Recent Government Accountability Office testimony to Congress stated processing capacity for First-Class Mail exceeds processing needs by 50 percent, and analysis by industry experts indicates an additional drop of 35 billion pieces in First-Class Mail by 2020. With mail volume declining, does this provide an opportunity for the Postal Service to capture savings by adopting industry best practices in its First-Class Mail processing operations?Read More
By Jim O’Brien
Back in 1990, Halstein Stralberg coined the term “automation refugees” to describe Postal Service mail processing employees who were assigned to manual operations when automation eliminated the work they had been doing. Since the Postal Service couldn’t lay off these employees, they had to be given something to do, and manual processing seemed to have an inexhaustible capacity to absorb employees by the simple expedient of reducing its productivity. The result was a sharp decline in mail processing productivity and a sharp increase in mail processing costs for Periodicals class. Periodicals class cost coverage has declined steadily since that time.
Along with other efforts to get to the bottom of this issue, the Postal Service and Periodicals mailers formed a Joint Mail Processing Task Force in 1998. Halstein Stralberg and I were participants in this effort. We were puzzled by the fact that the flat sorting machines always seemed to be down during our seventeen Postal facility visits, in spite of the fact that they were supposed to run seventeen hours per day and that we visited facilities at all hours of the day and night. We were able to see the “bullpens” where mail processing employees manually tossed bundles of periodicals into rolling containers. Although the machines were down, the bullpens and other manual operations were always up and running.Read More
The Postal Service uses forklifts and tow motors to move mail in its mail processing facilities. To improve efficiency and cut the costs associated with using this equipment, the U.S. Postal Service purchased a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)-based tracking system called the Powered Industrial Vehicle Management System (PIVMS).Read More
To remain financially viable, the Postal Service must effectively streamline its mail processing and transportation networks and optimize its workforce. Between fiscal years (FYs) 2005 and 2009, the Postal Service made progress in these efforts; however, management was unable to adjust resources quickly enough to fully offset declines in mail volume, resulting in a deteriorating financial condition. In FY 2009, the Postal Service experienced the largest 1-year decline in total mail volume since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 — a drop of more than 25 billion pieces.Read More
When people try to discover whether the Postal Service is operating more efficiently or not, they often talk about TFP. What is TFP? TFP stands for Total Factor Productivity. It measures the ratio of the Postal Service’s outputs to its inputs, in other words, how much output the Postal Service produces with the inputs it uses.Read More
Keep Sunday Operations?
We’ve all heard the bad news. Mail volume in fiscal year (FY) 2008 totaled 202.7 billion pieces, a decline of 9.5 billion pieces or 4.5 percent compared to the previous fiscal year. Mail volume has declined even further this year. At the end of the last quarter, mail volume was down more than 12 percent from the same period last year. Most recently, the Postal Service lost $2.4 billion in the third quarter of FY 2009 and projected a net loss of more than $7 billion for FY 2009.