The objective of our audit was to determine the cause of mail processing delays reported at the Denver, CO, Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC).
The Postal Service reports mail processing delays when mail is not processed in time to meet its established delivery or when mail is processed but not on the dock in time for scheduled transportation to delivery units.
From October 2017 through June 2018, there were over 106 million mailpieces reported as mail processing delays at the Denver P&DC, a 57 million mailpiece (53 percent) increase from the amount reported in fiscal year (FY) 2017.
Mail processing facilities are required to complete daily mail counts and self-report processing delays and late arriving mail and enter the information into the web Mail Condition Reporting System (MCRS). When mail processing delays occur at a facility, there is an increased risk it won’t be delivered by its established delivery date.
Mail processing facilities use the Run Plan Generator (RPG) to manage mail processing operations. The RPG combines site-specific mail processing machines, sort programs, maintenance requirements, mail volume, and the rate at which machines process mail to project daily machine run plans. This assists management with meeting established clearance times (the latest time mail can complete a mail processing operation) and ensuring transportation trips depart on time.
What the OIG Found
Mail processing delays at the Denver P&DC were due to facility management and employees not using the RPG to manage mail processing operations and meet established mail processing clearance times; not removing incorrect color-code tags and applying the proper color-code tags; not staging mail in proper sequential order; and not having procedures in place to identify and report all late arriving mail in their MCRS reports.
Specifically, in the first three quarters of FY 2018, the facility has only met one of the three weekly mail processing measures seven of 39 times (18 percent) and did not meet the other two weekly mail processing measures any of the possible 39 times. Postal policy requires the development of an RPG to meet the established mail processing clearance times and for management to communicate the RPG to all facility employees. The senior plant manager stated they were working on updating the RPG and using it more frequently among facility management. The district manager stated that they are struggling to use the RPG because the prior year’s mail mix and volume was significantly different than this year’s, which has presented them challenges ensuring the RPG accurately reflects current mail volume and mix.
Of the 57 million mailpiece increase in reported mail processing delays since October 2017, 49 million mailpieces (86 percent) were First-Class delivery point sequence (DPS) letters. The DPS letters did not complete mail processing by its clearance time; however, the Denver P&DC delayed the departure of scheduled transportation trips to delivery units until the mail completed processing. Since the start of FY 2018, the Denver P&DC delayed about 8,500 transportation trips by at least 15 minutes, totaling over 8,000 hours, because of late mail processing, potentially costing the Postal Service $231,575.
While the trips were delayed to accommodate mail processing and transportation to delivery units, we were unable to determine specifically how many of those mailpieces met their established delivery days. We did note that First-Class service scores for the facility were slightly higher in Quarter 3 of FY 2018 compared to the prior year. However, on-time service at the facility was about 90 percent in FY 2018 Quarter 3, almost six percent below the goal of 96 percent.
In addition, Denver P&DC employees did not remove incorrect color-code tags, apply the proper color-code tags, and were not staging mail in proper sequential order. The Postal Service uses a color-coding system to identify when Marketing Mail arrives and when it should be processed. Staging lanes hold mail in sequential order to ensure the mail is worked in the required proper sequence. Denver P&DC managers did not verify that employees removed incorrect color-code tags, applied proper color-code tags, or staged mail in proper sequential order. Improperly color-coded and staged mail can be processed later than intended, which can delay the processing, transportation, and delivery of Marketing Mail.
Further, the Denver P&DC does not have a procedure in place to identify and report all late arriving mail in their MCRS reports. During observations, the Denver P&DC processed more than five million destinating letters; however according to the Mail History Tracking System, the Denver P&DC received over 44,000 late arriving letters from other facilities, none of which were reported in its MCRS reports. According to Postal Service policy, late arriving mail should be identified and counted at the receiving platform. The manager of in-plant support stated the facility does not have a procedure in place to identify late arriving mail but, when they know it is arriving late, the supervisors will report it as late arriving in MCRS. Unidentified late arriving mail increases the risk of mail not meeting its established delivery day.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management:
- Update the RPG for the Denver P&DC to meet established clearance times and scheduled transportation and communicate the plan to employees.
- Ensure employee compliance with color-coding procedures and staging of mail in proper sequential order.
- Establish a procedure to identify and report late arriving mail.