The digital revolution has changed communications, and with it, the operations and finances of the U.S. Postal Service. It also has brought deep changes in the way we design networks and analyze systems. Many organizations rely on mathematical modeling to test ideas before they become operational, conserving money and time. The Postal Service, facing limited capital and resources, has also adopted this practice. It is discovering how important these tools are for assessing strategies for designing the future mail network.
More than 1.4 million Americans serve in the military, with about 200,000 of those troops serving overseas. Members of the armed forces can feel isolated while deployed, often in dangerous conditions. The military discovered long ago that mail boosts the morale of troops serving in other parts of the world, so it has made military mail a high priority. Military mail provides members of the armed forces with a vital link to their communities.
The U.S. Postal Service owns more than 213,000 vehicles, the largest civilian fleet in the world. Many of these vehicles are reaching the end of their operational lives, prompting the Postal Service to wrestle with how best to address its long-term vehicle needs. A recent Government Accountability Office report noted that the organization’s current financial situation poses a significant barrier to vehicle replacement or refurbishment.
More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million.
The Postal Service has built a strong brand name around service, trust, and security. Few other organizations can lay claim to such a strong brand, one with more than 200 years of history and cultivated by the Postal Service’s consistent fulfillment of its mission to securely deliver mail to every American, regardless of location, at a reasonable price. For 6 straight years, the Ponemon Institute has named the Postal Service the most trusted government agency and one of the top 10 most trusted businesses in the nation.
Following the success of the Priority Mail ® Flat Rate Box® advertising campaign, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to use the “If it fits, it ships” letter carrier (actor and comedian Mike Bradecich) as the public face for one of its newest products, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). The campaign’s new tag line, “Every home, every address, every time” describes the new product’s main advantage: small businesses can target every address in their local area without having to provide every name and address.
Starting in April, the private company TNT Post UK plans to test street delivery in the West End of London. Currently, TNT collects and sorts mail and then hands it over to Royal Mail, the traditional government-run postal provider in the United Kingdom, for final street delivery. Now, however, TNT Post UK wants to provide street delivery as well. TNT is seeking assistance from the UK government to provide a level playing field that will allow it to compete effectively with Royal Mail’s delivery service.
City and rural carriers deliver and pick up mail, including letters and packages. In addition, they are familiar figures who care about the people they serve, often helping in dramatic ways while making their rounds in neighborhoods 6 days a week. The U.S. Postal Service has many examples of carriers sending for help when senior citizens fail to collect their mail, alerting residents of fires, aiding accident victims, and even stopping burglaries.
The Postal Service has “coupled” its retail and delivery operations, both managerially and physically, since delivery services were first established almost 150 years ago. Historical patterns, or the needs for delivery service efficiencies, primarily determined the location of physical facilities, which typically house both delivery and retail operations. Demands for postal retail services are changing both geographically and demographically as consumers age and population centers shift.