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Signer Beware: Before Signing a CSA, Consider This…

Increasingly, mailers are being approached to sign Customer Supplier Agreement (CSAs). But should you? As with any contract, it's essential that you consider all the ramifications before putting pen to paper.

A CSA is a negotiated agreement between the USPS and a mailer. The agreement covers such things as:

  • Critical Entry Times (CET’s) – Get the mail here by X time and the USPS we will process it today
  • Local entry separations – The USPS asking the mailer to split the mail to prevent backhauling it – i.e., pull aside the pieces for your local SCF and when we send a postal truck from the BMC to pick up your mail, we’ll drop the SCF part on our way past it, as opposed to hauling it to the BMC so we can send it back to the SCF

This makes perfect sense and could be a win-win for both the mailer and the USPS. However, in speaking to several mailers recently, I have heard a recurring theme: Know what you are signing and understand the impact to your business and production environment.

Here is some of what I've heard most frequently to consider with regards to separations.

  • More floor space may be required. Do you have room to accommodate the separations?
  • More may be involved than simply separating off a pallet. Mailers may need to “break” a pallet – pull trays from it.
  • For mailers looking to Full Service IMB (in which electronic documentation, pallet labels and unique container identification are critical), breaking apart pallets may be problematic.
  • Mailers need to know when they would need to make the separation — prior to or after the presort? This could be very manual or require multiple presorts.
  • If multiple presorts are required, this may mean multiple postage statements as well as additional verifications. If the volume is low enough it may cause a presort to fail the mailing minimums for a discount.
  • How do you account for each pallet or tray? This is critical for some mailers. Will your process work if pallets are moved or containers are changed?
  • What are the training costs for your production floor to accommodate separations?

Finally, do the analysis for separations — I mean, really look at it per mailing. Is there enough volume in each mailing to justify the change? For example, one mailer said that when they did the analysis, the number of trays for most mailings was so low, it would not have been worth the effort; and if the volume is there, depending on the class of mail, they might as well drop ship. This may have made sense if the trays across mailings were combined, but then you are headed down the co-palletization road.

Remember, CSAs can be negotiated, so make sure that what you are signing is in the best interest of your business so you end up with a Win-Win — not just for the Postal Service, but for yourself.