Mailer printing of outgoing bar codes.’ Most major business mailers already use
computers to store, update, and print out addresses on outgoing mail. Addresses are printed directly on the envelopes, on mailing labels, or on letters that show through
Almost all business mailers have
codes into their address addresses from 5-digit to
data bases. USPS 9-digit ZIP codes.
already entered the 5-digit ZIP course, like them to convert the
At present, few mailers have actually converted their address files. partly because of concern over the cost of conversion. Some participants at the March 5 OTA workshop pointed out that, if and when mailers convert, consideration should be given to building in a capability to print outgoing bar codes in addition to or as a substitute for the ZIP+4 numeric codes. In principal, outgoing bar-coded mail could, with proper FIMs on the envelopes, bypass the OCRs completely and go directly to BCSs.
In practice, the technical and economic feasibility is unclear. For example, high speed non-impact printers (such as laser printers) could be programed to print the bar code immediately under the last address line on an envelope or label. However, if the barcode location is too far up from the bottom of the envelope, then the Bell and Howell bar code sorters used by USPS would not be able to read the bar code unless a second scanning channel was added. Ink jet printers or special photo offset printing devices could also be used, but this would involve significant equipment procurement and processing changes on the part of mailers. And proper location of the bar code could be difficult when labels or window envelopes are used. Special bar code window envelopes or barcode labels might be needed. Bell and Howell indicated to OTA that addressing and/or inserting machines could be easily used to print bar codes on outside envelopes of outgoing mail, and that 30 to 35 billion pieces of mail annually could be processed in this way. A clear understanding of the potential and pitfalls must await further study.