• on Dec 12th, 2008 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 28 comments

    The Postal Service moves mail using planes, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, helicopters, bicycles, hovercrafts, subways and even mules.  It operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world with more than 219,000 vehicles.  Its fleet of trucks drives nearly 4.1 million miles and uses more than 400,000 gallons of fuel daily.  To put this in perspective, when fuel costs increase by one penny, the cost to the Postal Service increases by more than $8 million annually.

    The expense of providing this transportation infrastructure is staggering.  In 2007, it cost the Postal Service $6.5 billion — mostly for air and highway transportation.  This was an increase of 7.6 percent compared to 2006.  Yet mail volume has recently suffered a sharp decline.  If volume declines continue, the Postal Service could find itself operating and funding a transportation network that cannot be efficiently sustained.

    How can the Postal Service’s transportation network make the best of mail volume declines?  What are the most promising opportunities to reduce transportation costs?  For example, should the Postal Service

    • Develop partnerships with other businesses that transport goods?
    • Reduce highway transportation routes that overlap?
    • Continue to eliminate underutilized trips?
    • Make more use of other, less costly forms of transportation such as rail or maritime?
    • Reduce its reliance on air transportation or shift volumes among carriers to ensure the lowest cost is obtained for responsive service?
    • Relax the delivery timeframe standards?

    What do you think?

  • on Nov 19th, 2008 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 29 comments

    The Woodfield Station located in Schaumburg, Illinois is an innovative, new retail environment that tests the limits of how the United States Postal Service interacts with customers and sells products and services. Dubbed the “Retail Learning Lab,” this completely redesigned post office serves as a testing ground for new products, new methods of serving customers, and new models for partnering with commercial businesses.

    The site features specially designed, free-standing self-service shipping areas, an expanded retail product display, several Automated Postal Center (APC) kiosks--some equipped with barcode scanners--and a DVD rental machine. It also features a comfortable seating area with free WiFi access, conference room rental, and an OfficeMax IMPRESS "store-within-a- store" offering office supplies and print and copy services.

    A significant feature is the open retail environment which encourages associates to interact differently with customers. Most customers are greeted at the entrance by an associate who offers to help meet the customer's needs for his or her visit. If appropriate, the employee escorts the customer within the store and offers solutions or explains how to complete tasks.

    Would you be more inclined to visit the post office if it offered a greater variety of self-service options? What if it offered services like WiFi and DVD rental?  What other innovations would you like to see at the post office locations?

  • on Oct 24th, 2008 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 10 comments

    USPS Mail Transport Equipment (MTE) consists of specialized containers such as sacks, pouches, trays, hampers, over-the-road containers and pallets. The Postal Service has more than 1.1 billion pieces of MTE, which is used at close to 400 processing facilities, over 33,000 post offices and hundreds of major mailers nationwide to help achieve the safe, secure and timely movement of mail between Postal Service facilities and its customers or contractors.

    MTE is a valuable and essential Postal Service asset, and it is imperative that facilities or customers do not overstock (hoard) MTE.  MTE may be used only to transport mail, and borrowers of MTE (such as private mailers) are responsible for its proper use and return.

    A key type of MTE is the plastic pallet, a rigid platform on which mail is stacked for movement as a single unit.  The plastic pallet is orange and black with Postal markings.  The Postal Service adopted plastic pallets more than 20 years ago since they are lighter, more durable, longer-lasting, and easier to store than wooden ones.

    Unfortunately, the Postal Service has been experiencing a significant loss of plastic pallets over the last couple of years – up to 1.8 million pallets worth millions of dollars cannot be accounted for.  Realizing the significant cost of leakage of MTE from its inventory, the Postal Service has numerous efforts to both investigate MTE inventory leakage and better track and understand the movement of their MTE inventory.  The Postal Inspection Service has been proactive in both reaching out to the public on this issue, and investigating MTE theft and misuse.  In addition, the Postal Service has piloted the use of small GPS tracking devices in plastic pallets. The pilot resulted in the location of pallets used for non-Postal purposes. However, applying that particular tracking mechanism to all Postal Service pallets is not cost effective.  The Postal Service has asked the OIG for assistance.

    We would like to solicit the knowledge and opinions of Postal Service employees and the mailing community regarding:

    • Purchasing and inventory management strategies that minimize the total cost of ownership of MTE, particularly pallets.
    • MTE logistics – how can we get the right equipment to the right place at the right time?
    • Suggestions to improve Postal Service outreach to the public and to customers about the impact of MTE misuse and assistance in returning it to the Postal Service inventory.
    • Reporting any instances of MTE being stored in excess within the Postal Service network, or misused outside of the Postal Service network.

    If you know of MTE being used for non-postal purposes or being stored in excess, please report the misused or stolen equipment – it would have a positive financial impact on Postal Service operations nationwide.  If you see MTE such as pallets, flat tubs, trays or hampers that are outside the postal network, send an e-mail to hqmte[at]usps[dot]gov with the location, type and quantities of equipment to be retrieved and placed back into postal inventory.