Blame it on the rain. Or the heat, or the snow. Weather, it seems, has an impact on the U.S. Postal Service’s productivity. Geographic regions with extreme climate – other things being equal – have lower productivity than moderate climate regions.

Climate isn’t the only regional factor. Cost of living and terrain ruggedness also have an impact on the productivity in a region.

But wait, there's more! Some of the variance in productivity throughout the country is unexplained. Our recent white paper, Geographic Variation in Productivity, which follows up on our previous work around mail volume trends by geographic region, studied the Postal Service's comprehensive Total Factor Productivity measurement to see why productivity varies so widely throughout the country. The map above illustrates the unexplained variation that remains once we remove the three factors-weather, cost of living, and ruggedness-with areas in green indicating higher productivity and those in red lower.

The three we quantified in our study – climate, cost of living, and terrain ruggedness – explain about 23 percent of total observed variation in productivity. That leaves 77 percent of variation unexplained, which provides a significant opportunity for the Postal Service to improve its productivity. USPS can’t control the weather or a region’s topography, of course. But it might be able to control some of these unexplained variances in productivity, which could include quality of management, facility design, or employee dynamics.

Our paper encourages further study of areas likely to yield substantial productivity improvements. Such analysis could also detect areas where productivity is higher than expected, which, once identified, could serve as best practices around which to build improvements.

What suggestions do you have for addressing productivity improvements?

Comments (3)

  • anon

    Why not illuminate all small offices that are not more than six hours make the six hour offices eight hours again illuminate all street delivery rule, city, and HCR. Give everybody that had their post office eliminated a free PO Box in the next biggest town you will save billions of dollars not having to provide vehicles maintenance gas accidents you will not have any more carriers you will have less accidents issues and coverage problems in p o box only offices, And the six hours that became eight our offices can hire PLMR’s to cover them because postmaster seem to care more about getting things taken care of then some part timer, and put the six hours that became made ours underneath the 18b’s.This could make our company viable in a few years Rather than decades. And make it easier to fire poor performing employees that are basically currently untouchable .

    Sep 18, 2019
  • anon

    Why didn't you incorporate the voice of the employee survey results? While only thirty percent of the employees respond to the survey and it is generally skewed towards newer employees, the data is available for all districts, plants and stations. While imperfect it would give a better idea of the impact of morale on productivity. Another indicator could be the number of grievances filed. My first year, as a USPS employee, I wrote the Senior Plant Manager an assessment of the experience of my PTR group. At the end I gave the plant a two grades. They were: A+ for effortlessly demotivating employees, and a C for operations. The next year the A+ remained but the C dropped to a D. There are several other things you need to examine. One is number of parcels processed. Parcels take more time to handle and take up more space. Knowing the number of parcels each station handles and when the station closes - some stations remain open longer because the carriers are out longer due to parcel volume, might have a baring on productivity. You might also examine the degree to which each station sorts and labels the mail before sending it to the plant. Better sorting, means greater efficiency. You might also want to reexamine the total factor productivity measure to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date. Most USPS measures and thought process is still geared towards letters and flats - not an environment dominated by parcels. In short, most USPS measures are out of date. They are more appropriate for your great grandmothers postal service, not your great granddaughter's.

    Aug 20, 2019
  • anon

    Some of the problems in rural areas the post office uses a yard stick to measure mail volume often when these volumes are recorded they are not placed in the computer properly most time making the carrier look bad so management can get there bonuses or create havoc.

    Aug 19, 2019

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