August 19, 2019 - RISC-WP-19-006

  • The productivity of the Postal Service varies significantly around the country.
  • The principal factors we examined affecting productivity were weather, cost of living, and terrain ruggedness.
  • Identifying other factors causing productivity to vary around the country could give the Postal Service opportunities to pinpoint and address them.

As a follow-up to previous OIG work examining mail volume trends by geographic region, we examined total factor productivity data at the Origin and Destination Information System (ODIS) area. Analysis at this level allowed us to examine the effects that weather, cost of living, and terrain ruggedness have on productivity. We found that productivity varies significantly from geographic area to area.

The most important external determinant of productivity that we studied is weather. Places with more extreme weather conditions, other things being equal, exhibit lower productivity. In addition, we found that given the Postal Service’s nationally uniform pay scale, regional differences in cost of living affect real wages, and higher real wages are associated with higher productivity and vice-versa.

We also found some evidence that places with the greatest difference between the highest and lowest points of elevation (ruggedness) are associated with lower productivity levels.

But most critically, our research identifies areas where productivity is much higher or lower than would be expected given their weather, cost of living, and ruggedness. The identification and further study of these unknown factors could enable the Postal Service to address them, providing it with additional tools to improve productivity.

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Comments (3)

  • anon

    To consider as well for the SF region... One issue with the AMP that occurred for the 949/954 is that decision making at the time of the process supposedly became more concerned with district boundaries to the benefit of their own plant/staffing rather than with logic for the most efficient processing capability. Mail flow would be more efficiently routed to the Oakland PDC rather than to San Francisco PDC from the north bay region, and mail from the peninsula region would be more efficiently routed to San Jose PDC instead of to SFPDC. Nonetheless, San Francisco District boundaries allows the SFPDC to lay claim and drive up exorbitant transportation costs and ultimately due to a domino effect of processing delays continuously turns the issue into increased overtime/inefficiencies across Function 2 and Function 4 (which then in turn make the plant itself less efficient with delays in mail volume returning to them). The SFPDC plant is serving itself (projecting/gaining more volume) to maintain a higher level status. Another example where this organization has proven itself bureaucratically challenged in properly incentivizing to its own ultimate benefit. Initially when the AMP occurred the mail was being processed by the Oakland PDC (with greater success), but apparently due to internal factors, not necessarily in consideration of the best interest of efficient mail processing SFPDC gained the 949/954 mail volume ultimately.

    Aug 22, 2019
  • anon

    As a plant employee in both the 949/954 (red for all metrics) and 403,4,5,6 ( green ditto). zones I suggest that transportation problems factor into this also. The Bay Area has significant traffic issues that cause wasted time, as well the primary north south route served from the Bay Area is Hwy 101. The alternate route is I5, 101 closes due to fires, flooding and landslides, 5 not so much but there is limited crossover and those are also rugged and subject to issues. In contrast although the state of KY has some weather and terrain issues it has less crowding in general, two north south interstates, one east west interstate plus a state throughway. Mail delayed getting to a plant is mail delayed to delivery points. In the last ten years plants were consolidated, generally into more congested, urban areas. In addition the AMF is affected by weather at SFO, primarily fog, the AMF at Louisville can be affected by t-storms. I note that express leaving KY that I send arrives in 94941 on time but express returning from 94941 has been delayed by as much as three days. I can be confident items sent from here will arrive timely, but I haven't the same faith the other way around.

    Aug 21, 2019
  • anon

    Want to improve productivity? Ask the plants to load-level the mail. In our area, the plants unload on us on Saturdays and Mondays, forcing us into overtime, sometimes penalty. Tuesday and Wednesday are reserved for any third class that didn't make it through and some first class. (It's known as Two Letter Tuesday). Paying penalty on Monday and sometimes not giving us enough to deliver Tuesday is not good for the business.

    Aug 20, 2019