• on Aug 24th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection, Ideas Worth Exploring, Strategy & Public Policy | 4 comments

    By Jim Holland, research director, National Association of Letter Carriers 

    Six days a week, over 200,000 city delivery letter carriers fan out on routes across the country to deliver and pick up mail and packages for residences and businesses. Carriers now even deliver packages on Sundays and holidays. Increasingly, letter carriers do work beyond traditional postal services, helping to meet the growing needs of both shippers and recipients. 

    Letter carriers are a daily presence in communities across the country, which helps them become familiar with the needs of their communities. Letter carriers look out for people on their routes, providing assistance when they see emergencies or people in need. This connection between letter carriers and their communities could help pave the way for additional services, such as a more structured wellness-related assistance. The OIG recently hosted a panel on this subject, and some ideas included optional wellness checks, meal or grocery delivery, and delivery of medications. A more structured wellness program would provide a valuable service with very little disruption to the work of letter carriers.

    Letter carriers deliver mail on the same routes nearly every day, making them uniquely capable of providing more services because of their familiarity with local needs. Their experience working in many types of neighborhoods could help shape the type of products or services that are provided on a local level. Perhaps a city neighborhood would value delivery of dry cleaning items, while a suburban neighborhood would value delivery of food. In addition, the postal network could be leveraged to help communities in need, for example after a natural disaster. Letter carriers could distribute items such as water, food, and medicine on any scale. In the future, letter carriers could even become involved in providing energy services to communities. 

    In terms of challenges, customizing many variations of local services might be complicated, but it is certainly worth looking into. Technology advancements may help make this possible. In addition, with the explosive growth in business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce, letter carriers have been very busy. Letter carriers continue to deliver billions of pieces of mail every month, along with an increasing number of packages. That said, we are always interested in exploring new areas where letter carriers could provide valuable new services. Neighborhood logistics is an area in which letter carriers are uniquely capable of serving.  


    Read what they had to say and let us know what you think, including what kind of delivery and logistical services you might want in your neighborhood. 

    Back to the "What’s in Store for Neighborhood Logistic Services?" blog.

  • on Aug 24th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection, Ideas Worth Exploring, Strategy & Public Policy | 8 comments

    By Keith Kellison, senior vice president, UPS Global Public Affairs 

    When we say “neighborhood logistics,” what we really mean is serving everyday people like me and you better than ever before.

    At UPS, that’s nothing new. Since our start in 1907, we’ve gone through a host of transformations. From the early days of delivering by bike, to the first package cars, to next-day air shipments, UPS has led the way in meeting customers’ demands. 

    Quickly responding to changes in those demands is paramount. Logistics services work for customers when they are efficient, timely, secure, and affordable. And so as consumer habits evolve, we need to keep pace. Customers today are ordering everything from books to bathroom basics via the Internet. This forces logistics providers to look for ways to improve their delivery networks.

    In some cases, this takes the form of robust technological advances, like UPS’ ORION system, the most sophisticated route optimization tool available, reducing miles traveled and idle time — good for the environment and keeps customers’ costs down.

    Sometimes, though, even the simplest ideas might have a huge impact. As just one example, let’s take the mailbox.

    In the past, when most mail was letters, mailboxes were smaller, typically 8 x 11 inches. In fact, the design was so entwined with envelopes that in the 1930s Congress granted the U.S. Postal Service exclusive access to the “letter box.”

    But, as letter mail volume has decreased and parcel volume increased, mailboxes have grown. Pass through any neighborhood and you’ll see bigger boxes to accommodate small parcels like eyeglasses, designer clothes, and even time-sensitive groceries.

    Given this demand, and the fact that consumers own the mailboxes, doesn’t it make sense to no longer restrict mailbox deliveries? (Only the Postal Service can access your mailbox.) Customers would benefit from reduced delivery costs, additional flexibility, and the knowledge that their packages are safe.

    Of course, qualifications may be required to ensure security and that mailboxes are not over-crowded. But the good news is that the U.S. wouldn’t be the first to lift the restrictions. For years, third parties in Europe have been allowed to deliver parcels to mailboxes, with no security issues. If it’s worked there for so long, why can’t it work here?

    After the restrictions are lifted, we can continue advancing neighborhood logistics. Electronic delivery notifications and boxes with temperature controls are just two potential ideas with immediate potential. The list of opportunities is endless, but the first step is access. 

    Just what else might neighborhood logistics encompass? We asked three other postal experts to write guest blogs offering their thoughts and predictions on the future of neighborhood logistics: 

    Read what they had to say and let us know what you think, including what kind of delivery and logistical services you might want in your neighborhood. 

    Back to the "What’s in Store for Neighborhood Logistic Services?" blog.

  • on Jul 6th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 2 comments

    It’s Christmas in July for the retail industry. Holiday decorations might not hit stores for a few more months, but retailers are now working on their 2015 holiday plans. 

    And you can bet that shipping strategies are a big part of those plans. Online sales made up about 10 percent of the $616 billion in holiday sales last year, so shipping plans are a top priority for retailers. In addition, more and more retailers are eyeing the international market, which means cross-border shipping is part of the mix as well.

    As for its plans, the shipping industry is likely to heed the ghost of Christmas past to avoid repeating mistakes. UPS reportedly just started informing certain retailers that it will not give discounts on oversized items, such as furniture and grills, this holiday season. These items don’t move on the company’s automated conveyor belts and require more costly manual handling.

    UPS is especially anxious for a spotless 2015 holiday season after 2 years in a row of missteps. In 2013, a surge of last-minute online orders and bad weather led to delivery failures. This past year, UPS spent too much money on extra hires and added automation to avoid the same mistake. While service was strong, the company reported disappointing financial results. 

    For the U.S. Postal Service, our recent audit report provides some insights into what worked well in the 2014 peak holiday season and what could be improved this year. By most accounts, the Postal Service had a successful 2014 holiday shipping season. It processed a record 865.4 million packages during the December 2014 peak period with strong service performance. While the number of packages increased by more than 88 million, delayed packages decreased by 1.8 million compared to the previous year. In addition, service improved in six of the nine package categories the Postal Service measures. 

    Still, it could do better to ensure packages are processed on time so as not to put revenue at risk. Package processing machines should be timely installed and fully utilized during the peak season. In addition, enough temporary workers should be hired to meet peak demand.  

    How soon do you plan to start your holiday shopping this year? Do you expect to do more online shopping this year? If you used online shopping last year, how was your experience?