Nearly a decade since its rollout, the Flats Sequencing System (FSS) — the football-field sized sorting machines for flats mail — is still falling short of expectations. At its inception, stakeholders were optimistic FSS would improve productivity and reduce the U.S. Postal Service’s costs for handling flats mail.

But, declines in flats mail volume over the past decade have inhibited the Postal Service’s ability to meet FSS throughput goals. Flats mail volume has dropped by almost 10.3 million pieces — or 46 percent — since initial FSS deployment in 2008. Given this volume decline, the Postal Service in 2010 reduced its FSS throughput goals by about 30 percent.

Yet even with the reduced goals, the FSS appears to be falling flat of expectations.

We evaluated FSS performance in the Capital Metro Area and found the average daily volume over a one-year period in FY 2017 was about 46 percent below the per-day goal of 195,500 mailpieces. The machines were also about 4.5 hours below the average daily runtime goal of 17 hours per machine. Management acknowledged that insufficient flats volume kept them from meeting FSS throughput goals.

In addition, we found about 23 percent of flats mail intended for FSS was being processed elsewhere, much of it on the Automated Flats Sorting Machine (AFSM). This “leakage” requires additional manual sorting by the letter carrier. Manual processing drives up costs and doesn’t allow the FSS to capture savings as anticipated, earlier OIG work determined.  

Our review found that because USPS does not manage leakage, it can’t identify the cause.

More troubling, however, is that it’s unclear whether processing flats on FSS machines is more cost-efficient than using AFSM. The Postal Service does not have any current studies or analyses to establish the financial benefit or workhour savings achieved when flats mail is processed on the FSS vs. the AFSM.

We recommended USPS track and address the causes of leakage and determine the operational costs and savings the FSS currently provides to fully understand its financial and operational impacts.

Comments (7)

  • anon

    FSS is a joke!! USPS management on all levels is the going to lead to the destruction of this company. Management needs to get there act together, stop cooking the numbers and taking it out on the crafts when your lies dont add up at the end of the day!

    Aug 19, 2018
  • anon

    Unless I missed it, I did not see any review of potential late transportation to delivery units from FSS mail processing facilities where 'leakage' results in delays or changes in transportation. Such occurrences can greatly impact delivery units in the morning and also impact carrier productivity (need to manually sort flats), which can then delay carrier departures thus reducing our image and hurt the brand. Does this occur everyday and everywhere... of course not. But there may be value in reviewing flat processing in its totality; input to the point the carrier pulls down their case, giving an overview of cost, savings (based on initial ROI projection), and gaps that can be mitigated.

    Aug 16, 2018
  • anon

    BINGO...Mark you win the prize... real and realistic coordination of flow between plants and delivery units is non-existent in the postal system...OIG reports always note this but never do anything about it..

    Aug 16, 2018
  • anon

    You are just figuring this out ?!?!?!? The promise of 1 hour or less office time with 50-100 pieces of casing mail are and were a pipe dream. FSS has created seriously overburdened routes with the lack of efficiency it gives on a daily basis. You don't know how many times I have gotten mail first sorted by AFSM and then finding those flats in my FSS. FSS needs to be pulled from high volume offices and put to use for very low volume offices only. With the high volume offices who routinely get 3rd bundles separately FSS is more a hinderance than a cost effective tool. Where as if it is used for low volume offices, the post office may actually be able to capture time, being that the low volume offices rarely get separate 3rd bundles.

    Aug 13, 2018
  • anon

    Bet you work in a delivery unit that takes carrier sequenced bundles and sends them back to the plants to be open and sorted. All you did was waste money in transportation and processing costs to get mail in the same sequence it was in originally.

    Aug 15, 2018
  • anon

    ha... It's the other way around... Plants that don't have fss do break up carrier sequenced bundles and then run them.. Carriers then get them in tubs all mixed up. Carriers now are sorting 3 times slower...BUT...The plant made their numbers and that's all that counts at the plant... And... The plant sends the truck out late... So...Now carriers are harried, make mistakes and get back late... But the plant looked good.... Realist... This is what REALLY goes on..

    Aug 16, 2018
  • anon

    Charlie, you are right on. Every day I see my flats in my tub of flat-sorted mail that are all out or order. Someone takes the time to bust open my shrink wrapped (and otherwise bundled) flats that come in route order and throws them into the flat sorter in order to justify the cost of running (and keeping) the flat sorting machine. And yes, it takes me so much longer to sort! The sad thing is that I have seen this happening for 17 years now.

    Aug 17, 2018

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