Objectives

Our objective was to summarize the results of U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General issued reports that evaluated mail operations and delayed mail at select Processing & Distribution Centers (P&DC) and identify any systemic operational issues.

The U.S. Postal Service considers mail to be delayed when it is not processed in time to meet the established delivery day. Delayed mail can adversely affect Postal Service customers and harm the organization’s brand.

In January 2019, the Postal Service launched the Mail Condition Visualization (MCV) system to track and provide near real-time visibility of mail conditions at processing facilities. The MCV system relies on machine-reported scans to capture mail conditions and reports delayed inventory, which are mailpieces that have not received their next expected processing operation scan on-time. If mailpieces are not processed on a last processing operation and are dispatched out of the facility without that expected scan, those mailpieces would be counted as delayed inventory in MCV. Therefore, not all mail reported as delayed inventory in the MCV system is actually delayed. Also, any pieces not processed on a last processing operation and dispatched would require additional sortation at the delivery unit.

This project summarizes the results of our audit work conducted in fiscal year 2021 at the Lehigh Valley, PA, North Houston, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Santa Ana, CA, Denver, CO, West Valley, AZ, Raleigh, NC, and Mid Carolina, NC, P&DCs. During those audits, we observed mail processing and dock operations as well as late arriving mail, delayed inventory, and delayed dispatch container conditions.

Designed Mail Flow for Letters

Illustration showing mail flow for letters.

Source: Handbook F-95, Statistical Programs Management Guide, dated September 2020; and observance of mail flow during OIG visits to P&DCs from February to July 2021.

Findings

We found that P&DC management did not know the causes for the high amounts of delayed inventory reported in the MCV system because they did not fully understand how delayed inventories were calculated. P&DC management also did not fully understand that when mail is not processed in accordance with the designed mail flow, the mail can be counted as delayed inventory in MCV.

P&DC management was more concerned if mail was actually delayed and remaining on the workroom floor. We found that P&DC management at all eight sites we visited were performing daily counts of delayed mail to get a more accurate representation of mail conditions at the facility. We also reached out to management at an additional 19 P&DCs who stated they were completing daily delayed mail counts because they found that the data in the MCV system was not reliable.

However, daily delayed mail counts were supposed to end when the MCV system launched. The Postal Service projected annual cost savings through the elimination of the delayed mail counts. Since P&DC management is still relying on daily delayed mail counts, workhour savings forecasted are not being fully realized.

Furthermore, while P&DC management could not explain the high amounts of delayed inventory reported in MCV, we found that it was caused by mail not being processed on the last processing operation. In addition, P&DC management was not aware that the Content Identification Number codes (used to direct mail to the next appropriate operation and/or facility) being used for mail that was dispatched before being run on a last processing operation did not remove it from the delayed inventory condition.

As a result, P&DC management was unable to rely on the data to determine if there were actual delayed mail conditions at the facility and did not use the MCV data to measure their performance and make operational decisions.

Recommendations

We recommended management:

  • Provide additional training to local processing management with an emphasis on how they should use Mail Condition Visualization reports to identify root causes for delayed inventory to provide a more accurate representation of mail conditions at the facility.
  • Develop supplemental guidance for local management reiterating that mail should be finalized on a last processing operation.
  • Coordinate with management to determine if Content Identification Number codes need to be changed or added for situations where the designed mail flow does not correctly finalize mail that is not processed on a last processing operation, so that mail is not counted as delayed inventory.

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Comments (5)

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  • anon

    Lehigh valley distribution center has been holding my priority package since November 21. PACKAGE RESEARCH CASE CREATED Dec 1 answered Delayed, In Transit. Now is Dec 15. Is anybody there? Yes, at UPS. Assured quick delivery from Easton Office once they get it. Easton PO has always been great.

    Dec 15, 2021
  • anon

    I like your pretty graphic... Special note: 919 operation-put mail in delivery point sequencing... When plants are running late they conveniently do not do this operation and it looks good for them on reports...... Think about it for just a second.....Plants ship incompletely sorted mail to delivery units........The units then have to manually sort it..delivery units wastes clerk time and money...the carriers sit on their hands waiting for the mail which should have been sorted at the plant to be finished by clerks. Clerks now miss delivery up time and get yelled at and pm gets yelled at by poom.. Carriers now leave late..... This happens across the spectrum at usps.... What a neat audit topic for you... what are the costs to delivery units when plants fail to do their jobs correctly... Merry Christmas.

    Dec 15, 2021
  • anon

    I’m tired of the poor service. Signature required postage has been sent a few times, postal service says no one was available for signature, yet no one has come to my home, at the times they claim. This time I rescheduled for today, the USPS delivery person came and left without the package. On top of that, I have packages that claim delivery that do not for three to for days later. I don’t trust any of the delivery statistics because your service falsifies its data, from my experience.

    Dec 15, 2021
  • anon

    I be live here in Prince George I haven't been receiving my mail properly zip23875 in oder from my premiums .i wanted is their any other person kniw to my mail because it don't that's has mess me up in the pass if something goes .wrong. .like my payments from my jobs are accounts .with the bank .

    Dec 15, 2021
  • anon

    Our mail that was delivered either Thursday December 9th or Friday December 10th sits behind a locked door only the postal worker can access. When we received our mail, Christmas cards from friends and family had been opened and the contents stolen. Information sensitive letters from the IRS had also been opened and looked at. Highly disgusted that an employee of USPS would steal our mail and violate our privacy. We live in Bryan, Texas off Elkhorn Trail.

    Dec 13, 2021