• on Feb 8th, 2010 in Strategy & Public Policy | 23 comments
    Courtesy of Apple

    Last August, Pushing the Envelope ran a topic on e-readers — devices designed for portable book reading. Two weeks ago, Apple unveiled the iPad. The iPad offers multiple functionality including the ability to read books, surf the Internet, and use computer applications. Unlike most e-readers, the iPad does not have virtual ink technology, which is intended to mimic paper and make reading more pleasant, but it has one key difference from other widely-used e readers — a color display.

    Newspapers and magazines have particularly expressed interest in a portable device that would electronically display their content in color. They hope to sell electronic versions of their traditional product — stories and advertisements that are easy to read anywhere. Is the iPad the answer? Will magazines and newspapers migrate to color devices like the iPad? What about catalogs? If people can easily read, view, and order items from a computer tablet on their couch, will retailers start sending digital catalogs? Or is the immediacy of receiving a physical paper catalog irreplaceable? What do you think? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Feb 1st, 2010 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 21 comments
    To remain financially viable, the Postal Service must effectively streamline its mail processing and transportation networks and optimize its workforce. Between fiscal years (FYs) 2005 and 2009, the Postal Service made progress in these efforts; however, management was unable to adjust resources quickly enough to fully offset declines in mail volume, resulting in a deteriorating financial condition. In FY 2009, the Postal Service experienced the largest 1-year decline in total mail volume since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 — a drop of more than 25 billion pieces. Streamlining the network, while complying with its Universal Service Obligation, presents the Postal Service with many challenges in planning, developing, and implementing network rationalization initiatives. The economic downturn and resulting mail volume declines continue to complicate this difficult financial situation. Consolidating mail processing operations and closing unneeded plants is controversial. With pressures from Postal Service stakeholders to maintain the status quo, the Postal Service has been limited in its ability to implement much-needed streamlining initiatives. Where should the Postal Service look to gain greater efficiencies in its network?
     
    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Network Optimization directorate
  • on Jan 25th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 124 comments
    How much does it cost to develop, print, ship, inventory, secure, sell, and cancel a stamp used to mail a letter?  What about the stamps that are never sold?  The Postal Service destroys billions of stamps each year because they are obsolete.  In FY 2008, the Postal Service printed 37 billion stamps, which cost $78 million to print.  In that same year, they destroyed old stamps, some of which were printed more than 10 years ago, that were valued at approximately $2.8 billion.  Those stamps were printed, shipped, counted multiple times in various inventories, and finally shipped back for destruction under secure conditions.  How much does this cost and does the Postal Service benefit from the expense?

    Are there better alternatives to stamps?  Business customers often rent postage meters and use permits for bulk mail.  Now, the advent of online postage vendors has given individual customers an alternative to stamps.  Customers that use online postage can customize their postage and incorporate approved language or pictures.

    Not everyone has access to a computer.  What can we do for people who do not have access to online postage or who simply do not want to use online postage?  One answer may be simplifying the Postal Service’s current stamp inventory.  What if all postage stamps were “Forever Stamps”?  Stamps would never become obsolete and have to be destroyed, and production costs would never eat up their contribution to overhead.  After a rate increase — now generally an annual event rather than every 3 or 4 years — there would be no 1-cent or 2-cent stamp shortages or rush to produce the next generation of denominated stamps. What about stamp collectors?  Would philatelic sales suffer if the Postal Service reduced the denominations it offered?  Commemorative Forever Stamps could be issued in limited quantities to satisfy collectors.  Some commemorative stamps could be sold locally, while others could only be ordered and shipped direct from a central location.  Forever Stamps that marked holidays or other special events such as birthdays would be very useful for people who wanted to stock up.  And what could be more appropriate for wedding invitations than “Forever Love” stamps? Do you know of a better method of postage payment, convenient and available to everybody that could be implemented? Tell us what you think. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Field Financial East directorate. Topic was revised to indicate that 37 billion stamps not $37 billion worth of stamps were printed in 2008.

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