• 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 Oct 22nd, 2012 in OIG | 2 comments
    Since the launch of “Pushing the Envelope” in October of 2008, we have been blogging on topics of interest to U.S. Postal Service stakeholders and the general public. We’ve published 212 blogs to date (this one makes 213). Since it is our birthday, we thought we’d take this time to reflect on the last year and to look to the future. First, thanks to our active readers who provide insightful commentary and food for thought. Your ideas and comments can turn into audit projects, white papers, or even the need to turn something over to our Office of Investigations. Our top five blogs this last year were: •Mail Delivery: Are These Steps Unnecessary?What’s the Score?Why Saturday?How Far Does Your 44 Cents Go?Who Should Pay for Mail Forwarding? The major interest in these blogs reflects the entire mailing community’s concern about the Postal Service’s finances and the long-term solutions for reinventing its business model. In your comments, you have not only conveyed your concerns, you have suggested new ideas and recommendations for solutions as well. We will continue to feature similar issues in the year to come in our ongoing effort to foster high-level discussion and interaction with the Postal Service stakeholder community. In March, we tried something new and hosted a 5-week guest blog series on the “Five Elements of a Postal Solution”. Guest commentators from inside and outside the postal community shared their views on the Posal Service’s mission, infrastructure, its role in the Digital Age, and federal mandates. The success of this series has prompted us to consider other novel ways to engage the public. Our older blogs also continue to generate new discussions. We’ve found our readers are interested in a wide range of postal topics, from workplace rules that seem to make little sense to the very broad category of ideas to help the Postal Service. •Brainstorm Ideas to Help the Postal ServiceThe OIG Wants to Know How You Feel About Sick LeaveSilly RulesNationwide Wage Uniformity As the Postal Service becomes leaner and more flexible and as it tries to connect with the younger generation, we will have no shortage of topics. In the year ahead, look for us to discuss important issues, including postal operations, customer service, digital solutions, workplace concerns, and the future of the postal system. We are also interested in hearing the specific topics you would like us to blog about. Some of our best ideas have come from our readers, so let us know in the comment section below. Thanks again for reading.
  • on Oct 16th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 13 comments
    There has been a surplus in the U.S. Postal Service’s Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) pension program since 1992. Most recently, the FERS surplus was projected to be $11.4 billion, accounting for most of the Postal Service’s total $13.1 billion pension surplus. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) asked Hay Group, an actuarial firm, to examine the causes of the FERS surplus, and a new OIG white paper presents the results of Hay Group’s work. Hay Group found that the main reason for the surplus was differences between the Postal Service and the rest of the federal government. In particular, postal salary growth was lower than the assumptions made in the liability estimates. The surplus grew as actual postal experience replaced the initial assumptions used for the entire FERS population. Hay Group recommends using Postal Service-specific assumptions to provide a more accurate estimate of the liability. When Postal Service-specific assumptions are used to measure the Postal Service’s liability, the surplus increases from $11.4 billion to $24 billion. Given the Postal Service’s current financial health, the existence of the FERS surplus raises some questions. What should be done about the postal FERS surplus? Right now, there is no mechanism to return a FERS surplus once it occurs. Also, what about the contribution rate? The Postal Service currently pays the same FERS contribution rate as other federal agencies, 11.9 percent of payroll for most employees. This contribution rate has increased twice in the past 3 years despite the existence of a surplus for the Postal Service. Should the Postal Service’s contributions be adjusted to reflect its specific characteristics? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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