The U.S. Postal Service recently reported that its third quarter delivery service performance results marked “all-time record service performance” across all mail categories. In particular, the Postal Service had significant improvement in delivery performance for its commercial mail products in First Class and Standard Mail. Periodicals’ on-time performance topped 80 percent for the first time since 2010, a major improvement over the 46 percent score from earlier this year.
The improved service performance in the third quarter occurred while the Postal Service was in the process of consolidating 46 facilities, which some mailers feared would affect service. But initial reports suggest service has not been overtly disrupted by the consolidations, although the real test could come during the fall and holiday mailing seasons. The Postal Service recently completed this first phase of its network rationalization plan, and is now on a break from consolidation until 2013 after the election season.Read More
Mailings that meet minimum volume and preparation requirements to qualify for reduced postage rates are called business mail. Properly accepting business mailings is critical for the Postal Service since it accounted for $25 billion in revenue in 2010. Several types of Postal Service facilities accept business mail. Business Mail Entry Units have acceptance clerks with specialized training and systems for accepting business mail. Local Post Offices can also accept business mail.
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
Since the earliest days of the Post Office there has been a public policy goal of promoting the dissemination of information throughout the country. This goal was also part of all 14 of the rate cases conducted under the Postal Reorganization Act. By law, rates had to consider “the educational, cultural, scientific, and informational value to the recipient of mail matter.” This provision generally tempered the increases for Periodicals, or at least kept the “institutional cost burden” for Periodicals to a minimum. In fact, in the final rate case in 2006 before the new price cap system of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act took effect, the “markup” on Periodicals was only 0.2 percent. Periodicals prices were set so that revenue was only 0.2 percent above attributable costs. The average for all mail was 79.3 percent.Read More