For: Digital talking book distribution analysis. Task 3 - Statement of work (Final report : August 29, 2006)
Section 4 - DTB Cartridge and Container Reconditioning
In This section of the report presents the Statement of Work for the reconditioning of DTB cartridges and containers. This contractor-performed function will be a critical part of future DTB distribution operations, because it will be important from a fiscal perspective that both products be reused in the mass-duplication of new DTB titles. The reconditioning of cartridges will be especially important due to their relatively high cost.
While current audio book distribution operations employ reconditioning and reuse of RC containers, the requirement for reconditioning of the book medium itself will be new. This function will apply to both the All Mass-Duplication and the Hybrid DTB distribution systems. With DTB mass-duplication planned to begin in FY 2008, the procurement process to first select and then put a cartridge and container reconditioning contractor on-line should begin during FY 2010 so that actual reconditioning operations can commence in FY 2011. This will be the first year that weeded cartridges and containers from library collections that are not redistributed among the libraries in the XESS protocol will be available for reuse in mass-duplication.
While the volume of reconditioning initially required will justify only one operation, it is recommended that there be ultimately two reconditioning operations, in geographically separate areas, from the perspective of improving flexibility and reducing operational risk. Whether the second site could be operated by the same contractor that operates the first site, or a different contractor, is a relevant but secondary consideration to that of simply having a second site located in a separate geographical area.
Background for Offerors
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress (LOC) administers a free library service to approximately 525,000 eligible residents of the US and US citizens living overseas who cannot read, hold or handle print media because of visual and/or physical disabilities. Under a special exemption of the US copyright laws and with the cooperation of authors and publishers who grant permission to use non-covered copyrighted works in the program, NLS selects and produces annually about 2,000 full-length audio book titles and 45 audio magazines in a specialized 4-Track, 15/16 ips recorded cassette (RC) format.
In FY 2008, NLS also began to produce full-length digital audio book titles on Flash Memory cartridges, known as Digital Talking Books (DTBs). A transition is now underway in which DTBs are replacing RCs in the program, and FY 2010 is the last year in which RC books are being produced; beginning in FY 2011, only DTBs will be produced. NLS also produces specially-designed Digital Talking Book Machines (DTBMs) which enable readers in the program to play DTBs, which are produced in a specialized format.
A cooperating nationwide network of 57 regional (RL) and 75 subregional (SRL) libraries store and loan DTBs to readers in the program, who return the DTBs to the libraries. Virtually all circulation of DTBs is on a mail-order basis, which is performed by the US Postal Service (USPS) and the costs of which are covered under a special Congressional appropriation for the same ("Free Matter for the Blind").
After books have circulated for several years from library collections, their popularity wanes significantly, and the libraries do not require as many copies of titles in their collections in order to provide quality service to program readers. Some copies are removed, unintentionally, from library collections via attrition, i.e., loss and damage, while others are redistributed among libraries via the NLS XESS program from locations of surplus to locations of deficiency. However, even after attrition and redistribution of copies, libraries are left with excess DTB copies in their collections after two-to-three years of circulation.
Libraries need to remove excess copies from their collections because facility storage space is costly, and NLS needs to reuse the excess cartridges for mass-duplication of new DTBs so as to recover the cost of DTB cartridges. It is also desirable for NLS to reuse DTB containers, thus reducing both the procurement requirement for new containers and reducing landfill waste. It is therefore NLS’s intention to award a contract to a qualified contractor for the reconditioning of both DTB cartridges and containers.
The contractor shall furnish all supervision, supplies, materials, labor, equipment, facilities and overhead support, except where otherwise noted herein, to recondition DTB cartridges and containers for NLS. The contractor shall satisfactorily recondition DTB cartridges and containers, at the contractor’s facility, in accordance with the directives specified in contract releases.
Excess DTB copies will be sent by network libraries throughout the country to the contractor’s facility via the USPS. A DTB copy received from a library will consist of a single cartridge in a single container, and will be Government-Furnished Equipment (GFE), being the property of the US Government.
