Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the November 2020 general election, the Postal Service’s Cleveland Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) experienced earlier than normal Peak Season mail, including package volume. This management alert responds to media and mailer concerns indicating that drivers experienced excessive wait times for drop shipments at the Cleveland P&DC. Our objective was to assess the efficiency of processing drop shipments at the Cleveland P&DC in the Northern Ohio District.
The Postal Service processes mail in its processing facilities from two sources: mail accepted by delivery and retail units and mail accepted from commercial mailers. Commercial mailers often drop mail at Postal Service plants using their own or contracted vehicles, referred to as drop shipments.
Commercial mailers use an electronic system called the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) system to schedule appointments at a postal facility to enter mail into the mailstream for processing. FAST allows the Postal Service to collect and monitor data about drop shipments and communicate mail conditions to stakeholders.
We found delayed mail processing operations and limited employee availability resulted in facility capacity issues, which further resulted in inefficiencies and delays in processing drop shipments at the Cleveland P&DC. The Postal Service implemented mitigating operations by limiting incoming mail drop shipments through temporary redirects to the Pittsburgh P&DC. However, Cleveland P&DC management did not communicate the need for a redirect to Postal Service Headquarters timely and, once management implemented the temporary redirect, it was not recorded accurately in the FAST system. Furthermore, Surface Visibility data did not reflect reported drop shipment delay conditions; therefore, media and mailer concerns about excessive wait times could not be substantiated.