• on Jan 14th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 6 comments

    Even with smartphones, high-speed Internet, and other modern technologies, Americans spend an inordinate amount of time running errands. Interacting and conducting business with our government is no exception. It can be time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be great to use the local Post Office as a one-stop center for doing business with government? Or, what if the U.S. Postal Service had a digital platform to access government services or information online? Last week, the OIG released a white paper called "e-Government and the Postal Service — A Conduit to Help Government Meet Citizens’ Needs.” The paper identifies opportunities for the Postal Service to partner with other agencies to better connect with citizens, improve services, cut costs, and reduce duplicative and wasteful services. By providing e-government services, the Postal Service could help the government save money. There has never been a better time to do more with less. Through the Postal Service, individuals could send secure messages to government agencies, convert physical documents to digital records and send them instantly, apply and pay for permits and licenses, and access other crucial services. The Postal Service could also verify a person’s identity for sensitive or complex transactions. In addition, the Postal Service could lease unused Post Office window space to other agencies, so citizens could have a convenient access point for face-to-face services across the government. Business owners could use the Postal Service to look up information on regulations and laws affecting them, learn about federal small business loan opportunities, file information with the IRS and other relevant agencies, and submit all necessary forms and documentation through the Postal Service’s secure messaging and identity authentication services. Or, these things could be done in one visit to the Post Office, rather than separate stops to numerous agencies. Do you think the Postal Service could serve as a one-stop shop for government services?

  • on Oct 29th, 2012 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 7 comments
    With so much technology at their fingertips, customers now want and expect complete visibility of their mail, from entry to delivery. The Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) program has helped to bring total visibility closer to reality, and other technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and global positioning system (GPS) tracking, can fill the gaps. Complete visibility of mail provides real-time information about mail to customers and the U.S. Postal Service, including service performance data. This visibility into mailing activities allows the Postal Service to better manage its operations, increase route efficiency, improve service, and control costs. Mail visibility gives customers insight into mailing activities and provides them analytics to drive business decisions. As the IMb program matures and more customers adopt the full service offering, the Postal Service gets closer to total visibility of mail. But gaps in end-to-end visibility still exist, such as when mail travels on contracted highway route transportation and it is no longer “communicating” its location. One solution is to use GPS on HCR trucks to have visibility of mail during transport. In November 2010, the Postal Service initiated a limited-scope GPS program on about 900 of its 15,500 commercially contracted highway transportation routes, which covers about 300 highway contract route (HCR) suppliers. The suppliers were supposed to provide certain GPS tracking information every 30 minutes while hauling mail, including location of the vehicle. However, a recent OIG audit found that this GPS program was capturing only limited data, primarily because suppliers were not consistently reporting the data to the Postal Service. Limited data resulted in reports that were not useful for managing highway transportation routes. Still, the audit found enormous potential in this GPS program. If the Postal Service expanded it and data were captured and reported properly, it would provide the Postal Service with actionable reports that could include enhanced data analytics, real-time alerts, and fuel analysis and route optimization information. GPS data-based reports could be indicators of efficiency improvements, as well as potentially fraudulent activity. Further, the Postal Service could integrate this GPS program with its other mail visibility technologies, such as IMb and the surface visibility program, to enhance total mail visibility, which the Postal Service has cited as a priority and “essential to transforming the business.” The key, however, would be to ensure adequate supplier compliance. Further, integration of the various visibility programs would have to be seamless and cost-effective. What would be the best way to integrate the various visibility technologies? Would extending the GPS program to more surface transportation routes be a logical next step? Are there other technologies that should be considered to close some of the visibility gaps?
  • on Apr 9th, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 8 comments
    A recent post on the blog Dead Tree Edition made an interesting observation: The once-exploding U.S. e-book sales have slowed considerably, according to R. R. Bowker, a marketing research firm targeting publishers, booksellers, and librarians. How can that be? Aren’t we on a preordained path to a digital world? As it turns out, early buyers of tablet computers and e-readers were initially skewed toward people who read a lot. These early adopters bought more books than recent buyers because e-books generally cost less than their physical equivalents. Today, some market segments, such as textbooks, seem destined for digital dominance, while others, like children’s books have barely dented the e-book market. The number of book shipments by mail is small compared to the shipment numbers of other postal products. However, if e-book sales are slowing down, this may mean a slowing of the diversion of book mail to digital download. Could the same trend happen with much larger volume postal products? Will the adoption of electronic bill payments, electronic bills and statements, or, even electronic correspondence start slowing down? The answers could make a huge difference in the outlook for the Postal Service. What do you think?

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