Deployment of the first phase of the Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) will begin in July 2003 and is scheduled for completion in May 2004.
The contract covers the first phase of the programme, which includes automating 53 Postal Service processing plants, and will handle nearly 25% of all forwarded letters, according to Raj Kumar, an engineer in the Postal Service's Automated Equipment Group.
Once the first phase is over, the Postal Service will decide whether it will automate its remaining 229 processing plants, a project that would be completed by 2006.
At present, a letter that is "undeliverable as addressed" and mailed in the US is first sent to the recipient's former address, then redirected to the new address. It's a time-consuming process for the Postal Service, Kumar said, and could take five days or more for a person who has moved to receive a letter that was first sent to his or her old address.
According to the Postal Service, more than 2 billion pieces of mail every year must be forwarded or returned to sender.
With the PARS system, the Postal Service expects to be able to identify and intercept letters that are undeliverable as addressed during their initial handling and process that information automatically on a new piece of equipment that automatically applies the new address, Kumar said.
"The main benefit is it reduces costs to the Postal Service and improves customer service," said Siemens Dematic spokesman Gary Jensen.
The Siemens Dematic system incorporates the RC 1000 address reading system, which will be used with the Smart-Read/Cool technology that provides such functions as mail forwarding, verification of postage paid, and automatic reading of the return address on letters.