USPS taps NCR for customer terminals

The U.S. Postal Service awarded a $67 million contract this week to NCR Corp. for terminals that the Postal Service plans to use to offer more services and information to customers at retail windows.

The NCR terminals will be added at 3,500 service windows between August 1999 and April 2000 under the second stage of USPS' Point-Of-Service (POS) One contract, NCR and USPS officials said today.

The new devices provide postal customers more information about services so customers can compare prices, NCR officials said. The devices also are designed to prompt USPS clerks to offer services such as insurance. In addition, the Microsoft Corp. Windows NT-based devices will improve inventory management so that popular products will remain in stock, NCR officials said.

NCR and IBM Corp. were selected in August 1996 to fulfill the POS One contract. The USPS divided installment of the contract into three stages, with an ultimate plan to choose one company to carry out the majority of the work.

In the first stage, which will conclude at the end of this month, the two companies installed more than 22,000 POS terminals at more than 4,300 sites, said Maribeth Richter, manager of communications at USPS.

USPS decided to split the second stage into two phases to allow more time as the Postal Service completes Year 2000 fixes and gears up for high volume during the year-end holiday season, Richter said.

IBM also is set to receive an award for the first phase of stage two in the upcoming weeks, Richter said, adding that it was a "pretty safe assumption" that both vendors would receive awards when USPS awards the second phase of stage two, expected at the end of 1999.

"We are still moving forward with both vendors, but evaluation of projects will continue," Richter said. "We will probably continue to work with both through stage two."

An IBM spokesman said the officials who worked on the USPS contract were not available to comment on the company's stage two contract.

USPS plans to deploy a total of 73,000 POS terminals. The new terminals, each of which has a scale, printers, a scanner, a keypad and other peripherals, will replace Unisys Corp. POS devices.

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