Postal officials are hinting of another delay in implementing the Intelligent Mail Barcode, just three months after insisting the key initiative was on schedule.
Information-technology issues are causing the latest delay to the ill-fated IMB program, resulting in a three-phase implementation, a source told Dead Tree Edition. A full-service option with rate incentives was supposed to be introduced in May 2009, with IMB becoming mandatory in May 2010.
The U.S. Postal Service decided early this year to delay implementation because of unresolved customer concerns. The IMB will provide a unique identification to each piece and container of mail, enabling the Postal Service (and mailers) to track the flow of mail and to optimize mail handling.
Mailers and their vendors, especially printers, have been complaining for years that their input has been ignored by postal officials who were developing the IMB program. For example, there have been battles over whether the specifications for the barcode itself could be met by the printers' inkjet equipment. MTAC meetings relating to IMB have reportedly become increasingly contentious in recent months, and many issues needed for implementation have yet to be resolved.
Mailers who have tried to prepare for IMB by requesting a mailer identification, as suggested by USPS, have been told they must first have a meeting with a postal employee. Questioning whether USPS could hold meetings with the thousands of affected mailers in time, the mailing community had wondered whether the May 2009 date was realistic. But USPS announced in August that the program was still on schedule.