• Project Title:
  • U.S. Postal Service Processing Network Operational Efficiency
  • Start Date:
  • Monday, August 5, 2019
  • Estimated Report Release Date:
  • March 2020

While package volume has increased over the past few years for the Postal Service, overall mail volume has been declining. To address these declines, the Postal Service launched several strategic initiatives to improve its processing network including: 

    - A revision of First-Class Mail standards;

    - Consolidation of operations to address declining mail volume;

    - A model to calculate mail processing productivity;

    - A staffing model to determine optimal complement mix and schedules for craft employees; and

    - Software to optimize machine usage by projecting plans to maximize processing efficiency. 

We are conducting this audit to determine if the mail processing network is optimized to meet operational needs and achieve efficiency.

  • What other mail processing initiatives could the Postal Service undertake to counter the decline in mail volume? 
  • Are there best practices the Postal Service could use to standardize mail processing operations?

Comments (17)

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  • anon

    I believe that the USPS should sell a product to the consumer which will slowly eliminate redundant services that the USPS has been providing, which now is a waste process to their product delivering process. Throughout this thread, I am reading about suggestions to the USPS’s internal processes, which has ZERO effect on how the customer will consume their product. It appears that the lost revenues, over the last 20 years, is not a process improvement issue, but a product evolution issue. The connection in sold product to work floor, is that with newer products, you force newer processes at the manufacturing level. Right now, the USPS is trying to change internal processes to meet external product changes and evolution, but their product hasn’t changed; only their sales volume has. One of the issues that I have seen brought up in this thread repeatedly is the lack of efficiency in processing current product volume-the USPS wants better throughput rates for decreased mail travel times, thus keeping that customer base. I don’t think that this is your answer. I believe that the answer is in the USPS realizing what their products truly are: it’s not mail. Historically the USPS has only sold government-backed secure communication channels in the form of a postage stamp and government-backed secured distribution of those products/items labeled with the USPS stamp. In providing this product, the USPS CREATED LOGISTICS. Maybe the USPS should certify Snail Mail to Fax and Snail Mail to Email. Also, the USPS could offer full office services along with Banking services. All of their services that they can offer can be Certified Government Secured processes. Thy can recapture services lost to FedEx/Kinkos and Amazon. Maybe the USPS can separate mail and parcel services into a completely separate divisions. Keep Mail streams just that and have separate centers and processing for parcels/packages. You could even separate retail (Amazon) parcels from USPS parcels as it’s own processing streams, with their own distribution centers. Keep one thing one thing and stay very good at it, instead of ‘diversifying’ processes and introducing waste steps from mixing different products which demand unique processes.

    Aug 27, 2019
  • anon

    I was supposedly sent a certified letter. I never received it. When I asked for proof I was sent a picture of my signature which was forged!!! I can not get the full route of the certified letter. It was sent to me in January so it was 8 months ago but there should still be some kind of proof if and who signed the certified letter.

    Aug 22, 2019
  • anon

    Thanks for your message. For lost, missing, or damaged packages, please contact the Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office (www.usps.com/help/welcome.htm or 1-800-222-1811) and they will be able to assist you.

    Aug 28, 2019
  • anon

    - A revision of First-Class Mail standards ... Even with lowered standards internal bureaucratic goal setting will manage to offset the majority of potential/projected gains with such an effort ('get ahead one day for service'). The cost of postage is simply too low IMO. - Consolidation of operations to address declining mail volume ... Not too surprising as this seems logical and consistent as to what private sector will do with consolidating its workforce/real estate. The issue becomes the fact that the USPS has to deliver nationwide to every household. Consolidations thus end up with diminishing and ultimately damaging returns as costs get displaced into other untracked/unrealized areas where one would have to play a complex game of accounting to accurately measure the cost of having consolidated facilities/operations. - A model to calculate mail processing productivity ... Each internal model I've come across has potential for major data integrity issues. If you review the M-32 you'll find what amounts to seemingly hundreds of different operations, which are categorized into various LDCs as they'd otherwise be too difficult to track collectively. In mid-upper management, to supervisors and craft level employees from what I've observed many don't understand what are the correct operations for various performed functions due to the massive complexity that has been constructed with tracking the productivity of sorting and delivering the mail. - A staffing model to determine optimal complement mix and schedules for craft employees and Software to optimize machine usage by projecting plans to maximize processing efficiency ... These two are quite interconnected with plant staffing models ('function 1 scheduler', 'ewhep'). They are also potentially quite flawed as well even though they seemingly mean well to standardize staffing models into something logical. All too often the tool itself (F1 scheduler, ewhep, etc...) internally stops being seen as a logical attempt to make sense of complement models and instead becomes a tool to set goals by remote upper management personnel in achieving some percentage metric. Even though I don't often buy too far into the idea that one plant or PO significantly differs from another in their actual operation, I do buy into that there are large variations in the reporting of volume/work hours which provide ample incorrect data to skew the projected best complement mix for a particular facility against a standardized model. Though as noted before with the tool becoming the goal ultimately the feasibility of the model in a particular facility is meaningless to those who will 'authorize' the allowed complement mix as those folks will see this as an opportunity to 'right' the 'wrongdoings' that were permitted. So I do applaud the idea/effort but ultimately knowing where it ends up and seeing the ramifications of how it is bureaucratically handled I am doubtful of any true positive benefit, only those that are selectively measured within the criteria set forth by goal setting. Are there best practices the Postal Service could use to standardize mail processing operations? ... Investing as much as possible into newer processing equipment that allows for more automation with less dependence on people to handle the mail. With contractual agreements in place the USPS ends up paying a premium greater than other organizations do to have people to handle the mail. The machines also don't incur as much additional cost as noted in other comments about treatment of people (morale, grievances, EEOs, etc. which result in either direct monetary cost or as a significant portion of work hours spent towards activities which aren't directly related to achieving processing mail) or training of people who handle the mail.

