NNA/USPS newspaper printers’ workshop reviewed ‘Kaizen’ project’s best practices: Periodicals

April 5, 2016

By Max Heath
Postal Tips

The March 16 joint seminar with the National Newspaper Association at U.S. Postal Service headquarters in the top-level Ben Franklin meeting room exceeded the expectations of its attendees, and the two hosts. Mailers and publishers of several hundred different newspapers were in the room from states including Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, South Carolina, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Virginia and Nebraska.

Dane Coleman, manager, Paul Mitchell and others in operations integration and support were fully committed and provided a binder of useful materials plus a flash drive of the presentations. Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Chief Operating Officer David Williams spoke, and Linda-Marie Malone, vice president of network operations, spent virtually the entire day monitoring the training, listening to newspaper issues, and speaking to some of the attendees.

Postal acronyms were defined and reference materials for labeling lists, online ordering of tray labels and supply of flats trays (tubs) were provided.

An overview of the mail processing network was given, including centralized plants, the role Hubs (mostly former SCFs, or Sectional Center Facilities) can play, and the importance of using flats trays to improve service. 

NNA has requested that unlidded flats tray be allowed for destinations within the SCF of origin, helping problems some printers have with truck overloads by allowing “nesting” of one inside the other for transporting. This should remove a major objection to tub use.

The importance of PAVE-certified software, and the value of electronic transmission of postage statements and documentation were explained.

The need to get more “visibility” of newspapers in the mail stream so that tracking can be done using the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) on address labels, tray tags, and perhaps soon, bundles, will provide tracking that can be done by the software operator at his or her desktop computer. Problems can be highlighted to appropriate postal personnel to try to find the “pinch points” and improve processing or transportation. 

One huge value of IMb use is the FREE Address Change Service notices that can result, ending the 59-cent charges for what are often multiple yellow-tag notices that come late and often in bunches. 

Ten Kaizen (a Japanese term for continuous improvements) events for community newspapers were held in six of the seven postal areas in 2015. They used “lean” process tools and “Value-Stream Mapping” to follow newspaper mail from the originating newspaper or other mailer through the origin post office, then to the Hub and/or the first, and sometimes second, processing plant.

Improvement opportunities were found both in mail preparation and internal postal processing, and several of these situations were explained to the group in PowerPoint presentations.



The key was the variety of learning opportunities for both sides to improve results in timely delivery.

Findings for newspaper mail prep opportunities:

• Incorrect sack/tray make up and separations within the sack that were grouped or tied together inappropriately, such as two different 5-digit bundles tied together so that both went to the 5-digit of the top bundle. 

• Use of old sack/tray labels and hand-written labels, which are highly discouraged. 

• Software logic that was not up to date, or not in use at all, to provide the latest postal labeling lists to sort the mail properly. Some papers were relying on a scheme given them by a local postal employee months or years ago. Labeling lists are dynamic, with monthly changes distributed to presort software vendors.

Findings for Postal Service improvement opportunities:

• Inconsistent adherence to the National Periodicals Standard Operating Plan. Retraining personnel and improved nationwide internal training has resulted.

• Offloads of processing for Origin Mixed ADC (OMX) or Mixed ADC (MADC) from one plant to another because of workload. The alternate plant may not be as familiar with the proper procedure.

• Transportation impacts including newspapers dropped early at the origin-entry post office, but still arriving late to the processing plant for SCF, ADC, OMX or MADC.

• Failure to cross-dock Direct containers (5-digit, Carrier-Route, or M5D mixing both) at a Hub from origin-entry to other post offices with the Hub territory. Newspapers should speak to their local postmasters about whether there is a Hub opportunity. The NNA website, www.nnaweb.org, provides a list or link to the Hub list, of the nearly 190 Hubs.

• Late trips from one processing plant to another, missing a key truck connection that would gain a day in keeping newspapers moving. 

• Lack of visibility because of newspapers that are not machinable on flat-sorting machines, or that could be, but haven’t completed the shift to IMb address labels and tray/sack labels.

Key improvement actions that have been conducted by USPS:

• A national OMX webinar was held last October to improve the process of these copies that travel on First-Class truck trips. (Because First-Class flats travel in flats trays, newspapers should be sure to use these tubs and tray tags to get the speediest handling for this sort and all others not delivered to DDU offices.)

• Standard work instructions for newspapers and a revised Periodicals SOP were being developed in March 2016.

• New measurement and tracking opportunities are being developed, such as bundle tracking, to help those newspapers whose individual pieces are not machined, but the bundle can be scanned at each stop in the processing network, either by a machine or individual with hand-held scanner.

• The national training presented in March with NNA.


Periodicals Service

Standards maps

Sample maps that are available electronically were shared. Go to this link: 


When there, click the button on the upper left for “Periodicals,” and select the 3-digit ZIP Code of Origin through a drop-down scrollable selection in the center, in numerical order with city. Use the first three numbers of your local ZIP code. Then click “Display Map” in upper right. This can help in understanding what to expect and help your subscribers understand what to expect when calling or emailing you. © Max Heath 2016


MAX HEATH, NNA postal chair, is a postal consultant for Athlon Media Group, publisher of Parade, American Profile, Relish and Spry newspaper supplements, and also for Landmark Community Newspapers LLC. E-mail maxheath@lcni.com.


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