The July 23, 2014 issue of Database Trends and Applications features an article written by Joyce Wells titled Using OpenInsight, Presort First Class Leverages the Latest Mail Service Technology Trends.
Presort First Class is a full-service mail provider, offering a complete turnkey operation with the ability to import customers’ data into its own systems, print and fold their documents, insert them into envelopes, and then seal and meter the mail before submitting it in bulk to the U.S. Postal Service.
Presort First Class works hand in hand with the USPS, is closely involved with a number of mailing industry organizations, including the PCC Postal Council and National Association of Presort Mailers, and also provides education back to its customers. “We have a huge communication network going back and forth with the postal service. We are interfacing with the postal service almost daily on some level, and we have a standing weekly conference call with postal personnel to work out any issues we might have with how our mail is being submitted,” explains Eric Dilbeck, supervisor of maintenance and information technology at Presort First Class.
A critical aspect of growing the business is staying current with new technology. “Every piece of mail is tracked with a code. Mail is becoming a high-tech operation and it is a huge benefit for our customers that they don’t have to deal with the consequential issues involved,” says Dilbeck.
Based in Oklahoma City, the company started in March 1982 by presorting finished mail for customers and expanded its range of services to support their growing requirements. Today, Presort First Class mails out approximately 275,000 to 300,000 First Class letters each day, and all that mail is serialized in databases, analyzed and uploaded to the USPS so it knows what mail to expect. The company also provides address hygiene services and purchases mailing lists on behalf of customers. “We do a lot of postal cleansing and work closely with the postal service. We are our customers’ knowledge base when it comes to all things postal,” says Dilbeck.
Revelation Software has been core to the business for as long as Dilbeck can remember. In the early days, when the company was only doing mail presorting and a handful of other services, its billing processes were handled by a highly customized RevG system from Revelation. “But as we grew, it was not designed to handle the magnitude of services that we had, so we worked with Revelation and WinWin Solutions, its consulting firm, to build a new OpenInsight-based system, and that is what we are still running today,” says Dilbeck. OpenInsight, Revelation’s flagship database development suite, provides Windows, Web 2.0 and .NET tools to develop and deploy applications.
Presort First Class began planning the new OpenInsight system in 2001. “We set out with the goal of not just being able to bill our work, but to actually track all the jobs from inception to payment. The current system does just that,” says Dilbeck. “We create job tickets in the Revelation system, and can track a job throughout its life in that system. The system does all the invoicing and accounts receivable for all our jobs and all the work that we do day in and day out. And it also tracks all the postage for all our customers as well.”
Presort First Class is currently on the latest version of OpenInsight, 9.4. “I can do whatever I want to do with it based on our requirements and it is both easy and flexible for me to make the changes in the system to match our changing business needs. Revelation has got a great support staff. I can always reach out to the developers and get help any time I need it.”
Because Revelation stays on top of emerging technology trends, new capabilities are constantly being added to Presort First Class’ system. For example, several years ago, Presort First Class wanted to update its metering processes, which were manually intensive. At the time, all the postage transactions had to be written down on job sheets with pencil and paper. The data would then be entered into the Revelation system. When the opportunity arose to streamline operations using third-party postal metering equipment which had an integrated relational database management system, Presort First Class seized it. Because Revelation had developed a SQL connector in OpenInsight, Presort First Class was able to link the tables in the SQL database to OpenInsight and view the information within OpenInsight. As a result, a manual process that took four to five hours every day turned into a 30-minute to one-hour importing routine. “Revelation has provided the flexibility to meet our needs,” said Dilbeck.
In addition, said Dilbeck, Presort First Class has various programs that it uses to communicate with OpenInsight on the back end. As the company receives files from customers via FTP it has processes that handle these files and communicate with Revelation in real time. “Revelation has been easy to integrate with, because they have many ways to connect with other products,” notes Dilbeck.
Presort First Class has looked at other products over the years including one that was specific to the mailing industry. The product included a Visual Studio front end with SQL Server back end. However, it found that although the product had a robust feature set tailored for the industry, it lacked many other features that it had built into its OpenInsight system. “We figured it would take more money to buy the product and have the vendor develop the pieces that were missing that were already in the OpenInsight system. Plus, there were features that they could not replicate so we would still continue using the Revelation system for certain functionality,” says Dilbeck.
Presort First Class continues to seek new capabilities to deploy in support of its customers. The company has keen interest in the new functionality that will become available with the 2015 release of OpenInsight 10.0, especially the 64-bit processing.
Presort First Class also sees strong potential in a new Couchbase connector in 10.0 for enhanced tracking related to the USPS Intelligent Mail initiative. The Intelligent Mail program uses machine-readable codes to identify mail and follow its path through to delivery. A key attribute of Couchbase is that it can handle a high volume of data. “The amount of data that is generated through piece-level event tracking is really more than Revelation can handle efficiently,” notes Dilbeck. “Couchbase is scalable; you can have millions of documents stored every second across multiple servers and still have it be easily accessible. We are looking at using the Couchbase connector for our tracking databases when that becomes available. Getting the additional functionality of the Couchbase connector would be a definite reason for us to upgrade to OpenInsight 10.0.”