• on Dec 30th, 2013 in Delivery & Collection | 19 comments

    The 2013 holiday season turned out to be a particularly eventful one for e-tailers and the shippers that deliver all those packages to your door.

    Factors like fewer than average shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas and an increasing comfort level with online buying helped push holiday e-commerce up significantly. In fact, demand exceeded expectations and stressed shippers’ capacity, causing some late deliveries of their goods.  

    Package delivery is clearly a growth industry and the Postal Service expects its piece of that business to rise 6 to 7 percent annually through fiscal year 2017. But is the Postal Service ready for all these packages? Can it meet the growing demand, or is it hampered by a delivery infrastructure that is largely geared toward letters and flats? We recently took a look at the issue and the results were mixed.

    Our audit report, Readiness for Package Growth – Delivery Operations, found the Postal Service has done a good job of managing package growth in terms of mail volume and workhours. But it could make some changes to better handle future increases. For example, to-the-door delivery works well but curbside mailboxes were primarily designed for letters, flats, and small parcels, and they can’t easily accommodate multiple or large packages. We suggested the Postal Service look at modifying cluster boxes to accommodate more packages.

    We also encouraged the Postal Service to explore investing in shelving space on delivery vehicles to accommodate packages and to continue to develop an advanced dynamic routing system. Dynamic routing analyzes individual addresses to tell the carrier how to get to them more quickly. The tool takes into consideration things like traffic congestion and left-hand turns, both of which can eat up time and fuel. These and other steps outlined in the report should help the Postal Service expand services and increase revenue to meet growing customer demand.

    So, what was your experience over the holidays? Were you among the many Americans who bought more gifts online than in previous years? Were your delivery services reliable or did any part of the experience discourage you from future online buying? What changes would you like to see in delivery and returns?

  • on Feb 25th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service is a key player in a year-long trial of a unique public-private partnership effort that would let citizens securely and voluntarily sign up for online services at multiple agencies using a number of different digital identities. The user would then use whichever password and identity is most convenient – whether the identities are issued by the government or a private company – to log in across multiple government agencies. As the most trusted government agency, and with a 200-year history of security and privacy in delivering mail, the Administration tapped the Postal Service to manage the technology behind the Federal Cloud Credentialing Exchange (FCCX) pilot project. The Postal Service would be taking on a digital version of its role in the physical world, delivering sealed packets of identity data securely between government agencies and identity providers. Press reports on the pilot project suggest that if it is successful, people might one day be able to change an address online by logging into the Postal Service website with the same passcode or smart card that they use to file taxes with the IRS and buy books on Amazon. But to start, the Postal Service is expected to begin working with suppliers to try the service on test customers, ID providers, and government offices. The FCCX will not store any personal data and will be designed to prevent agency personnel and other participants from tracking citizens’ activity across agencies. This effort represents the Postal Service’s first move into supporting federal e-government services, a move it is well-positioned to make. It also could serve as a template for providing other online services that promote security, privacy, and certification. Recent reports of hacking by foreign entities into the data centers of major news organizations and corporations have again reminded consumers of how vulnerable their online data can be. While many of us prefer the convenience of online bill paying, shopping, and communicating, concerns are growing about the threat this poses to privacy and security. How can the Postal Service transfer its trusted role in the physical world to a role in facilitating commerce and e-government services in the digital world? What opportunities might the Postal Service have in providing solutions to these online security and privacy concerns?

  • on Jun 11th, 2012 in Products & Services | 14 comments
    A 100-year old temperance-era law prohibits the Postal Service from shipping alcohol and benefiting from the growth in online purchases of wine, beer, and other spirits. As states have loosened their restrictions on inter-state alcohol shipments, FedEx and UPS have seized this burgeoning opportunity. The Postal Service needs to secure new sources of revenue in an era of declining mail volume. Shipping of alcohol could create an additional revenue stream, while capitalizing on the Postal Service’s strength in last-mile delivery. Shipping of alcohol would require the Postal Service to establish a strict set of rules. First, it would have to be sure no one under age 21 receives alcoholic shipments. Second, it would have to comply with varying state laws, some of which prohibit the shipment of out-of-state alcohol directly to consumers. Other states allow direct shipments to consumers but restrict those shipments to producers, such as wineries. The Postal Service has indicated it would put proper restrictions in place, such as requiring an adult signature for shipments of alcohol. It even appears to have ideas around flat rate boxes that could hold two, four, or six bottles of wine. With the right restrictions in place, should the Postal Service be allowed to ship alcohol and tap into this growing market? Or should an organization that is part of the federal government stay out of the business of shipping alcohol given the negative images sometimes associated with alcohol consumption? What do you think? Share your comments below. This blog is hosted by the OIG's Office of Audit.

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