• on Dec 8th, 2014 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 7 comments

    Turns out the U.S. Postal Service isn’t just about collecting and delivering mail. It also has an essential role in the middle. Sorting and long-haul transporting, that is.

    That may run counter to the arguments of those who believe the Postal Service could be more efficient if it focused only on collecting and delivering mail (also known as first mile and last mile) and let private companies take over sorting and long-distance transporting (the middle mile). The argument has gained traction among some stakeholders and observers, but our new white paper – The First and Last Mile Strategy: A Critical Assessment  – says the opposite may be true.

    With the Postal Service beset by financial challenges, anything that might improve efficiency and the bottom line merits consideration. But outsourcing mail processing would be a pretty radical measure, not to be taken lightly. That’s why we asked Dr. John Panzar, a noted expert in postal economics, to look at the economic implications of the Postal Service completely abandoning mail processing and focusing exclusively on collection and delivery. We asked him to look only at letters and flats because parcels constitute a different market.

    Dr. Panzar developed a theoretical model based on key economic principles and found that overall efficiency would likely decrease should private companies take over the middle mile. Mailing costs, in turn, would likely go up for postal customers. The only winners would be the companies sorting and transporting the mail, but their combined gains would be less than the losses to the Postal Service and customers. Simply put, the Postal Service’s participation in mail processing is necessary for overall efficiency.

    Like all theoretical models, Dr. Panzar’s relies heavily on particular assumptions that are open to challenge. Still, his intriguing conclusions invite thoughtful discussion and debate. So, what do you think? Should outsourcing the middle mile be studied further? Do Dr. Panzar’s findings surprise you? What other ways could the Postal Service gain efficiencies? 

  • on Jan 16th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 23 comments

    City and rural carriers deliver and pick up mail, including letters and packages. In addition, they are familiar figures who care about the people they serve, often helping in dramatic ways while making their rounds in neighborhoods 6 days a week. The U.S. Postal Service has many examples of carriers sending for help when senior citizens fail to collect their mail, alerting residents of fires, aiding accident victims, and even stopping burglaries.

    But what else can carriers do? Could they provide additional services because, after all, carriers and their vehicles are present 6 days a week in every neighborhood in the U.S.? Each potential service opportunity for carriers should be evaluated by three criteria: the investment required, the risk assumed, and the potential benefits that could be achieved. So, what are some other responsibilities that carriers can take on while delivering the mail that would result in a positive return on the Postal Service’s investment?

    How about:
    • Meter Reading.
    • Gathering data on road and weather conditions in metropolitan areas by placing Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in carrier vehicles.
    • Collecting Census Data.
    • Updating mapping components in metropolitan areas (new addresses, etc.).
    • Delivering other items besides mail. Right now, the Postal Service offers last mile delivery service to UPS and FedEx. Who else can benefit from this service?

    What do you think about carriers handling non-postal related tasks? Do you think the Postal Service should provide additional services that can be handled by carriers? In addition to the services listed what would you suggest? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

    This blog is hosted by the OIG's Delivery Directorate.
  • on Jan 17th, 2011 in Strategy & Public Policy, Uncategorized | 10 comments
    Coopetition, is a buzzword cropping up in many business publications these days. Basically, it means that competing firms look for ways to cooperate with each other, rather than compete head-to-head for business. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service, the United Parcel Service (UPS) now has a program that allows customers of participating retailers to return merchandise by dropping it in any U.S. Postal Service mailbox, or at any post office. The program features a special label that makes the service possible. After a return package is dropped off at a Postal Service location, a UPS driver picks it up and the UPS ground network transports it back to the retailer. UPS, which has its main air hub in Louisville, KY, began testing the service last year with a few retailers and is expanding it because of “positive response.” Some say this is an example of successful coopetition. There are a number of other current partnership programs with competitors. The Postal Service acts as a “last mile” partner for both UPS and FedEx, handling thousands of deliveries. Federal Express performs similar duties for the Postal Service providing air service for Postal Service parcels domestically as well as providing international logistics for the Postal Service’s Global Express Guaranteed service. In certain conditions, coopetition can be a “win-win-win”; helping not only the two businesses, but also the consumer. Do you think these partnerships benefit the public through greater efficiencies or hurt the competitive level? Let us know what you think! This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Pages