• 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 | 12 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 Jun 29th, 2015 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 2 comments

    You know you’ve made it when your company name becomes a verb. That’s where Uber is right now – as in, I’m going to Uber over – following in the footsteps of other companies-as-verbs, such as FedEx and Xerox.

    Uber, the technology company that matches car service to rider, has successfully disrupted the entrenched taxi industry. And now pundits are wondering what might be next for the successful upstart. Recent news articles in Marketwatch and Forbes say it could be the package delivery industry.

    The Forbes opinion piece lays out an intriguing scenario: “Imagine you’re about to leave your office for the day and your phone vibrates with a text from Uber: ‘Your next door neighbor Stella has ordered a dozen cupcakes from the Courageous Cupcakes shop next to your office. Would you mind dropping them off at her house? We’ll credit your account $7.50.’” The author goes on to suggest this type of transaction could be repeated millions of times a day and for any and all types of purchases/goods – the hardware store, the automotive store, the department store, and so on.

    The Forbes piece then asks, “Imagine what would happen if a large ecommerce company used local distribution coupled with Uber rather than centralized distribution and FedEx?”

    Imagine indeed. It’s certainly intriguing and altogether feasible. But Uber, and companies based on a similar model, first have to address some issues that could hinder long-term success. First is a tightening labor market. As the economy expands and better-paying jobs are created, Uber may find it hard to staff drivers. And courts are likely to consider cases asking whether drivers are employees or independent contractors. Also, Uber will have to do a better job addressing passenger privacy and safety concerns. Recent press reports suggest female passengers, in particular, are uncomfortable with Uber having so much information about them.

    Even if this Uber scenario is just a notion, it reminds us that package delivery has become an attractive and competitive business. As consumers do more of their shopping online, everything from groceries to pharmaceuticals to clothing is being delivered to homes and businesses. Traditional package delivery companies find themselves competing with new entrants such as Deliv (sometimes called the Uber of the retail world) and Postmates, a company that operates a network of local couriers. And, don’t take your eye off Amazon.com. It is reportedly testing an Uber-like app that would let it use regular people to deliver packages.

    So, does Uber-like delivery sound like a feasible idea? What impact do you think the service could have on traditional delivery companies? As a consumer, do you see benefits from this service? How else could sellers and traditional package delivery companies serve the growing consumer demands of same day and even same hour delivery?

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