USPS proposes new flats requirements

(Direct Newsline) The U.S. Postal Service is proposing a change in the eligibility requirements for automatable catalogs, periodicals, bound printed matte,r and other polywrapped flats. The changes could result in an increase in size for automatable flats, as well as savings for catalogs and other flat mailers.

The changes include increasing the maximum weight of an automatable flat measuring 12″ x 15″ and 0.75″ thick from 16 ounces to 20 ounces. They also call for requiring polywrapped flats to carry the endorsement “USPS AFSM APPROVED POLY” on the address side of the mail piece. The polywrap endorsement “will allow more bound printed matter pieces, which primarily weigh 16 ounces or more, to qualify as flats,” postal officials said.

Noting that the minimum size of an automatable flat (5″ x 6″ and up to 0.009″ thick) remains unchanged, postal officials said that catalogs and other flat mail pieces meeting the proposed eligibility requirements could qualify for a $0.03-per-piece discount beginning June 30, when the upcoming postal rate increase goes into effect.

The proposed changes, published in Wednesday’s “Federal Register,” were prompted by the installation of the new Automated Flat Sorting Machine (AFSM) 100, which according to postal officials is capable of processing up to 17,000 flats an hour. The new machines will help reduce costs “by moving flats processing from the labor intensive manual/mechanical environment to a more efficient automated mode,” according to the agency. Currently some catalogs and other flat pieces weighing just over 16 ounces must be sorted by hand.

Although postal officials expect installation of the new machines to be completed by the end of the month, they said the older Flat Sorting Machine (FSM) 881, which has been used for years, would slowly be phased out of service.

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