Plastic or machine learning
Earlier this year we got the surprising news that Deutsche Post is no longer able to read our address labels on the E-3 magazine. We have been mailing the magazine the same way for many years: A white label with subscription number and address is stuck on the cover.
Now Deutsche Post has invested in new scanners, which apparently no longer recognize address labels as such and are therefore unable to read them. In the future, there is to be a "rest and reading zone" around the labels, which would take up about one-third of the area of the cover. Of course, Deutsche Post does not answer how a sensible cover design can be achieved with these specifications.
As a somewhat technically savvy computer user, one is amazed at this specification. Deutsche Post's scanners need almost a third of an A4 page to find and read an address label. Our address labels are a standard font that every OCR program on the PC recognizes almost blindly.
It is likely that the letters are read at very high speed on the conveyor belt, but there are high-speed cameras and OCR software with AI algorithms for this purpose. It is not known what technical standard Deutsche Post uses and whether the scanners are equipped with machine learning. The fact is: In the past, the Post could read the labels, but not anymore, right?
At short notice at the beginning of this year, we were forced to provide the E-3 magazine with a white cover sheet on which the address was printed, and then to shrink-wrap this together with the magazine.
Almost the whole world is trying to avoid plastic, and we are forced by Deutsche Post to process plastic in large quantities. Naturally, there would have been an alternative: If you leave it and continue to deliver the magazine with the label stuck on, you have to pay a "penalty fee." The logic behind this was not clear to us.
After the new mailing processes were set up and sorted, we took an Excel sheet and compared penalty charges with additional costs from cover sheet and foil. It came to a pleasing conclusion, at least for our environment: paper with address and foil is more expensive than the postal penalty charge for our circulation.
Thus, starting with this issue, we are sending out the E-3 magazine again in its usual form - without cover sheet and foil. Of course, we still hope that the digital transformation in the form of AI and machine learning will also arrive at Deutsche Post. Intelligent scanners for reading address labels should deliver added value - but at no extra cost to the postal customer.
Digital transformation must not be used by Swiss Post for hidden price increases either. Of course, the false reference to inadequate technology is an easy finger exercise. But ultimately it will be counterproductive, because the alternatives to "print" exist. With more AI, Deutsche Post could also shore up its business model.