• on May 14th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 3 comments
    Do you ever wonder about the future? Will flying cars ever arrive? Are video phones here at last? Will the end of paper finally come? Businesses can greatly benefit from knowing a little about future possibilities. At a time of great social and technological transition, understanding what might lie ahead can help businesses – like the Postal Service - prepare themselves to adapt. Deutsche Post DHL, the logistics and delivery company, commissioned a study to look at the world in 2050. The study, Delivering Tomorrow - Logistics 2050, was prepared with the help of a firm of futurists and foresight experts. Through interviews with key experts, the study’s authors determined 14 key factors that could influence the future of logistics such as income growth and trends in trade regulation. Then, they investigated potential outcomes for these factors. The possibilities were combined into five potential visions of the future: • Untamed Economy – Impending Collapse – World income grows rapidly, and globalization continues. The sheer pace of the growth threatens to strain natural resources. Logistics firms are critical for transporting goods through a logistics supergrid. • Mega-efficiency in Megacities – People live in urban metropolises that have managed to solve many of the problems of dense urban growth such as traffic jams. Rural areas are left behind as economic activity becomes increasingly concentrated in these giant megacities, which are connected by logistics firms. • Customized Lifestyles – A revolution in 3-D printing lets people make goods very near where they live. This allows for an incredible increase in customization and individualization. It also means that there is far less need to transport goods across the world. • Paralyzing Protectionism – Globalization falters as countries retreat into protected regional trade blocs. Even the Internet splits apart. Technological development lags, infrastructure crumbles, and resource scarcity slows economic growth. Regional logistics champions carry goods, and customs clearance takes weeks. • Global Resilience – Local Adaptation – Natural disasters, crises, and attacks make resilience and redundancy critical. Businesses use adaptable technology, such as production facilities that can turn off and on as needed. Redundancy is expensive so standards of living are lower. Trade is regionalized rather than global, and logistics firms focus on security rather than timeliness. What do you think of these visions of the future? (Keep in mind the short descriptions above only hint at the full scenarios in the paper.) What role will the U.S. Postal Service play?
  • on May 7th, 2012 in Products & Services | 16 comments
    Semipostal stamps are nothing new. They have been used worldwide for over a century and here in the United States since 1998. The cost of these stamps includes a surcharge to raise funds for various charities or causes. When semipostal stamps were first introduced in the U.S., critics felt issuing these stamps would be wasteful because no one would pay extra for a stamp. However, these stamps turned out to be a successful fundraising tool. Although the additional surcharge does not directly increase the U.S. Postal Service’s revenue, the charities benefiting from the surcharge help generate an incentive to purchase these stamps. The Postal Service has issued four semipostal stamps so far: • The Breast Cancer stamp issued in 1998 has raised more than $73 million dollars for breast cancer research. • The Heroes of 2001 stamp raised $10.5 million between 2002 and 2004 for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support families of emergency rescue workers killed or permanently disabled in the September 2001 attacks. • The Stop Family Violence stamp raised $3.1 million for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2003 and 2006. • The Save Vanishing Species stamp issued in September 2011 raised more than $175,000 by the end of fiscal year 2011 for Multinational Species Conservation Funds. What cause, issue, or subject matters should the Postal Service consider for a semipostal stamp? Please let us know in the comments section below. This blog is hosted by the Marketing and Service Directorate.
  • on Apr 30th, 2012 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 9 comments
    As the Postal Service struggles to survive, it needs to take a good look at the financial health of its products. However, ascertaining the financial health of a product line requires an accurate estimate of the cost of providing that product. The Postal Service is moving into an increasingly data-driven future; thus, the timeliness and accuracy of cost measurement will continue to grow in importance. The Postal Service has not changed its cost system fundamentally in many years, though it updates significant inputs annually. There have been calls for an examination of the accuracy and relevance of the system and implementation of specific changes. In order to inform the dialogue and debate, the OIG published A Primer on Postal Costing Issues, a discussion of postal costing, including the most salient of the concerns the Postal Service and its customers have raised. As discussed in the paper, the main issues that have been raised are whether the Postal Service: 1. Should use fully-distributed costing to evaluate the financial performance of products? 2. Should adapt the system to reflect the excess capacity currently present in the postal network? If so, how? 3. Should measure bottom-up costs? 4. Should use the new postal data sources in the costing system to improve accuracy and reduce costs? 5. Can improve the timeliness of cost studies and, if so, how? As the postal market changes, the Postal Service will need new and/or different cost data to support its decisions, including pricing decisions. Many of the suggested changes and improvements would require a significant expenditure of resources at a time when the Postal Service is under substantial fiscal stress. But the Postal Service needs the right cost data to make the right decisions.. What do you think – should the Postal Service be spending money to improve its cost systems? If so, what do you think are the most important changes needed? This blog is sponsored by RARC.