DTB Cartridge : The DTB is a customized Flash Memory cartridge, of 256 MB capacity, and uses a USB 2.0 connector. It is about the size of an audio cassette, approximately 3/8" thick, white in color, and very durable. It is labelled on the top face in both print (using adhesive/pressure-sensitive label stock) and Braille (either as an overlay to the print label, or embossed on the same stock as the print label). On the bottom face, it has one label that has "Property of US Government," certain information for quality control purposes in both print and barcode, and an FCC symbol. Each cartridge has a unique ID, but it is internal and machine-readable only by plugging-in the cartridge. A drawing of the DTB cartridge is shown in the attachment, the specification for the DTB is available from the NLS website, and a sample of the DTB will be provided by NLS for the purposes of proposal preparation (which must be returned after proposal submission).
DTB Container : The DTB container is made of plastic, blue in color, and is approximately 6" deep x 5" wide x 0.75" thick. It is hinged and openable from the top, has buckle-type fastener straps, and is stackable. It is always labelled with two adhesive/pressure-sensitive print labels, a longer one on the side edge and a shorter one on the front edge, and with one clear plastic Braille label on the bottom face. It may, but not necessarily, have two other labels on it: (1) an adhesive pressure-sensitive label with a barcode, almost always located on the long edge not bearing the title label; and/or (2) an adhesive/pressure sensitive label with information identifying the network library that circulated the copy, which is usually located on the long edge not used for the title label, but could be positioned in another location. A container will hold a single Flash Memory cartridge, and there is only one size of container. The container has a pocket with flanges that hold a 3" x 5" address/mailing card which will be used by libraries to mail excess copies to the contractor. The container is designed so that the cartridge is cradled face-up when placed in it, and so that the container will not close unless the cartridge is properly oriented. A drawing of the DTB container is shown in the attachment, the specification for the DTB container is available from the NLS website, and a sample of the container will be provided by NLS for the purposes of proposal preparation (which must be returned after proposal submission).
DTB copies will be sent by network libraries to the contractor’s facility for reconditioning throughout the year, but the receiving volume may be uneven. Ultimately, the contractor will be expected to receive and process about 460,000 DTB copies per year [Note to NLS: based upon an All Mass-Duplication distribution system, a steady-state reuse rate of 50%, two reconditioning contractor operations, and 2,000 new titles produced per year at 925 copies per title on average]. In the first year of operation, the volume will be less than one-quarter of this amount.
The contractor must promptly unload DTB copies from USPS containers and record/log all copies received from network libraries, noting the number of copies received, the library from which received, and the date received. Any information received along with the DTB copies to be reconditioned will also be logged-in and retained, including library-provided copy counts. Any discrepancies between library-provided and contractor-performed counts will be noted and reported to NLS. The contractor must maintain a timely and accurate record of all cartridges and containers awaiting processing.
The exact sequence of processing steps, and the specific manner in which they will be performed, will be determined by the contractor. The necessary tasks that must be performed are listed below in one logical sequence, for which there are undoubtedly other valid alternatives.
- Container Inspection – The container must be inspected, and a recondition or scrap decision made. One logical time for this inspection and decision is when it is first handled for opening; alternatively, this could be done after cartridge-container separation. If the container is physically-damaged (i.e., has broken latches, posts or hinges, damaged address card holder flanges, or is deformed), has clearly visible major, unsightly markings that cannot be removed, or has latches which open with negligible force, then it must be disposed. Otherwise, it must be reconditioned. All containers must be ultimately sorted into these two classes.
- Separation of Cartridge and Container – The DTB container must be opened, and the cartridge and container separated into two workflow streams.
- Cartridge Inspection – The cartridge must be inspected, and a recondition or scrap decision made. This would, necessarily, be done after cartridge-container separation. If the cartridge is physically-damaged (i.e., has a broken or deformed USB connector, or a cracked or deformed case), or has clearly visible major, unsightly markings that cannot be removed, then it must be disposed. Otherwise, it must be reconditioned. All cartridges must be ultimately sorted into these two classes.
