• on Dec 26th, 2011 in Delivery & Collection | 46 comments
    Pushing the Envelope wants to ask you for your thoughts on how the U.S. Postal Service, as it faces its financial crisis, might improve operations and reduce costs while continuing to deliver mail. Carriers are sometimes required to complete tasks and processes that leave them scratching their heads and asking, “why are we doing this?” Examples previously cited by some carriers include waiting in line for accountable items (mail that requires a signature) and having their productivity “rewarded” with more work. Another significant issue of concern to carriers is having single pieces of First Class Mail® driven out to them while on their route. There are some that believe this happens to influence First Class performance delivery scores. This action will often require a carrier to change or retrace their line of travel. What are some of the operations, tasks, and processes that do not make sense in delivery operations and that you believe management can eliminate? And why don’t they make sense? What ideas do you have to improve these operations, tasks, and processes and reduce cost? Improve service? We invite you to share your answers in the comment section below. This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Delivery Directorate.
  • on Sep 26th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 9 comments
    The Postal Service has “coupled” its retail and delivery operations, both managerially and physically, since delivery services were first established almost 150 years ago. Historical patterns, or the needs for delivery service efficiencies, primarily determined the location of physical facilities, which typically house both delivery and retail operations. Demands for postal retail services are changing both geographically and demographically as consumers age and population centers shift. Our Risk Analysis Research Center studied the strategic concept of “decoupling” the Postal Service’s delivery and retail operations, examining both the physical and managerial functions. The results appear in the recently released whitepaper titled Retail and Delivery: Decoupling Could Improve Service and Lower Costs. The white paper draws upon the insights of key stakeholders, private sector delivery companies within the United States, foreign postal operators, and expert business consultants. The study found that selective decoupling of retail and delivery operations, mostly outside of rural areas, could result in lower costs, increased revenue, and better service that is more responsive to changing market conditions and diverse customer needs. The paper’s key findings include:
    • A decoupling strategy affords the Postal Service more flexibility to respond to changing customer needs for retail service.
    • The Postal Service too often ignores retail functions, which receive secondary managerial attention when competing with delivery for resources and clerk time.
    • Decoupling could help transform both retail and delivery into separate best-practices driven, strategic business units.
    • Major private-sector delivery companies in the United States as well as foreign posts previously separated their retail and delivery functions with each having its own distinct skills, training, and performance measures.
    Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below. This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • 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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