The Direction (And Re-Direction) of Mail

If you drop ship mail to multiple entry points, you know how confusing all the postal facility acronyms can be. How do you know which facility should be the entry point for which portions of your mailing? Drop shipments require delivery appointments (with few exceptions) and it is often then that mailers find out that the USPS® is “re-directing” mail to a different postal facility. And all those Labeling Lists! Who can make sense of it all?

Postal Facilities
Let’s start by defining the primary types of postal facilities:

  • Network Distribution Center (NDC): The new name for what was a BMC, or Bulk Mail Center.Highly mechanized mail processing plants that are part of the USPS network distribution system.  These facilities distribute Standard Mail®, Periodicals Mail, and Package Services Mail in bulk volumes.
  • Airport Mail Center/Airport Mail Facility (AMC/AMF): A postal facility at an airport that receives, concentrates, transfers, dispatches, and distributes mail transported by air.
  • Auxilliary Service Facility (ASF): A mail processing facility that has its own service area and serves as a satellite processing hub for a particular Network Distribution Center (NDC)
  • Sectional Center Facility (SCF): A postal facility that serves as the processing and distribution center (P&DC) for post offices in a designated geographic area as defined by the first three digits of the ZIP Code® of those offices. Some SCFs serve more than one 3-digit ZIP Code range.
  • Area Distribution Center (ADC): A mail processing facility that receives and distributes mail destined for specific ZIP Codes. ADC’s and their associated ZIP Codes are in the DMM labeling list.
  • Destination Delivery Unit (DDU): A postal facility, usually identified by a 5-digit ZIP code, that receives, sorts, and delivers the mail destined to the individual recipients within that 5-digit ZIP area.

Drop Shipping Mail
The USPS provides regulations and incentive pricing for mailers to transport mail at their own cost to postal facilities closer to the ultimate recipients of the mail. Mailers are permitted to drop ship this mail to any of the postal facility types listed above. Mailers may elect to drop ship mail in order to take advantage of the drop ship discounts, or they may drop ship mail in order to better control the delivery window. In any case, mail preparers who are processing drop ship mail must generate a clearance document, PS-Form 8125, for each entry point and must also make delivery appointments with the destination postal facilities. These delivery appointments are most commonly made using the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) system. The FAST system includes all the updated information regarding the various postal facilities, including information on any re-directions to alternate postal facilities.

The USPS often re-directs mail from its original intended destination facility to a different postal facility. These re-directions are done for a variety of reasons:

  • Seasonal mail volume fluctuations, requiring some types of mail to be processed at alternate facilities to even out the flow of mail.
  • Facility construction, remodeling, or equipment re-vamping, which requires some or all of the mail volume to be diverted to an alternate facility.
  • Acts of nature, such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, snow storms, etc., which may require mail volumes to be diverted to other facilities.
  • Production or workflow efficiencies, which may require certain types of mail to be temporarily sent to facilities with newer, more efficient equipment, or more flexible staffing.

Regardless of the reason, it is best if mailers can obtain this redirection information in a timely and efficient manner. This helps insure that the 8125 clearance documents are completed with the most up-to-date, accurate data, and that the logistics providers have the most accurate delivery address information for their drivers.

It is primarily due to these redirections that FAST is requesting mailers to properly identify the redirection facility on the 8125 forms whenever possible. To prevent confusion, the USPS asks that the intended drop ship entry facility information be placed in Box 15 of the 8125, which includes the facility type designator (e.g. NDC, SCF, etc.) and the ZIP code for the entry (e.g. SCF Houston 770). In Box 28 of the 8125, however, the entry facility name must be listed exactly as it appears in the drop ship destination database, which is available from FAST. In this database, most of the facility names do not include a facility type designator or a ZIP code. While that information is provided elsewhere in the database record for that facility, it is often not included in the facility name. In the case of the SCF Houston 770 facility given earlier, the facility name for this SCF as it appears in the FAST database is simply “Houston.” So, in Box 28 of an 8125 for a Houston SCF drop shipment, only the facility name Houston would appear, along with the delivery address, city, state and ZIP + 4 for the facility. As a result, the facility name appearing in Box 28 of the 8125 will rarely match exactly the facility information in Box 15, due to redirections, or simply due to the fact that the facility name as it is listed in the drop ship database is not exactly the same as the data required to be populated in Box 15.

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