    Aug 22, 2019
  • anon

    I don't believe that consolidation is the answer, I tend to agree with anonymous and Carlos alsina. Volume at plants can have a high amount of redundant pieces that take up machine time and carrier time. It's obvious from reddit that a considerable number of our customers don't have any idea how the flow works and what part they can play to ensure their own mail arrives timely. As well our various crafts have little to no knowledge of what goes on once they send out their outgoing. The placarding system is meant to save time but not relatable to many persons, they have no clue regarding the levels of presortation or the complete intent of cross docking MTE. Trucks have limited capacity and these lovingly labeled and segregated cross-docked APC's end up costing man-hours to combine, wearing multiple placards that likely don't get scanned in. Certainly standardization throughout plants would be a good thing but employees need to have a wider base of experience to make working decisions, as does management.

    Aug 21, 2019
  • anon

    The USPS is totally missed managed. Way to many supervisors and top management. Need to make the skilled laborers more accountable and responsible for over all operations and productivity. There are so many wasted dollars for bad decisions of some of the management. Make everyone be accountable for every dollar spent. Millions of wasted dollars turn into billions of wasted dollars. That is what has happened to the USPS in the last 20 years. Top management is not held accountable for bad decisions. As they say it always rolls down hill from the very top to the very bottom

    Aug 20, 2019
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. We will be reviewing management and the accountability at all levels.

    Aug 21, 2019
  • anon

    Reduce the processing equipment and use the excess space as distribution centers for parcels from SMB Ask a business to let usps warehouse their top 10-15 skus then Postal can ship them when ordered.

    Aug 20, 2019
  • anon

    One way to standardize mail operations is making sure at the retail counter every piece of mail or package has the correct postage. Clerks are fully trained, & aware of the different services the postal service offers along with the use for each service. I see a lot of things slip thru the cracks with certain clerks because they don’t fix the issues at hand. Ex: customers sending things that’s not MEDIA mail through the mail stream using that shipping method everyday we loose revenue because small things like that are being over looked as well as having a service of certificate of mailing which is not being used much because customers want receipts for dropping of prepaid parcels which they should be getting charged for.

    Aug 20, 2019
  • anon

    Hi, knowing that technology and emails have reduced letter mail, but at the same time USPS are returning mail because the wrong format, example; 456 you st, they wrote you st #456. The carrier knows where is going but management want them to return them. So that person stopped using USPS and receiving everything thru emails. I think if the carrier knows it should be deliver like the old times.

    Aug 19, 2019
  • anon

    Package damaged containing three urns with our mother's ashes. Package received damaged. One of three hand made urns was inside. Filed claim which included pics if shipping box and the very unique urns that were lost. Tracking revealed the handling logistics. Why could they not be found? Could you not use a facial recognition-like software to match sender's pics with pics of items at your various centers that hold lost items?

    Aug 18, 2019
  • anon

    Thanks for your message. For lost, missing, or damaged packages, please contact the Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office (www.usps.com/help/welcome.htm or 1-800-222-1811) and they will be able to assist you.

    Aug 28, 2019
  • anon

    USPS likes to murder destroy Drive customers to insanity because unable to ever deliver mail with tracking numbers provided! What is the point? They just don’t care!

    Aug 18, 2019
  • anon

    If you want to optimize use of the postal process for all classes of mail you must reconnect with and re-instill trust in your shipping audience. That means getting back to basics. Simply sort and distribute mail with timelines and standards that mean something. Currently, workplace expectations are unrealistic because there is a lack of REAL training at every level. Computer tutorials cannot provide the experiences that create actual growth and lasting understanding. The postal service places heavy emphasis on improving career status by learning to sell yourself. The focus should be on selling our legacy and service (not the brand or even our products) to the people who use it. Every employee who touches the mail should be made to exhibit a thorough knowledge of products, pricing, and mail flow. They should be able to tell people what is acceptable packaging, expected pricing and the set service standards for all types of mail. They need to truly understand what that letter or packagage will go through to get where it is going and back when necessary. Real, live education and ongoing assessments done by actual people are the only way to turn things around. Employees (top to bottom) cannot respect the importance of this American legacy without a proper foundation and once that foundation has been established, there must be an expectation to continually prove and improve that understanding in order to maintain the legacy of the United States Postal Service and her history of dedication to the public. When that foundation has been made stable again and we are able to value our service to customers over numbers on spreadsheets, customers will once again respect the USPS for the amazing national gift that it is. We we will no longer need to waste countless dollars trying to lure customers back in. We won't need to try to optimize through watching clock rings and upgrading machinery because the our customers will optimize their use of us of their own accord when we are the organization that we once were. EDUCATION, ACCOUNTABILITY, CUSTOMER SERVICE, & SANCTITY OF THE MAIL Sincerely, one of your employees

    Aug 16, 2019
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. We will take training into consideration as part of our audit work.

    Aug 21, 2019
  • anon

    The report should consider the adverse effects of plant consolidation on first class mail standards, increased transportation costs and environmental impact. On a personal note, I find that cards & letters between the SF Bay Area and rural areas near Green Bay WI now take a week. Before the plant consolidation it was three days, sometimes 2nd day delivery.

    Aug 15, 2019
  • anon

    Thank you for your response. Transportation costs are being looked at in a separate audit concurrent with this audit.

    Aug 22, 2019