• on Oct 8th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 10 comments
    The digital revolution has changed communications, and with it, the operations and finances of the U.S. Postal Service. It also has brought deep changes in the way we design networks and analyze systems. Many organizations rely on mathematical modeling to test ideas before they become operational, conserving money and time. The Postal Service, facing limited capital and resources, has also adopted this practice. It is discovering how important these tools are for assessing strategies for designing the future mail network. The Office of Inspector General has explored some of the main components of the postal supply chain - retail, mail processing and transportation, and delivery – using a systems modeling approach. This approach has allowed the OIG to use objective methods to determine how the network could be redesigned to meet current needs and future demands. This research also helps us to understand some of the challenges in developing information-based decision models for the Postal Service. A primary challenge in any modeling effort is collecting the necessary information. Without this data, the model cannot fully assess the efficiency of the operations it is modeling, and develop an optimal network solution. Postal information systems can be a complex array of the hundreds of highly varied and specialized information systems that are often developed and maintained under separate contracts. Simplifying this landscape also could enable more insightful analyses to better guide decision makers. As the Postal Service considers how it can best serve the public through its products and services, modeling efforts can help it to evaluate different proposals for change. As we develop better efficiency standards with more rich data sources, we can not only better evaluate the efficiency of operations and system design, but we can better explore how operations may be changed to meet the needs of new environments.
  • on Sep 24th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 3 comments
    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. Postal officials have attributed the improvement in service performance to diagnostic tools that show “pinch points” and help managers to act on that information to reduce cycle times. The Intelligent Mail Barcode full-service data, which identifies many potential problems, is also helping and employees are doing outstanding work often under difficult circumstances. It will be important for the Postal Service to maintain strong service performance as volumes pick up during the fall mailing season and election mail is added to the mix. Further, the second phase of consolidations could begin in February 2013 and could have an impact on service. Finally, mailers report that they are not solely concerned with service scores but that the Postal Service delivers the mail as promised. What has been your experience with service over the past few months? Have you been affected by the consolidations? Are you concerned about phase two of the network consolidation plan?
  • on Apr 16th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 3 comments
    Starting in April, the private company TNT Post UK plans to test street delivery in the West End of London. Currently, TNT collects and sorts mail and then hands it over to Royal Mail, the traditional government-run postal provider in the United Kingdom, for final street delivery. Now, however, TNT Post UK wants to provide street delivery as well. TNT is seeking assistance from the UK government to provide a level playing field that will allow it to compete effectively with Royal Mail’s delivery service. Royal Mail says that rival delivery networks hurt mail customers by undermining the efficiencies of a single delivery network, stating "If a rival delivery service cherry picks profitable, easy-to-deliver mail, it will weaken and ultimately undermine the Universal Service that only Royal Mail currently has the ability and commitment to deliver..." Britain’s postal regulator, Ofcom, plans to monitor the situation. Overall, this move represents another step toward a liberalized postal market in the UK, similar to those in other European Union countries. What are the benefits and risks of promoting this type of competition in the delivery market? What could happen if a private company sets up a rival street delivery network that only served profitable areas, such as West End of London? Could the traditional provider, Royal Mail, compete in the more profitable areas if it also is forced to provide delivery services to less profitable addresses in rural areas?

    This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

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