• on Sep 12th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 12 comments
    Despite financial challenges resulting from declining mail volumes and current economic conditions, the Postal Service is continually driving efficiency by making better use of space, staffing, equipment, and transportation in processing mail. One key element of improving efficiency is consolidating mail processing operations, which is an ongoing effort. Since fiscal year 2009, the Postal Service has completed 47 consolidations and has an additional 107 consolidations in progress for proposed savings of approximately $255 million. How can further efficiencies be gained in mail processing? One idea may be to redesign workroom floor layouts to improve mail flow and eliminate redundancy or inefficient mail flow routes. This effort could also lead to work hour savings and efficiencies in staffing, staging, and dispatching the mail. Another idea may be to standardize mail processing equipment based on the volume of mail processed at each plant. Are these viable options for further improving mail processing efficiencies? What are some other ways the Postal Service can standardize mail processing operations to improve efficiency and improve the bottom line? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Network Processing team.
  • on Sep 5th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 5 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has aggressively moved to reduce costs by consolidating its processing network and realigning its delivery facilities. However, it has essentially eliminated rail transportation, which is the least costly way to move mail long distances. During the recent economic downturn, railroads invested heavily in infrastructure to improve service. Private industry shippers of time-sensitive materials have responded to these improvements by shifting volume from highway to rail. UPS (the largest rail customer in the U.S.) attempts to put any package traveling over 750 miles on rail. JB Hunt, one of the Postal Service’s largest highway contractors, has shifted a substantial freight volume to rail and now earns more than one-third of its overall revenue from intermodal rail transportation. The potential benefits to the Postal Service are clear. Rail is a less expensive and more environmentally friendly transportation mode compared to trucking. Recent estimates show that intermodal rail service can improve fuel efficiency by about 3.5 times relative to highway tractor-trailer service. In addition, rail gives the Postal Service more capacity flexibility as this mode can operate one-way, while highway transportation must be purchased in round-trips. Since Postal Service volumes tend to flow from north to south and east to west, utilizing rail would avoid the cost of paying for empty or near-empty trucks on the return trips. Rail is also far less susceptible to the weather interruptions that can wreak havoc on highways. The shift to rail, however, is not without its drawbacks. On average, rail is slower than highway transportation. It would also require greater monitoring and pre-planning and complex decision-making by management. For example, the Postal Service would need to choose when to dispatch to rail yards versus alternatives such as dispatching a highway trailer to a network distribution center or other consolidation points. Although it would require some additional efforts, the potential savings to the Postal Service of converting from highway to rail could be tremendous. While concerns related to speed of service moved the Postal Service almost completely away from rail, other shipping companies are embracing rail with vigor. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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