The Postal Service uses Terminal Handling Services (THS) to load mail into air containers and deliver them to the air supplier for transportation. As part of its Delivering for America plan to achieve financial stability and service excellence and meet the evolving mailing and shipping needs of the American public and business customers, the U.S. Postal Service is discontinuing contracted services for THS and bringing operations in-house. On August 22, 2022, the West Valley Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Phoenix, AZ, was selected as the first site to transition its THS operations from the contracted service to in-house Postal Service operations. Through the transition, they maintained existing key performance indicators, policies and procedures, and plant management oversight, and hired former contracted personnel as Postal Service employees. The THS duties include maximizing container utilization and timely delivery of containers to reduce transportation costs and avoid delayed mail – both key to the Postal Service’s goals of financial stability and service excellence.
What We Did
Our objective was to assess the effectiveness of the THS operations at the West Valley P&DC. To assess the effectiveness of THS operations, we reviewed three key performance indicators including air container utilization, bypass utilization, and timely tendering of mail to the air supplier. In addition, we analyzed air container data from October 2021 to May 2023, and further supported our analysis with a site visit to the West Valley P&DC during the week of May 22, 2023, to review the THS operations.
What We Found
The THS operations at the West Valley P&DC were less effective since transitioning from contracted supplier services to in-house Postal Service operations, based on evaluation of the three key performance indicators. Specifically, Postal Service management did not effectively monitor the THS operations to ensure the performance indicators were achieved for container utilization, bypass utilization, and timely tendering of mail to the air supplier. As a result, we estimated the Postal Service incurred $11 million in questioned costs from October 2021 through May 2023, due to missed opportunities to increase container and bypass utilization.
We recommended management (1) refine and reissue key performance indicators for in-house THS operations; (2) perform periodic review of the density goal and communicate updated goals as needed; (3) monitor daily operations and processing of mail to meet the THS goals; (4) re-evaluate the operating windows for timely arrival of mail at the THS; (5) perform periodic reviews to verify the scale is functional, and the THS personnel are accurately weighing and recording container weights; and (6) conduct an after-action review and implement lessons learned in future transitions.
USPS Proposed Resolution
Refine and reissue Key Performance Indicators associated with in-house Terminal Handling Services operations, to include conducting a study to formalize the density goal for container utilization and developing timeliness goals for mail volume arriving at the Terminal Handling Services from processing.
Perform periodic review of the density goal and communicate updated goals as needed.
After issuance of the Key Performance Indicators, direct plant management to monitor daily operations and processing of mail to meet the Terminal Handling Services goals.
Direct plant management to re-evaluate the operating windows to make changes which may improve timely arrival of mail at the Terminal Handling Services.
Direct plant management to perform periodic reviews to verify the scale is functional and Terminal Handling Services personnel are weighing containers and accurately recording container weights.
Conduct an after-action review, and implement lessons learned to increase operational efficiency and management oversight in future transitions.