- Cartridge Reconditioning - Almost all DTB cartridges will be reconditioned and reused. The print and Braille label from the top face of the cartridge must be removed, but the label on the bottom of the cartridge must not be removed. The cartridge and label are designed to facilitate this process. Labels will have to be heated to facilitate their removal. A residual amount of adhesive is allowable in the areas that will be covered by a new label. The degree of automation applied to this process, if any, must be determined by the contractor. If any cartridges are significantly dusty or dirty, then they must be wiped or washed clean. If washed clean, then no soap residue must be left on the case, and no liquids must enter the USB connector.
- Container Reconditioning - It is expected that approximately 90% of DTB containers will be fit for reuse and reconditioned, and that about 10% will be scrapped. The two print labels from the edges, made of a polyester material that adheres strongly to the containers, and the plastic Braille label from the bottom face, must be removed. A residual amount of adhesive is allowable in the areas that will be covered by new labels. The degree of automation applied to this process, if any, must be determined by the contractor. If any containers are significantly dusty or dirty, then they must be wiped or washed clean. If washed clean, then no soap residue must be left on them. Address cards and any string or rubber bands must be removed from the container.
- Accountability – The contractor shall maintain records of processing activity, including daily records of the number of DTB cartridges and containers both reconditioned and disposed.
The contractor’s inspection system covering all general and specific tasks shall contain measures for prompt detection of any condition that fails to conform with the contract SOW. Corrective action procedures shall include, as a minimum, action to correct any deficiencies and measures to prevent recurrence of the same deficiencies. The contractor must also: (1) group both reconditioned cartridges and containers into lots of approximately 10,000 and retain the ability to identify lots until approved for shipment; (2) perform lot sampling inspection on all lots; and (3) send one box of 110 cartridges/containers from each lot to NLS for approval. No shipments of reconditioned cartridges or containers may be made without prior written approval from NLS for a lot.
- Reconditioned Containers – Reconditioned containers must be packed in cartons holding [TBD] DTB containers each and shipped via common carrier to the destination specified by NLS, which will normally be a DTB mass-duplicator contractor. The contractor is responsible for packing all containers for shipments in accordance with commercial standards as they pertain to the level of protection, preservation and packing of items for shipment. Generally, NLS will wait until a significant quantity of containers is on-hand before giving shipping instructions. Cartons shall be taped shut, placed on skids, and shrink-wrapped prior to shipping. NLS will reimburse the contractor for shipping charges upon submission of an invoice and bill of lading from the shipping company.
- Reconditioned Cartridges – Reconditioned cartridges must be packed in cartons holding [TBD] DTB cartridges each and shipped via common carrier to the destination specified by NLS, which will normally be a DTB mass-duplicator contractor. The contractor is responsible for packing all cartridges for shipments in accordance with commercial standards as they pertain to the level of protection, preservation and packing of items for shipment. Generally, NLS will wait until a significant quantity of cartridges is on-hand before giving shipping instructions. Cartons shall be taped shut, placed on skids, and shrink-wrapped prior to shipping. NLS will reimburse the contractor for shipping charges upon submission of an invoice and bill of lading from the shipping company.
- Unusable Cartridges and Containers – The contractor will ship all unusable cartridges and containers, separately packaged, via common carrier to: Library of Congress, Landover Center Annex, 1701 Brightseat Road, Landover, MD 20785, Attention: Jim Kopp. If another facility is to be used, the contractor will be so notified by NLS and will instead ship to that location. NLS will reimburse the contractor for shipping charges upon submission of an invoice and bill of lading from the shipping company.
- Accountability – The contractor shall maintain records of shipping activity, including daily records of the number of reconditioned DTB cartridges and containers shipped, by destination, and the number of disposed cartridges and containers.
The contractor shall protect government property and materials from damage or theft.
Reporting and Administration
On a monthly and annual basis, the contractor shall be required to report to NLS the number of cartridges and containers received, reconditioned and disposed, and to identify the reasons for disposal. The contractor shall provide NLS access to files concerning orders and all other applicable contract documents. All accountability records shall be maintained by the contractor and turned over to the government at the end of the contract.