• on Jun 27th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 5 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has experienced a significant decline in mail volume in recent years, yet its contracted surface transportation remains largely unchanged. While mail volume dropped almost 16 percent from fiscal year 2008 to 2010, the Postal Service contracted out around 1 percent more miles of highway transportation over the same period. During the same time, the Postal Service has had considerable success minimizing the number of labor hours employees spend on mail processing. The following factors may have mitigated the effects on transportation from a volume drop: • Network Distribution Center restructuring. • Postal Service efforts to move more mail from air to surface transportation. • Postal Service efforts to sell the newly empty space to other shippers through a collaborative logistics program. Transportation represents the second largest cost component for mail delivery after labor, but the Postal Service has substantially more authority to cut contracted miles. The Postal Service could use its greater flexibility to end unnecessary contracts, alter necessary contracts, or redesign the system altogether. Highway transportation provides a strong opportunity for cost savings. What do you think of the current contracted surface transportation infrastructure? How would you adjust to new mail volumes? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jun 20th, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 7 comments
    Offering volume incentives is a common business practice in the U.S. and around the world. Although the U.S. Postal Service offers incentives to businesses that presort their mail, the agency does not offer incentives based strictly on the volume of packages shipped. One reason might be that offering volume incentives would lower the profit margin on each package shipped; yet, the potential volume increase of items shipped would make up for the smaller profit margins. E-retail is a multibillion-dollar industry through which millions of transactions are made via clearinghouses, such as Amazon.com and eBay. The e-retail industry continues to grow and includes on-line sales in virtually every industry. In the U.S., online retail spending for the Q4 2010 reached a record $43.4 billion, up from $39.0 billion in Q4 2009. This accelerated growth rate represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year. This trend will likely continue as more online people turn to the internet for their shopping needs, and younger, digital-savvy generations increasingly flex their spending power. Companies like eBay, Amazon.com, and traditional retailers with strong web operations should continue to benefit from this growth. Increases in e-shopping means an increase in the quantity of goods shipped is also increasing. Most vendors have their preferences, which are frequently based on cost. Should the Postal Service take advantage of the increased amount of shipping generated by e-retailers by offering incentives? Yes or no, and why? This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit’s Financial Reporting Directorate.
  • on Jun 9th, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 8 comments
    Think for a moment about your most recent visit to a store. How late was it open? Where was it located? Now think about the last time you visited a Post Office? Were there any differences between the two experiences? While retail and the society at large have changed tremendously in the last 40 years, the size and distribution of the Postal Service retail network today is not that different from the network that existed in 1971. It has not changed to reflect the changes in where and how Americans live today.

    Why is this? An OIG paper issued today, Barriers to Retail Network Optimization, highlights some of the obstacles to change:

    Statutory restrictions prevent closing Post Offices for economic reasons and impose requirements for notice, consultation, and appeal procedures. • Regulatory procedures and interpretations create burdens on the Postal Service’s ability to make adjustments. • Political obstacles to rightsizing result from the natural inclination of affected groups to protest the loss of local Post Offices. • Institutional barriers within the Postal Service prevent action. These include a lack of sustained focus over time on retail optimization, problems with the availability and quality of data, past dependence on a highly decentralized bottom-up process, and the absence of a well-articulated strategic retail vision. What changes would you like to see to the Postal Service’s retail network? What do you think are the biggest barriers to change? We want to hear from you. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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