Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS)
• Distribution Technology in the Postal Service, PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE by Thomas Day USPS engineering VP
deployment complete (8/23/05)
The Postal Automation Redirection System (PARS) is designed to identify “Undeliverable as Addressed” (UAA) letter mail at the first machine handling and automatically redirect it to the correct destination.
PARS will not change the handling non-machineable letters, flats, parcels or rolls that are undeliverable as addressed
source: Seimen's Dematic
"Phase I of PARS will be deployed at 40 Computerized Forwarding System (CFS) sites and 53 Processing and Distribution Centers (P&DC5). The objective is to automatically intercept and redirect nearly half of the total automated Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) letter mail generated at origin and process all the remaining mail on the new labeling machines at the P&DCs. The PARS system will eliminate the need for mechanized terminals at the 40 CFS sites but will require some additional terminals for data conversion operators at the 20 Remote Encoding Centers. "
"It is projected that this first phase will result in approximately 2.8 million work hour savings (64% in CFS units, 30% in clerk delivery functions, 4% in city and rural carrier functions and the remaining 2% in P&DC operations). The majority of the savings projection is expected through technological replacement of mechanized terminal CFS keying with automated equipment. Savings will also result from a reduction in multiple UAA mail sorting, handling and transporting by clerks, carriers or other employees who interface with UAA mail at the wrong mailing destinations." Peter Sgro, Manager USPS Contract Administration
• Carrier Return Mail — UAA due to a reason other than a move PARS will not change the handling of UAA non-machineable letters, flats or parcels and rolls.
On April 9, 2002 the Board of Governors approved funding for the PARS program which had been tested at the Dulles, VA site. The APWU has been notified of the USPS intention to deploy PARS nationally with Phase 1 tentatively scheduled to begin in July, 2003 and completed by February, 2004.
PARS is designed to automatically intercept and redirect (initially around 50%) automated UAA letter mail at its origin and process all UAA letter mail on the new labeling machines at P& DCs. This new technology will also use OCRs to process the 43 million COA forms the USPS gets each year. The COA form will be redesigned to allow for scanning.
This program will eliminate mechanized terminals at the initial 40 CFS sites included in Phase 1. Since the PARS has image lift capabilities, it will require some additional terminals for data conversion operators at the 20 Remote Encoding Centers.
The USPS anticipates a reduction of 2.8 million work hours, of which approximately 64% will come from affected CFS units, 30 % from clerk delivery functions, 4 % from city and rural carrier functions and 2 % from P&DC operations. These savings are from Phase 1 only. They expect to save up to 5 million work hours upon completion of the program, possibly by 2006.
Phase 1 will see the elimination of data input of COAs in all 219 CFS units. Initially 86 CFS units will be outfitted with the necessary equipment to scan COAs. The remaining units will send their COAs to the 86 units with scanning and OCR capability to be scanned into the national data base, with the unresolved images being sent to RECs to be maintained and verified by DCOs.
Phase 1 will also see letters redirected from 40 CFS units. 53 Mail Processing Facilities will initially be intercepting UAA mail.
Phase 2 will see the remaining 179 CFS units have their letter mail redirected and all remaining MIPFs will eventually intercept UAA mail.
During 2002, the Postal Service awarded a contract for the production and installation of Phase I of the Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS). PARS automates the handling of undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) letter mail more efficiently than today’s process. The UAA mail is intercepted earlier in the sorting process, resulting in a reduction in not only total handlings and processing costs but, at the same time, improving service. The system notifies mailers of patrons’ address changes electronically for mailers that subscribe to this service and provides hard copy notification for mailers who do not subscribe. Both services generate revenue for the Postal Service. The system also automates processing of change-of-address forms.
Phase I includes 53 processing plants and 86 Computerized Forwarding System (CFS) sites which forward nearly one-fourth of all forwarded letters. PARS Phase I deployment is expected to begin in July 2003 and end in May 2004. The Postal Service expects to complete Phase II, which covers deployment to the remaining sites, by the fall of 2006.
Improve the effectiveness of automated address identification system
To improve the effectiveness of automated address identification systems for processing letter mail, a contract was awarded to Siemens Dematic Postal Automation, L.P., for Phase One of the Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS). A firm fixed-price contract with performance incentive provisions was negotiated. Under the terms of the 30-month contract, Siemens Dematic will manufacture and install 53 systems and associated modifications to remote encoding equipment and the National Customer Support Center, and provide training, spare parts, support, and all required warranties. PARS will be capable of identifying undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) letter mail at the first handling machine and automatically redirect it to the current, correct destination to improve operational efficiency and service. Siemens will provide a complete and comprehensive automated solution for mail forwarding. PARS Phase One deployment will begin in July 2003 and will end in May 2004.
Our capital plan
for the future calls for aggressive cost management by developing and deploying
new automation and mechanization equipment that will increase our operating
efficiency. We estimate our total capital commitment plan for 2003 at $2.5 billion.
We will continue to concentrate on maintaining such infrastructure as facilities,
vehicles and systems, as well as return on investment projects. Under this plan,
we will make investments in programs that reduce work hours in our distribution,
processing and delivery operations. A prime example of this type of investment
is Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) approved by the Board of
Governors in 2002. PARS will identify and intercept letters that should
be forwarded during the initial handling and automatically redirect them to
the new address. Each year we process more than 43 million change-of-address
orders and over 5 billion pieces of mail that must be either forwarded, returned
to sender or handled alternatively. The total cost attributed to this activity
exceeds $1.5 billion annually. PARS technology will help us capture cost
savings by reducing labor and the time required for delivery.
