AB Data

Making Informed Visibility Work for You

Written by Nancy Garrison and Anne Skroch for Mailing Systems Technology
Find original article here.

Unlike legacy IMb Tracing, which only provided piece tracking for subscribers, the U.S. Postal Service’s Informed Visibility (IV) makes a variety of data available from a single system to everyone in the supply chain. It provides visibility to the movement of various types of mail objects (such as individual mail pieces, bundles, handling units, and containers) as they move within the USPS processing network.

Your visibility to different types of data within IV depends on your role in the mail supply chain. The default visibility and delegation rights you have are driven by your Customer Registration ID (CRID) or Mailer ID (MID).

  • If you are identified in the electronic documentation (eDoc) as the mail preparer and/or eDoc submitter, you have access to containers and handling unit scans.
  • If you are identified in eDoc as the FAST scheduler, you have access to container information.
  • If you are the owner of the MID on any mail object, you have access to scans for those objects.

Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV-MTR)

IV-MTR provides scan data from the point of USPS possession of the container through the mail piece’s delivery — and everything in between. And the data is cumulative, which means if you are identified as the owner of the MID on a mail piece, you have visibility to all your pieces and all the associated mail objects that carried your mail piece, such as containers and trays.

Data access and visibility is based on role-based permissions, available through the Roles and Permissions tab. These roles are managed by your Business Service Administrator (BSA) or BSA delegate. These permissions determine which mail objects and handling events each user can access.

IV-MTR has made sharing the data easy and flexible. Users with the appropriate permissions can delegate or provision any of their data to one or more third parties. For example, you can share piece scans with a mail tracking vendor or container scans with a logistics vendor.

In addition, IV-MTR allows many customization options for data access at a CRID or MID level.

Options to View and Download Data: Queries and Data Feeds

One-time queries allow you to create ad hoc reports to retrieve mail object scan events from the last 45 days. Queries can be used for containers, handling units, or bundles. Note that queries have a 10,000 record limit for container or handling unit events, and piece scans aren’t currently available through queries.

Setting up a data feed will provide scan data on a recurring basis for the requested type of handling events going forward. Data feeds don’t have the volume limits for container or handling unit events and can be used for all mail objects including mail pieces.

Needed: A Better Way to Retrieve Mail Quality Data (MQD)

Access to MQD through IV began with an industry request to be able to retrieve all the raw data needed to review and troubleshoot warnings or errors through one self-serve tool. The Mailer Scorecard was the original tool created to assist with identifying mail quality issues. The scorecard displays a dashboard view of the results for letter and flat mailing activity over a calendar month that may result in a postage assessment.

Mail quality and mail preparation are measured against established thresholds. The scorecard is a great tool for monitoring compliance with assessment thresholds, but it also has limitations. Although it has the ability to drill into a type of error and identify details of that error, it can take more than eight steps just to retrieve one program error type:

  1. Log into the Business Customer Gateway;
  2. Go to Mailer Scorecard in the reports area;
  3. Select month;
  4. Select CRID;
  5. Drill into the errors;
  6. Select program type;
  7. Select error type;
  8. Drill into each job with that error type, one at a time;
  9. Export the data for each separate job into your preferred application.

This can be very time consuming. In addition, the data is limited to only 100 to 200 records per program and error type, which is not always enough, depending on the type of error you are investigating.

Mailers found the need for more data than the scorecard could provide, so the Postal Service assisted the industry with retrieving the full data via a request form to the Help Desk, which is referred to as “legacy requests.” With the legacy requests, you only receive data weekly or monthly, and you cannot retrieve data from the past.

Coming Soon: Use IV to Access MQD

The Postal Service continued to receive requests from the industry for a better self-serve option and is now piloting MQD subscriptions through IV. This new functionality allows you to receive all your raw data by going to the Create and Manage Feeds page in IV. (All IV users have access to the MQD section, although it is still in pilot.) If you manage mail across multiple entities (CRIDs or MIDs), you can filter by entity, and you can define filters to present the data many different ways with more frequency options available.

You have the ability to select all or multiple error types at the same time during one setup process. Keep in mind every error type you select will generate an individual feed. Once you have saved the feed, you will have the ability to modify, delete, or just view details without modification. The data files have a standard naming convention, which is very useful when identifying and filtering data files. For the MQD files, that convention includes a date and time stamp, MQD Program (such as SE for Seamless acceptance), Error Type (such as NS for Nesting Sortation), Frequency (Daily, Weekly, or Monthly), and USPS unique identifiers.

Data is available as an online download or through Secure FTP data feeds, both of which are available in output history for up to seven days. Note that there will be an entry every time the feed runs, even if it has zero records. With the Secure FTP option, you would retrieve the files from the FTP server. Be aware there is a 100,000-record limit to each file, so if your data exceeds 100,000, records it will generate multiple output files until all of the data is downloaded.

Compared to retrieving error data from the Mailer Scorecard, this is a much simpler process:

  1. Create a feed;
  2. Retrieve the data from the Output History or the Secure FTP server;
  3. Open or import the data into your preferred application.

Just three simple steps — definitely an improvement!

For more information, you can call the IV Help Desk at 1-800-238-3150 (select option #2) or email .