’ve installed high-speed flat sorters (FSMs), [the USPS] will never ever be able to process flats faster than they sort letters. It simply defies logic, because a flat has so much more material to move and because of its shape,” explains Bennett. Fortunately, there most certainly will be automation-compatible flats, and the rates may even be attractive, much more than previously. Of course, the Postal Service first will have to make up its mind about what exactly makes a flat machinable and automatible!
#2: Make History
“The big deal is that, for the first time in history, you have to know not only how much your piece weighs, but what its shape is,” comments Bennett, who compares the situation to the early 1990s, when the Postal Service made tabbing a requirement. At first, it was pandemonium, but the marketplace responded by developing better tabbing machines and the prices for tabbing eventually fell.