Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are powered industrial vehicles modified to enable driverless operation. Beginning in June 2019, the Postal Service spent [redacted] to purchase and deploy 350 AGVs between October 2019 and April 2022. These AGVs move wheeled or palletized mail transport equipment for processing and dispatch operations within a facility. The Postal Service expected AGVs would reduce mail handling hours, generate labor savings, and introduce automation to mail handling operations.
What We Did
Our objective was to evaluate the Postal Service’s use of AGVs in mail processing operations from the beginning of October 2019 through June 2023. We judgmentally selected nine sites based on AGV usage to conduct our observations.
What We Found
We found that the Postal Service did not use all AGVs as intended and did not meet performance goals for AGV use. Specifically, we identified 177 AGVs (or 46 percent) were used, on average, less than once per day during 2022. This occurred because the Postal Service did not require or adequately monitor the usage of AGVs, resolve issues, or follow up with facilities after deployment to improve use. Postal Service Headquarters management stated changes to processing equipment and facility layout limited the usefulness of AGVs and drove down usage. Additionally, the Postal Service experienced high mail and package volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused congestion at facilities and made AGV usage difficult. We estimate questioned costs of over $28 million associated with underused AGVs.
We also found that the Postal Service did not have accurate accountability of all AGVs. This occurred because the Postal Service did not provide oversight when AGVs were transferred between processing facilities.
We recommended management (1) develop and execute a plan to evaluate AGV locations, require use, and monitor usage to improve performance, (2) train and share best practices and usage goals with personnel at processing facilities that will have AGVs to improve performance, and (3) direct responsible officials to confirm the accuracy of AGV capital asset listings and update information in the Solution for Enterprise Asset Management system and maintenance system records.
USPS Proposed Resolution
Develop and execute a plan to evaluate Automated Guided Vehicle locations, and require and monitor usage to improve performance.
Train and share best practices and usage goals with personnel at processing facilities that will have Automated Guided Vehicles to improve performance.
Direct responsible personnel to confirm the accuracy of Automated Guided Vehicle capital asset listings and update information in the Solution for Enterprise Asset Management system and maintenance system records.