Postal workers are kissing their old-fashioned mechanical scales goodby as computerized scales manufactured by a Costa Mesa firm begin to make their appearances in post offices across the United States.
The new devices, built by MOS Scale International Ltd., essentially combine computer technology with the ancient art of building scales.
Earlier this year, the 10-year-old company landed its biggest customer to date when it reached an agreement with the U.S. Postal Service for the purchase of 5,000 computerized scales in a deal worth about $17 million.
Although MOS has sold its scales to corporations and organizations that must process large quantities of mail, a spokesman admitted that 5,000 scales has set a record for the company, which employs 90 people. "Nobody quite buys in that volume," he said.
What especially endears the new device to the Postal Service is that it eliminates the need for postal clerks to dig around in mounds of books to find out how much postage is required to mail a parcel to Yugoslavia, or anywhere else for that matter.
Another of the new scale's features praised by postal officials is its ability to keep track of all postal window transactions, eliminating the need for the time-consuming and often troublesome ritual of balancing receipts at day's end.
"The big advantage for us is that it captures all the transactions when they occur," said Tom Hart, manager of retail programs for the Postal Service's Western Region. "At the end of the day you can tidy up while the machine is chugging away."
The key to the new scale is in its software package, which can be changed as often as the Postal Service raises the cost of a first-class stamp.
Ken Lewis, MOS's president, said all that's needed to adapt to postal rate hikes is for the clerk to remove one floppy disk and replace it with another. No books, no charts, no fuss. "We furnish them a new coded disk with whatever it is," Lewis said, adding that the contract to sell the Postal Service updated software is worth more than $50,000.
In addition to the Postal Service, MOS sells computerized scales to companies and universities that have to move large volumes of mail. With projected annual revenues of $22 million this year, the privately held firm's customer list includes UCLA and USC, as well as such industry giants as Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.
Of the 5,000 units sold to the Postal Service, about 1,400 are earmarked for the Western United States.
Hart said placement of the scales is determined by mail volume, and early deliveries from the company are being sent to where they are needed most.
"We went for the major cities first and then we went from the major stations down," he said. "You wouldn't see them in Corona del Mar, but you would see them in Santa Ana."