Our objective was to identify opportunities to improve Surface Visibility (SV) scan compliance at Postal Service processing and distribution centers (P&DCs) in the Capital Metro Area and summarize our prior Western Area SV scanning audit work. This is our second and final report examining SV scanning compliance.
We selected the Capital Metro Area for this audit because from fiscal year (FY) 2015, Quarter (Q) 4, to FY 2017, Q4, its average scan compliance rate was about 82 percent, the lowest in the nation. We selected two high-performing sites and two low-performing sites based on their FY 2017 scan compliance, as of July 21, 2017, to identify best practices. We judgmentally selected the Greensboro and Norfolk P&DCs as high performers due to their average scan compliance rates of 93 percent and the Northern Virginia and Peachtree P&DCs as low performers due to their average scan compliance rates of 80 percent.
The Postal Service’s SV network provides nationwide mail container visibility, real-time asset identification, and improved dock operations at over 374 sites. During a video message to all employees in November 2017, the postmaster general said that “we have real-time visibility into our network and we know customers track their packages more closely during the holiday season. So timely and accurate scanning is key.” SV sites have Mail Transport Equipment Labelers (MTEL) to print barcoded placards that are scanned four different times using a wireless SVmobile scanning device. Permanently affixed trailer barcodes are scanned twice.
The Postal Service’s FY 2018 national facility scan compliance goal is 94 percent. As of February 2, 2018, the reported percentage achieved was 90 percent.
What the OIG Found
We identified a best practice in the Capital Metro Area and summarized the best practice we identified in our previous Western Area audit.
In the Capital Metro Area, Norfolk and Greensboro P&DC management reviewed daily scan data to identify problem areas, conducted spot checks of those areas to correct issues, and ensured scans were conducted. Additionally, supervisors discussed any problem areas with individual employees and during stand-up talks.
In the Western Area, we previously identified a best practice of posting scan data printouts on the workroom floor that compared the scanning performance of all P&DCs.
This audit also found needed improvements in scan compliance in the Capital Metro and Western areas for containers without MTEL placards and in the Capital Metro Area for load and unload scans not being performed.
We observed at the Greensboro, Norfolk, Northern Virginia, and Peachtree P&DCs that about 48 percent of selected incoming mail containers and about 12 percent of selected outgoing mail containers did not have MTEL placards. This occurred because the P&DC staff could not print MTEL placards for 24 hours after any trip was changed in the MTEL system. Headquarters Enterprise Analytics said that they were aware of the MTEL placard printing issue, but did not know how often it happened and did not consider it a problem.
At the Greensboro and Peachtree P&DCs, we observed placards falling off containers because the plastic sleeves that are supposed to contain the MTEL placards were not present. Instead, the staff taped the MTEL placards to the mail containers, which is less secure than using the required plastic sleeves. Additionally, Northern Virginia P&DC managers were not ensuring that MTEL placards were being used.
We also observed personnel at the selected Capital Metro Area P&DCs were not always performing load and unload scans. Our analysis of missing trip scan data from SVWeb indicated that over 43 percent of trips did not have load or unload scans. This occurred because the Greensboro, Norfolk, Northern Virginia, and Peachtree P&DCs had inadequate management oversight of scanning in the dock areas. Additionally, the SV coordinator at the Norfolk P&DC was not aware of an SV system update that required trailers to be assigned to trips before employees performed container load scans. The SV coordinator said they revised their processes to ensure employees assign trailers to trips before performing load scans.
As a result of these conditions, the Capital Metro Area has reduced scan scores and customer visibility. As of February 2, 2018, the average scan score for the Capital Metro Area was 86 percent and the national average is 90 percent.
Finally, the Northern Virginia and Peachtree P&DCs could not find 43 of 210 (over 20 percent) assigned SVmobile scanners. Our analysis indicated that 23 scanners at the Northern Virginia P&DC and 20 scanners at the Peachtree P&DC that could not be located had not connected to the SV network in the 30 days prior to our visits. This occurred because local management did not follow the SV policy requiring employees to sign for issued scanners.
As a result, we calculated questioned costs of over $32,000 for replacing the missing scanners. We made a referral to our Office of Investigations about the missing scanners.
In the Western Area, we previously identified problems with SVmobile scanner connectivity, the capability of Postal Service personnel performing duplicate scans, and inadequate personnel assigned to scanning. Western Area management was taking corrective actions to address these issues.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management:
- Implement SV scanning best practices nationwide.
- Require P&DC managers to ensure employees use plastic MTEL sleeves for all mail containers with MTEL placards.
- Develop procedures to ensure mail container visibility during MTEL system trip updates.
- Update the MTEL system to resolve the 24-hour system update delay.
- Ensure through training and monitoring that P&DC managers provide adequate oversight of scanning operations to ensure all mail is scanned as required.
- Conducting an inventory to determine the number of SVmobile scanners on hand nationwide compared to the issued number and the needed replacements.