Improve Address Quality
The October 2001 report of the Mailing Industry Task Force recommended reducing undeliverable mail by improving address quality and by providing a “feedback loop” that captures and reports addressing errors.
During its deliberations, the Task Force developed a strategic vision for its address quality initiatives that encompassed customer expectations for more control over their mail and its delivery, increased response rates for sales and marketing mail, and reduced mailing costs. The costs associated with Undeliverable-As-Addressed (UAA) mail totaled $1.9 billion each year, the Task Force noted. The Task Force eventually narrowed its focus to concentrate on how best to improve the processes used by mailers and the Postal Service to create quality address databases and to ensure that their use is most effectively and efficiently leveraged by Postal Service operations procedures and programs.
“The Task Force members working on address quality improvement are driving a tremendous amount of change,” commented Acxiom Company Leader Charles Morgan. “We intend to keep the momentum going.”
Task Force Progress
NCOA Data Test. The Task Force has completed a test to evaluate the quality of the information in the National Change Of Address (NCOA) database, and the process by which it’s used. The test demonstrated that there are opportunities for improvement in identifying the differences between temporary and permanent, and family and individual moves. The test also showed the need to align the ways different address-correction systems default to move types. “The changes made as the result of the findings of this extensive mailing will add value for both mailers and ourselves,” observed Postal Service Chief Technology Officer Charles Bravo.
A number of recommendations emerged on how the Postal Service uses its address database to successfully forward mail, and how address correction information is solicited and captured. They include:
• Changes in field procedures
• Additional training for carriers and clerks
• New marketing materials for customers
• Revisions to the Domestic Mail Manual
• A redesign of Form 3575, the official change of address form
• Re-emphasize proper handling of Address Change Service (ACS) mail
• Encouraging NCOA licensees and Coding Accuracy Support Software (CASS) vendors to improve their individual address-matching software logic
• Implementing improved USPS COA software to link multiple moves
“While we have found areas that can be improved,” said Steering Committee member Morgan, “the data is fundamentally sound. Indeed, many of the issues our test uncovered relate to errors in customer input to the system. The change-of-address form redesign should go a long way towards correcting that.”
“Feedback Loop” Development. Funding for the Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) — a lettermail-only system — was approved by the Board of Governors, and a contract signed with Siemens for its development and implementation. The latter is scheduled to start in July 2003, with full deployment to take two-to-three years. When PARS is operational, some of the address-change input problem will be alleviated by carriers no longer having to copy by hand Form 3575 data onto a second form.
Preprinted Address Change Service Codes. A draft request allowing mailers to preprint ACS participant codes on envelopes will be completed and reviewed by the Postal Service this fall. When approved, mailers will be able to use electronic ACS without changing the envelope window size or making costly program changes. Already successfully tested by one mailer, preprinted codes have potential to generate substantial UAA-related cost reductions for both mailers and the Postal Service. They will be addressed in the next edition of the Domestic Mail Manual.
Federal Register Notice. The Task Force contributed to the preparation of a draft Notice proposing new Postal Service rules and regulations to drive out the cost of the system and reduce the volume of Undeliverable-As-Addressed mail. The notice was published in late May, with public comments due to have been submitted by August 29. The notice called for:
• Eliminating manual address corrections generated from Ancillary Service Endorsements as a means to meet the Postal Service’s Move Update requirement.
• Increasing the frequency from 180 to 90 days for addresses to be Move Update-qualified.
• Increasing the frequency from 180 days to 90 days for addresses to be ZIP+4 coded via CASS-certified address matching software in order to obtain a USPS discounted automation rate.
• Requiring monthly updating of address matching directories used by CASS in order to obtain USPS discounted automation rates.
• Extending the USPS Move Update requirement concept for bulk mailings to Periodicals, Standard Mail, and Package Services.
Comments have been generally supportive and reflect the diversity of the mailing industry.
The Task Force will support the following next steps:
• Conduct a second NCOA test mailing after a recommendation-implementation period, to assess the effect of the proposed changes on the system.
• Encourage the Postal Service to test commercially available databases to support enhanced address quality.
• Prepare for and conduct focus groups to redesign the change-of-address form. The Postal Service and the Gallup Organization will develop discussion materials and host focus groups to improve Form 3575.
• Ensure that industry input on the Federal Register Notice’s proposed rules and regulations for COA software updates is given full consideration and is reflected in the new regulations when enacted.
• Evaluate a Change-of-Address by Phone service and assess the potential of utilizing the Postal Service call centers to take customer Change of Address requests through a toll-free number, augmenting the COA services available at post offices and on the Postal Service website. The cost of providing such service by phone, the Task Force found, could be substantially less than when hard-copy COA forms are processed by post offices. The service may also produce higher quality results than achieved on the Internet, as there would be a lower drop-out rate since call center agents would be available to assist customers. The Postal Service has agreed to continue its assessment of this service.
• Support Postal Service implementation of a “snowbird” mail-forwarding program, whereby consumers could choose to purchase pre-paid Priority Mail envelopes, and have their local post office collect and send mail to a temporary address on an agreed-upon schedule.
Address Quality Committee Membership
The Task Force subcommittee on address quality has members representing Acxiom, Prudential Financial, BankOne Card Services, Progressive Insurance, Pitney Bowes, Quebecor World, and Time Customer Service, Inc. The committee is co-chaired by Charles Morgan, Company Leader of Acxiom, and Postal Service Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Charles Bravo.