• on Oct 20th, 2014 in OIG | 15 comments

    As we celebrate our sixth year of blogging, you might think we’ve covered it all. Surely we’ve hit on every postal topic and angle there is, right? Well apparently not. We have a backlog of issues we want to share and people keep giving us excellent insights and feedback.

    Over the years we’ve noticed that, every once in a while, one of our blogs really strikes a chord with our stakeholders. This past year, we had a few of those moments. The first was our blog on the Harry Potter stamp (Will Harry Potter Cast a Spell on Young Stamp Collectors?). We knew the stamp’s release was controversial. But 226 comments? And more than 57,000 views? Stakeholders care a lot about postage stamps, and social media let them express their sentiments. Other blogs that generated heavy commentary were Network Consolidation Reboot (with a record-setting poll response of over 3,700) and The Road to a New Delivery Fleet, with many of the comments coming from current or retired postal workers. This reinforced one of our earliest blogging insights: Postal workers are passionate about the Postal Service, and they have a lot of good ideas to share.

    However, comments alone don’t measure a blog’s impact. Readership is another good indicator of whether a blog topic resonates with stakeholders. We were surprised to discover that sometimes the blogs with the fewest comments actually got the most views. Our blog asking about the role of a chief innovation officer (The Innovation Unit Dilemma) topped more than 23,000 reads, as did our blogs on the Postal Service’s deal with Amazon to deliver on Sundays (No More Day of Rest for Postal Package Delivery) and on same-day delivery (If You Build It, They Will Come. Maybe)

    Finally, we are finding that the blog isn’t the only place where the action is. Facebook and Twitter continue to see a lot of activity. For example, our blog on the Social Security Administration’s return to paper statements lit up on Facebook even though it generated only a handful of blog comments.

    We mention all of this not to toot our own horn, but to remind stakeholders that this blog serves as an important tool to engage with you on issues that affect the Postal Service. Your input matters to us and informs our work. As we toast our 6-year anniversary, we hope you will continue to share your insights, ideas, issues, and concerns.

    What topics would you like to see covered in a blog? 

  • on Oct 5th, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 3 comments

    Pretty soon, Americans will have no reason to leave their homes. We can order everything online and have it delivered to our doors – even groceries. That’s good news for package delivery companies, if not for Americans’ Vitamin D intake.

    Attention has centered lately on grocery delivery, with the U.S. Postal Service unveiling its plans to get in the game. The Postal Service recently asked the Postal Regulatory Commission to let it expand its test with Amazon into a broader 2-year test available to other retailers. Under the test, retailers would drop off their grocery orders in color-schemed tote bags at local post offices between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Postal officials would map out the day’s deliveries and then city carrier assistants would load the trucks and deliver the totes between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., leaving them at front doors. The carriers would use iPhones to scan for tracking purposes.

    Given Americans’ love affair with food, grocery delivery seems like a safe bet. But it’s a fragmented market and some players already have a foothold in certain cities. Peapod, Instacart, and Fresh Direct are fairly well-established in some locations and work with many of the big name grocery stores. Walmart with its Walmart to Go and Safeway are testing delivery of groceries from their own stores in select cities.

    Still the Postal Service, with its local presence and national reach, brings expertise as a delivery company to the table. Its ability to “dynamically route” the deliveries each day based on supply also helps. That is, it can adjust deliveries and routes as needed to achieve the greatest route density, which is critical to success. Further, this service would allow the Postal Service to use delivery vehicles when they normally sit idle, although extra wear and tear on its aging fleet could prove problematic.

    If the Postal Service gets the pricing right, it could entice some retailers to give the service a try. But pricing is a big question: Can the Postal Service price it right? The market test should help answer some other questions: Will bags of groceries left unattended in the early morning hours be susceptible to theft? Has the Postal Service waited too long to enter the market? Or does its delivery expertise and presence in every community give the Postal Service a competitive advantage? 

  • on Aug 4th, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 34 comments

    Delivery is its bread-and-butter. And service is in its name. So, the U.S. Postal Service takes pride in delivering mail to every address in America.

    But declining mail volume, changes in the network, a downsizing of its workforce, and evolving customer needs have led to changes in delivery. Further, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery every day. These changes and variables pose challenges to the Postal Service in meeting its targeted “24-hour clock initiative,” which is to collect, distribute, and deliver mail on time and to have 95 percent of letter carriers off the street by 5 p.m.

    In recent years, more carriers have been returning after 5 p.m. That percentage increased nationally from 25 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2011 to 38 percent in FY 2013. Mail delivery after dark raises carrier safety concerns while late mail makes consumers unhappy.

    Our recent audit report looked specifically at the Capital District, which experienced a 14 percentage point increase in city carriers returning after 5 p.m. We found the increase was due to (1) delayed delivery of mail from the processing facilities to the delivery units, and (2) supervisors failing to properly supervise city delivery operations. Our recommendations centered on modifying operating plans to get mail to the delivery unit earlier in the day and on adhering to policies and procedures for supervising city delivery operations.

    Also, we encouraged management and union officials to work together to address carrier safety. External stakeholders have already offered some ideas worth considering, such as brightly colored, reflective clothing to make carriers more visible, and realigning delivery routes so carriers can start earlier in dangerous areas.

    We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets by the targeted 5 p.m. return time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by 5 p.m., what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety? 

Pages