The U.S. Postal Service today announced the Wichita (Kansas) Remote Encoding Center (REC) at 2601 Oliver St., will close no sooner than September of 2013, as technology enhancements have made the need for RECs virtually obsolete. The RECs automate and expedite the processing of handwritten and poorly printed addresses.
“The Remote Encoding Centers were planned as a temporary fix when they began in the mid-90s. They were created and deployed with the knowledge that new technology would eventually eliminate the need for them,” said Dennis Lyons, USPS Wichita REC Manager.
Today, the Postal Service is the world leader in optical character recognition with mail processing equipment “reading” nearly 98 percent of all hand-addressed letter mail and 99.5 percent of machine-printed mail.
At the height of the program, in 1997, 55 Remote Encoding Centers processed 19 billion images annually. In the past year, the two remaining centers, in Wichita and Salt Lake City, processed 2.4 billion images. With the ever-increasing improvements in optical character reader technology, the volume of images has and will continue to decrease.
The Postal Service is providing Wichita REC employees with at least six months notice of the closing. The Center’s 417 career employees will be reassigned to available positions in accordance with employee union collective bargaining agreements. The 380 non-career employees will receive outplacement counseling to assist them in finding new employment. The advance notice will give employees time to prepare for the changes.
“The Postal Service is a responsible employer,” added Lyons. “We will provide as much assistance as possible to the affected employees.”
The Remote Encoding Center process involves transmitting electronic images of handwritten mail from mail processing plants to RECs where operators view them on computer screens and key in address information. This information is transmitted back to the processing plant where it is used to process the mail on automated equipment.
The first Remote Encoding Center was established in Salt Lake City, UT, in 1994. This site will also be the last remaining REC in the country.