• on May 28th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 0 comments

    What do you want from your Postal Service? It’s a simple question, yet it is probably one that few citizens have pondered – even as our nation’s policymakers consider how best to reform the U.S. Postal Service. The voice of the American public has largely been absent from the debate about what role the Postal Service should play in meeting modern communications needs.

    To better understand how Americans view the Postal Service now, as well as what role it could play in their future lives, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General commissioned a web survey of 5,000 Internet-connected Americans aged 18 years and older. The survey explored areas such as: perceptions of the Postal Service’s role, access to postal services, cost reduction efforts, comfort level with online interactions, and future growth opportunities.

    The survey yielded several interesting results. For one, the overwhelming majority of respondents think their lives would be hurt if the Postal Service did not exist in 5 years. Most respondents also consider Postal Service delivery a public service that should be maintained, even if it is not profitable. While most respondents were satisfied with the service and accessibility of their Post Office, a strong majority indicated they would be interested in more self-service options. Respondents were not generally opposed to closing post offices to reduce costs, but were less likely to support cost reduction measures such as delaying mail delivery or reducing delivery to 3 days a week. Many interviewees, especially younger ones, expressed interest in the Postal Service offering new nonpostal products, including some digital services. (Link to “What American Wants From the Postal Service – A Survey of Internet-connected Americans”)

    This week, in a series of daily blogs, we are going to ask you to weigh in with your opinion. Each day, we will feature some of the questions from the survey in a poll we hope you will answer. We also welcome more detailed input in our comment section. In particular, we would like to know your thoughts on reinventing the Postal Service in an era of digital communications. If you were going to reshape the nation’s postal system, which parts would you keep and which parts would you change? And is there some aspect of today’s Postal Service that you would absolutely insist on retaining.

  • on May 21st, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 3 comments

    Lean Six Sigma is a method used in many large organizations to look for improvements in business efficiency and effectiveness. It relies on a team-based approach to focus on the customer, on removing waste, and on improving processes. The Postal Service and the Office of Inspector General are among the many companies and organizations that use Lean Six Sigma as a continuous improvement tool to try to get at the root of the problem rather than just solve the problems as they arise. Management uses the insights gained from the Lean Six Sigma approach to reduce variations in processes and systems.

    Lean Six Sigma has loyal adherents in many industries, but some critics have argued that it is primarily effective only in product manufacturing. Others suggest that soliciting ongoing input from your employees is one of the most effective ways to improve processes and encourages their ownership in the process. Finally, some critics note that Lean Six Sigma only promotes incremental improvements, not radical breakthroughs.

    The OIG has found Lean Six Sigma to be useful in automating processes, shortening process cycle time, reducing paper usage, and improving high-volume and high-usage databases. Eliminating waste and strengthening processes results in cost savings and improved efficiencies. The Postal Service has employed Lean Six Sigma and other continuous improvement efforts in several of its processes, including relocation, payables, receivables, and some claims processing. The Postmaster General recently stressed the importance of these tools to the Postal Service’s plan to accomplish the business changes necessary to compete in today’s marketplace. He touted the Value Stream Map (VSM) as a Lean Six Sigma tool that is being used effectively to look at all components of an end-to-end process.

    We would like to hear your thoughts on Lean Six Sigma. If you have had it applied to your job, or to processes you use, did it drive down costs and improve service? Did it improve the overall customer experience? Are processes significantly better because of Lean Six Sigma? Or have you found there are better ways to improve processes and increase efficiency without using a Six Sigma approach? Are there better ways to achieve significant breakthroughs?

  • on May 14th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 5 comments

    In the late 1950s, McDonald’s executives discovered that being in the real estate business was more profitable than focusing solely on the food business. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc had a business partner, Harry J. Sonneborn, who devised a plan to purchase or lease the land on which nearly all McDonald’s restaurants would be located. He then charged franchisees a monthly rental fee for the land, or a percentage of their sales, whichever was greater. The rest, as they say, is entrepreneurial history.

    With 33,000 facilities on more than 300 million square feet of land, the U.S Postal Service operates more retail outlets than McDonald’s. The Postal Service owns and leases properties in high-traffic areas, often in a city’s most desirable location. Is there an opportunity for the Postal Service to lease or sublease its vast real estate holdings to other businesses to generate revenue and improve cash flow? Could the Postal Service sell its facilities in desirable locations and lease back a portion of the facility as needed?

    For example, the Postal Service partnered in 2007 with a development company to renovate and lease out part of the main Post Office in New York City (James A. Farley building) for retail and other purposes, including a new Amtrak train station and hotel space. While the redevelopment has hit construction delays, it remains a promising model for future plans.

    These kinds of opportunities are not necessarily restricted to post offices in large cities. Smaller facilities are likely to be attractive to third parties as well. One example is the Redondo Beach Galleria Station in Redondo CA, a very small retail unit in a shopping mall, currently on the market to be subleased.

    Do you think the Postal Service should sell or lease its facilities in prime real-estate locations? Should it have any restrictions on which facilities it can sell or lease or what types of operations can lease a postal facility? Should there be restrictions on how the Postal Service uses the revenues raised from such a sale or lease? Share your thoughts.

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