• on May 21st, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 2 comments

    Lean Six Sigma is a method used in many large organizations to look for improvements in business efficiency and effectiveness. It relies on a team-based approach to focus on the customer, on removing waste, and on improving processes. The Postal Service and the Office of Inspector General are among the many companies and organizations that use Lean Six Sigma as a continuous improvement tool to try to get at the root of the problem rather than just solve the problems as they arise. Management uses the insights gained from the Lean Six Sigma approach to reduce variations in processes and systems.

    Lean Six Sigma has loyal adherents in many industries, but some critics have argued that it is primarily effective only in product manufacturing. Others suggest that soliciting ongoing input from your employees is one of the most effective ways to improve processes and encourages their ownership in the process. Finally, some critics note that Lean Six Sigma only promotes incremental improvements, not radical breakthroughs.

    The OIG has found Lean Six Sigma to be useful in automating processes, shortening process cycle time, reducing paper usage, and improving high-volume and high-usage databases. Eliminating waste and strengthening processes results in cost savings and improved efficiencies. The Postal Service has employed Lean Six Sigma and other continuous improvement efforts in several of its processes, including relocation, payables, receivables, and some claims processing. The Postmaster General recently stressed the importance of these tools to the Postal Service’s plan to accomplish the business changes necessary to compete in today’s marketplace. He touted the Value Stream Map (VSM) as a Lean Six Sigma tool that is being used effectively to look at all components of an end-to-end process.

    We would like to hear your thoughts on Lean Six Sigma. If you have had it applied to your job, or to processes you use, did it drive down costs and improve service? Did it improve the overall customer experience? Are processes significantly better because of Lean Six Sigma? Or have you found there are better ways to improve processes and increase efficiency without using a Six Sigma approach? Are there better ways to achieve significant breakthroughs?

  • on May 14th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 5 comments

    In the late 1950s, McDonald’s executives discovered that being in the real estate business was more profitable than focusing solely on the food business. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc had a business partner, Harry J. Sonneborn, who devised a plan to purchase or lease the land on which nearly all McDonald’s restaurants would be located. He then charged franchisees a monthly rental fee for the land, or a percentage of their sales, whichever was greater. The rest, as they say, is entrepreneurial history.

    With 33,000 facilities on more than 300 million square feet of land, the U.S Postal Service operates more retail outlets than McDonald’s. The Postal Service owns and leases properties in high-traffic areas, often in a city’s most desirable location. Is there an opportunity for the Postal Service to lease or sublease its vast real estate holdings to other businesses to generate revenue and improve cash flow? Could the Postal Service sell its facilities in desirable locations and lease back a portion of the facility as needed?

    For example, the Postal Service partnered in 2007 with a development company to renovate and lease out part of the main Post Office in New York City (James A. Farley building) for retail and other purposes, including a new Amtrak train station and hotel space. While the redevelopment has hit construction delays, it remains a promising model for future plans.

    These kinds of opportunities are not necessarily restricted to post offices in large cities. Smaller facilities are likely to be attractive to third parties as well. One example is the Redondo Beach Galleria Station in Redondo CA, a very small retail unit in a shopping mall, currently on the market to be subleased.

    Do you think the Postal Service should sell or lease its facilities in prime real-estate locations? Should it have any restrictions on which facilities it can sell or lease or what types of operations can lease a postal facility? Should there be restrictions on how the Postal Service uses the revenues raised from such a sale or lease? Share your thoughts.

  • on Feb 4th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 2 comments

    The number of Postal Service patents has grown significantly in the past few decades, as have the patents for rival carriers FedEx and UPS. When compared to other industries, such as information technology and wireless communications, the Postal Service has not significantly leveraged its intellectual property or fully recognized the potential financial and strategic value of these assets. If the Postal Service considered the commercial significance of each of its patents and licensed its intellectual property, it might find a valuable source of significant revenue. A 2011 Office of Inspector General report found that the Postal Service has 329 global families of patents, which means each “family” of a patent may have a multiple number of U.S. and international patent documents. The study looked closely at three specific patents to assess the commercial significance of each patent, or the revenue that the Postal Service may be able to generate through licensing of the patent. Those three patents alone hold a commercial value of more than $18 million per year. The report concluded that the Postal Service did not manage its portfolio of patents to maximize commercial significance. However, some stakeholders have argued that the Postal Service is different from private industry, even if it is encouraged to act like a business. It is a public institution held in the public trust. In that sense, it belongs to the American people. Shouldn’t a public institution that belongs to the American people open up the technology and patents it has developed for the benefit of the national infrastructure? There is a risk that in licensing patents or holding proprietary technology, the Postal Service may stymie innovation in the public and private sectors. Some people have looked to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a model. Its idea to link computers into a national system eventually led to the development of the Internet. The key for the Postal Service is to build a strategy and let it guide decisions on how best to leverage intellectual property. The first step might be to have an active program that looks to generate as many intellectual property instruments as possible. Once the Postal Service owns and protects that property, it can determine whether the best approach is to license it, sue for infringement, or share it. Tell us what you think. Take our poll question and then go to the comment section to share what you think would be the best strategy for the Postal Service on intellectual property and patents.

Pages