• on May 1st, 2015 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 0 comments

    Here’s the good news: Mailers accept and support the U.S. Postal Service’s Seamless Acceptance (SA) program. And here’s the bad news: Implementing the program hasn’t been very seamless.

    Ongoing data integrity problems, among other concerns, have delayed full implementation of the program. We found evidence of inaccuracy in the data and mailers raised similar concerns, prompting them to ignore the data, according to our recent audit report.

    Not the most auspicious start to a program designed to increase the efficiency of commercial mail entry, verification, and payment. Still, everyone involved wants the program to succeed. SA is expected to make mail acceptance faster and less complex, standardize the acceptance and verification process, and allow for a trend-based quality measurement system.

    Seamless Acceptance uses electronic documentation from a commercial mailer, intelligent mail barcodes, and various scanning devices to verify that the letter and flat mail a mailer is entering meets the Postal Service’s acceptance thresholds and that proper postage is collected. Twenty-nine major mailers have volunteered to participate in SA, tendering about 1.7 billion mailpieces each month. Another 288 mailers volunteered to participate in a preparatory phase of the program known as Seamless Parallel, which helps introduce mailers to SA.

    Our recent audit report noted that while the Postal Service has reported progress in implementing SA, delays continue due to ongoing data integrity issues, as well as customer service and communications hurdles. The Postal Service’s initial goal was to have the full SA program in place by last September. But a series of delays has pushed that date back to July 2015. Notably, problems remain with the scorecard data provided to mailers; postal staff members have limited access to relevant reports and data; and there is inconsistent communication between the Postal Service and participating mailers.

    If you are a commercial mailer currently participating in SA, what are you seeing in terms of data quality, customer service, and communication? If you are not a current participant, are you interested in joining the SA program? If not, what is holding you back?

  • on Apr 27th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 8 comments

    The Midwest is the nation’s “breadbasket.” New England has its Patriots. Appalachia loves its bluegrass music. And it never rains in Southern California. We all associate certain things with different regions of the country. Now, it seems, one of those things is mail volume. 

    The decline in mail volume may be more nuanced than some realized, data in our new white paper suggests. Take the drop in First-Class Mail (FCM), for instance. The math clearly shows that from fiscal years 1995 to 2013, FCM single-piece volume fell by a total 61 percent nationally. But a close look into the geographic details reveals the rate of FCM decline varies widely by location. So widely, in fact, that the U.S. Postal Service should keep it in mind as it right-sizes its network and considers new products and services. 

    Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? In Dallas, the percent of FCM volume lost was far greater than 61 percent, while in other areas – like Charleston, WV – it was close to zero. Moreover, the rate of decline is slowing or has even stopped in many of the areas that have lost the most mail volume. The details are all in Declines in U.S. Postal Service Mail Volume Vary Widely Across the United States.

    We know from the most recent Postal Service Household Diary Study that college graduates consistently send about twice as much mail as people without high school diplomas, and mail use in general increases substantially with income and age. However, the rates of mail decline are very similar across these demographic groups. We’ll need to look elsewhere for a good explanation of why mail use varies so much by region.

    As the Postal Service continues to adjust its network and its strategy for the future, it must be mindful that the needs of its customers vary at least as widely as these differences in mail volumes. Simply put, there is no average or typical postal customer. Strategic planning designed around average mail volume data will inevitably result in inefficient solutions. The Postal Service would therefore do well to try gaining a better understanding of why these varying rates of FCM decline are occurring.

    Tell us your thoughts: Why do you think mail volume declines vary by region? Do you see an opportunity to launch “regional” strategies of any kind?  

  • on Mar 16th, 2015 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 1 comment

    This is the second blog in our two-part series on sustainability. Last week’s blog, Green Scene, focused on recycling efforts.

    When do growth and reduction go hand-in-hand? When the world’s posts are trying to grow their business but reduce their carbon footprint.

    The 25 national postal operators that make up the International Post Corporation (IPC) have made great strides toward achieving their carbon dioxide emission reduction goals, but they hit a bump in 2013 and 2014. A coalition of the world’s industrialized posts, the IPC is aiming to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Half of the IPC members have already reached the target. But last year marked the first increase in emissions from the use of heating and transport fuel for the group as a whole since the IPC environmental measurement program began in 2009.

    One reason for the backsliding is actually a good problem. The global growth in e-commerce, which has boosted the posts’ number of parcel deliveries, is making emission reduction targets more challenging. Especially harsh winters in some countries and a big increase in size in one of the operator’s delivery networks have also contributed to the posts’ higher fuel consumption.

    IPC officials are stressing the importance of switching to renewable energy, either self-generated or purchased, wherever possible.

    The U.S. Postal Service is one of the 25 posts taking part in the IPC Environmental Measurement and Monitoring Program. It’s also one of the posts that saw its transportation fuel use increase. In its 2014 Sustainability Report, the Postal Service notes that “an aging [postal vehicle] fleet and the need to service more delivery points are pushing our fuel demand upward.” Still, the Postal Service must continue its efforts to manage its fuel resources as efficiently as possible, for both its own fleet and its contracting vehicles. (Our 2014 audit report offered recommendations on encouraging fuel efficient practices in highway contract routes.) This should get easier in the next couple of years as the Postal Service replaces its long-life vehicle fleet. This summer the Postal Service will select vendors to build new vehicle prototypes and it will award a contract of up to $6.3 billion over several years beginning in 2017.

    With continued parcel growth expected, how can the world’s posts meet the demands of customers while reducing their carbon footprints? What technologies might benefit the Postal Service specifically? 

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