• on Jul 23rd, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 2 comments
    Between Fiscal Years 2004 and 2011, the U.S. Postal Service implemented over 100 area mail processing (AMP) consolidations, reducing the number of mail processing facilities from 676 to 461. Following implementation of an AMP, the Postal Service completes a post-implementation review (PIR) — a two-step documented process that tells management whether or not an AMP achieved the anticipated results. The PIR compares pre- and post-consolidation data, including projected savings, costs, workhours, and levels of service. The first PIR is supposed to be completed approximately 6 months after the AMP consolidation and it usually indicates whether or not the AMP is going to achieve the projected savings. In addition, it alerts management of any action needed to ensure AMP goals are met. The second PIR is supposed to be completed after the first full year of implementation and it compares the proposed AMP results against the actual results to determine the success of the consolidation. Like the first PIR, it provides management an opportunity to take additional action as needed. Please share your ideas on the subject of PIRs and your responses to the questions below: • Do you think the PIR is an adequate success measurement tool for AMP consolidations? • Are there ways, other than a PIR, to measure the success or effectiveness of AMP consolidations? • Should PIR results be disclosed publicly? Why or why not? This blog is hosted by the OIG's Planning, Innovation, and Optimization directorate.
  • on Jul 16th, 2012 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 2 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service has a long and storied history of moving mail on rail dating from the beginning of the railroad industry in the early 1800s. Mail was sorted on trains and Post Offices and processing facilities were located near rail stations. Many innovations and changes to rail, including the very development of modern freight rail service, were closely tied to the movement of mail. Today, however, the Postal Service meets its surface transportation needs almost entirely by using trucks owned by highway contractors. By contrast postal competitors and many others have taken advantage of the dramatic changes in the rail industry in recent years and greatly expanded their use of rail, realigning their networks with the nation’s railroads. The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Strategic Advantages of Moving Mail by Rail studied this rediscovered opportunity and found: • Shifting a portion of mail volume to rail without changing the overall transportation network could save $100 million per year. • If the Postal Service made an even greater commitment to rail, altering its network, it could realize even greater savings. • The use of intermodal rail can contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the Postal Service’s environmental goals. • Because of its lesser sensitivity to fuel price increases and greater control of its own infrastructure, rail transportation has major, long-term strategic advantages over highway. Rail transportation meets the needs of the Postal Service’s competitors and has become the industry standard for long distance surface transportation. Where the use of rail would allow it to meet service standards, should the Postal Service give it another try? Let us know what you think.
  • on Jul 9th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 1 comment
    Detail from Iron Mountain, Michigan
    Post Office Mural

    Some Americans may be aware that Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general of the United States, appointed by the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. But, unfortunately, our history lessons have otherwise overlooked the Post Office’s contribution to the development of the nation. A new paper entitled Postal Service Contributions to National Infrastructure describes some of the ways the Postal Service was used to support national infrastructure growth. For example, did you know?

    • In the early years of the nation, highly subsidized newspaper rates led to the growth of a national media culture.
    • Funding to transport mail supported a stagecoach industry that carried passengers across the nation. This model was later repeated in the early airline industry when mail contracts supported passenger air transportation.
    • The start of rural free delivery at the turn of the 20th century forced farmers and communities to improve the condition of rural roads as a condition of service.

    In these ways, the Post Office Department helped conquer the great distances of the country, fill infrastructure gaps, buoy burgeoning technologies and industries, and bind the nation together. Postal policy decisions also generated important debates about the appropriate roles of the government and the private sector. In the 1840s, a new age of low postal rates and two-way communications was initiated in part because of private sector competition to the monopoly, and the United States was a latecomer to Parcel Post compared to other nations because of concern by the railroads and small rural stores over the incursion into their areas of business. By the 1960s, the Post Office was struggling with inefficiency and a large deficit. The President’s Commission on Postal Organization (known as the Kappel Commission) argued that the Post Office should run more like a business. Since then, the Postal Service’s secondary role in contributing to the expansion of the national infrastructure has lessened. Today, the decentralized and fragmented nature of the digital age may be creating new infrastructure gaps and under-served citizens. Is there again a place for the Postal Service in serving the nation’s infrastructure needs? Or is the Postal Service’s role of supporting new infrastructures behind it? What do you think?

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