As of February 2018, the Postal Service had 286 mail processing facilities nationwide, including 236 postal-owned and 50 leased facilities.

Postal Service policy requires that an effective and efficient preventive maintenance (PM) program be in place to ensure optimum performance, minimum downtime, and appropriate service life of building equipment. Mail processing facilities’ management is responsible for safely, efficiently, and effectively maintaining heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to ensure the safety and well-being of the building and its occupants.

Our objective was to evaluate the HVAC PM process at mail processing facilities. We reviewed a statistical sample of 118 facilities to assess HVAC PM performance for a two-year period from September 1, 2016, through October 31, 2018.

What the OIG Found

Preventive maintenance on HVAC equipment is not being consistently conducted per the designated PM route assignments. PM routes define the specific pieces of HVAC equipment to be serviced. In fiscal years (FY) 2017 and 2018, the electronic Maintenance Activity Reporting & Scheduling (eMARS) system generated 351,254 and 350,878 scheduled HVAC PM routes, respectively, at the 118 facilities we reviewed.

We noted 80 facilities (68 percent) in FY 2017, and 71 facilities (61 percent) in FY 2018 achieved below a 90 percent PM completion rate for designated PM route assignments. This means that 18 percent or more of the time scheduled HVAC PM routes were not completed. Per Postal Service building maintenance indicators, PM completion rates are measured by three indicators: >95% - Green; 90% to 95% - Blue; <90% - Red.

When a scheduled HVAC PM route is not completed, one of the following bypass codes is recorded in the eMARS system to indicate why.

  • Code 0: No input, a system-generated bypass
  • Code 1: Non-availability of resources
  • Code 7: Operational requirements
  • Code 8: Equipment not available for PM

A review of bypass activities indicated that bypass code 0 was the most utilized code at 67 percent in FY 2017, and 63 percent in FY 2018. Bypass code 0 is a system-generated code that indicates the PM was not conducted, management did not take actions to monitor due dates and assign the scheduled PM routes, and/or management did not enter an appropriate bypass code in eMARS.

Bypass code 1 was the second most utilized code at 32 percent in FY 2017, and 35 percent in FY 2018, indicating resources were not available to perform the scheduled PM route.

PM completion rates were not consistently 95 percent or greater due to several reasons: (1) shortages of staffing or building equipment mechanics resources, (2) other tasks being assigned a higher priority, and (3) management did not enter any bypass codes in the eMARS system, so it defaulted to code 0.

Since October 2015, management implemented a hiring freeze for Maintenance Operations’ building systems equipment positions; however, any hiring exceptions to fill the position had to receive headquarters Maintenance Operations approval. As a result, mail processing facility building equipment mechanics on the rolls decreased by 282 positions (14 percent) from 1,965 in FY 2015 to 1,683 in FY 2018.

Additionally, in some instances, maintenance management placed higher priority on other projects such as relocating mail processing equipment. Further, as identified by the Postal Service MS-1 Handbook revision team, some facilities adopted a ‘run to failure’ practice where repairs are performed when systems fail instead of performing recommended PM when due.

When an HVAC PM route is not completed, HVAC systems are at risk of not operating safely, efficiently, and effectively. In addition, the equipment is at risk of reducing its life expectancy, voiding the manufacturer’s warranty, and/or incurring additional repair costs. Additionally, when an HVAC PM route is not completed and the eMARS system automatically generates a code 0 bypass, sufficient data is lacking to assess why the PM was not conducted.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management: fill building systems equipment vacancies at each mail processing facility up to the authorized levels, create Standard Work Instructions to provide maintenance management detailed operating procedures and job aids related to their HVAC PM responsibilities, and implement a process to reduce the use of code 0, the automatic system-generated bypasses code in the eMARS system.

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Comments (6)

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  • anon

    I have been recently rehired at the Appleton WI Post Office, Prior to my departure from USPS employment in 2003, I was the BEM for the same office to which I was rehired. I am currently a custodian at this office. What I have been told is that we are considered at this time to be a "Non-Maintenance Capable" facility, and consequently our HVAC equipment is maintained by an outside contractor. The preventative maintenance is very limited and/or non-existent. It is in my opinion not cost effective, but that is not my decision to make. The question that I ask is, is there some way that you can recommend to get anyone who has some authority to take the issue of our non-functioning methane detector, seriously? (The facility was built on a dump.) The one remaining level 7 maintenance employee, has called repeatedly to have the unit repaired or replaced, but it does not appear as if anyone cares. This does not seem wise. It appears as if my facility would not fall within the realms of this report, as we simply delver mail, although we are an Amazon Hub, if that helps.

    Dec 13, 2019
  • anon

    Our facility was 1 of the facilities the OIG was notified concerning the broken and old chillers that are parts of our HVAC unit. They need to be completely replaced. It was reported on the blog page prior to the study. Nothing has changed. A FSSP problem number #2953202 was assigned for the issue but nothing has been done to abate the issue. Our BEMs have yet to be trained on HVAC and nothing has been done by any level of Management to resolve this.

    Sep 07, 2019
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. We are looking into your issue.

    Sep 10, 2019
  • anon

    Don’t forget the increased costs associated with OSHA complaints routinely filed when HVACs stop working. You could also mirror these findings by auditing roof conditions in postal facilities. The USPS is spending buckets of money to patch roofs that are beyond repair and life expectancy...and incurring increased costs associated with mold remediation, indoor air quality issues, OSHA complaints, OWCP claims, etc. Then there are all those indirect costs like lost productivity, higher absenteeism, lower morale... Sometimes both HVAC system failures AND roof leaks exist repeatedly in single facilities and boy does that result in some serious unnecessary costs.

    Sep 05, 2019
  • anon

    yes i live in moberly missouri and well i've been in the moberly post office and there is times say when it was extremely hot outside i go there to buy stamps and it seemded hot inside moe than outside so much so was sweating i don't know but it's probably nothing since the lobby is open 24/7 but people coming in and out i know you can't keep the bldg. cool all the time but well it's something i've noticed . sincerely yours earl lee young p.s. i would also like to say that we have a great crew working there very hardwoking and dedicated to their work exceptional people even at high volume times holidays they bend over backwards to get the job done i think they should all get raises.

    Aug 28, 2019
  • anon

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Much of the extra effort provided by U.S. Postal Service employees often goes unrecognized, so your comments are appreciated. We have recorded your compliment and will share it with Postal Service management.

    Aug 29, 2019