• on Jun 27th, 2011 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 5 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has experienced a significant decline in mail volume in recent years, yet its contracted surface transportation remains largely unchanged. While mail volume dropped almost 16 percent from fiscal year 2008 to 2010, the Postal Service contracted out around 1 percent more miles of highway transportation over the same period. During the same time, the Postal Service has had considerable success minimizing the number of labor hours employees spend on mail processing. The following factors may have mitigated the effects on transportation from a volume drop: • Network Distribution Center restructuring. • Postal Service efforts to move more mail from air to surface transportation. • Postal Service efforts to sell the newly empty space to other shippers through a collaborative logistics program. Transportation represents the second largest cost component for mail delivery after labor, but the Postal Service has substantially more authority to cut contracted miles. The Postal Service could use its greater flexibility to end unnecessary contracts, alter necessary contracts, or redesign the system altogether. Highway transportation provides a strong opportunity for cost savings. What do you think of the current contracted surface transportation infrastructure? How would you adjust to new mail volumes? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Jun 20th, 2011 in Pricing & Rates | 7 comments
    Offering volume incentives is a common business practice in the U.S. and around the world. Although the U.S. Postal Service offers incentives to businesses that presort their mail, the agency does not offer incentives based strictly on the volume of packages shipped. One reason might be that offering volume incentives would lower the profit margin on each package shipped; yet, the potential volume increase of items shipped would make up for the smaller profit margins. E-retail is a multibillion-dollar industry through which millions of transactions are made via clearinghouses, such as Amazon.com and eBay. The e-retail industry continues to grow and includes on-line sales in virtually every industry. In the U.S., online retail spending for the Q4 2010 reached a record $43.4 billion, up from $39.0 billion in Q4 2009. This accelerated growth rate represented the fifth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and second quarter of double-digit growth rates in the past year. This trend will likely continue as more online people turn to the internet for their shopping needs, and younger, digital-savvy generations increasingly flex their spending power. Companies like eBay, Amazon.com, and traditional retailers with strong web operations should continue to benefit from this growth. Increases in e-shopping means an increase in the quantity of goods shipped is also increasing. Most vendors have their preferences, which are frequently based on cost. Should the Postal Service take advantage of the increased amount of shipping generated by e-retailers by offering incentives? Yes or no, and why? This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit’s Financial Reporting Directorate.
  • on Jun 6th, 2011 in Labor | 24 comments
    It happens many times . . . a company invests time and money into training employees only to have them leave soon after the training is complete. Some industries and companies now have contractual agreements requiring employees to repay training costs to their employers if they separate from employment before a specified period. Congress has also passed legislation requiring continued service agreements from government employees who have received extensive training. These contracts obligate employees to continue working for the agency (or another government agency, depending on their employer’s policy) for a period at least equal to three times the length of the training. If the employee leaves government service before the agreed-upon service time, the agency has the right to require repayment for the amount of time not served. Private sector industries such as information technology, airline, and trucking are also requiring employees to sign these types of agreements. One company requires employees to sign contracts for training programs that are considered expensive and time intensive. The company uses a formula that equates one month of labor for every $1,000 of costs; for example, a $7,000 course would require a seven month commitment.

    The U.S. Postal Service employs approximately 40,000 maintenance craft employees to work in a variety of assignments. Some of these assignments, such as maintenance mechanics, require specific training at great cost to the Postal Service. For example, one training course lasts 13 days and costs $3,325 per employee.

    Should employees receiving specialized training sign contracts to remain with the Postal Service for a specified period so that the cost of providing the training can be recouped? Should employees who received training be permitted to leave for more lucrative positions in the private sector as soon as they are certified without compensating the Postal Service? Should such restrictions apply to all Postal Service employees who receive specialized training?

    This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit's Network Processing team.

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