• 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 Aug 3rd, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments

    Imagine ordering groceries and having them delivered to a mailbox that signs for them, monitors and controls temperature to prevent spoilage, and alerts you that your food has been safely delivered.

    Meet the connected mailbox.

    Sounds like something George Jetson and his family might have, doesn’t it? Actually, it could be something you have in the not-too-distant future, given the growing interest in the so-called “Internet of Things” – essentially interconnecting digital networks of physical objects embedded with sensors that do everything from collecting data to switching things on and off.

    Think of existing systems that wire up your home so that you can remotely adjust lighting, temperature, even door locks and more via computer or mobile device. As we note in our new white paper, The Internet of Postal Things, the U.S. Postal Service has a vast and rich infrastructure that could be similarly wired to create what we call an Internet of Postal Things (IoPT), which could benefit both the Postal Service and its customers. We identify more than a dozen IoPT applications that could be developed in four key categories:

    • Transportation and logistics – Sensors on postal vehicles to increase efficiency through predictive maintenance, fuel management, and real-time dynamic routing.
    •  Smart postal buildings – Sensors to not only increase security and reduce energy consumption, but also improve customer convenience by, for example, equipping clerks with wearables (clothing/accessories incorporating computer technology) to help them find what customers need.
    • Neighborhood services – Sensors on postal vehicles, carrier devices, and mailboxes that could perform tasks useful to local authorities, such as monitoring air quality or identifying potholes.
    • Enhanced mail and parcel services – More applications like the connected mailbox, providing greater customer convenience and increased postal efficiency.

    You can check out the paper for more details, including suggestions on how the Postal Service could start building an IoPT. Meanwhile, what do you think? What IoPT applications would you most like to see?

    To get an idea how the IoPT might work, we created this video.