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On today’s podcast, I recap the recent DTAC meetings, and some upcoming changes to the USPS Board of Governors.
Welcome to the podcast everyone!
The Delivery Technology Advocacy Council, or DTAC as it is commonly known, met in St. Augustine, FL on November 16 with both an in-person and remote attendee meeting. Kudos to the many association members that were able to be there in person, Karen McCormick from the USPS OIG, and also to our postal partners who were willing to join us while in the midst of the peak mailing season. I especially want to thank Chairman Steve Lopez and Windowbook for hosting the meeting and for Garrett Hoyt who was recently named Acting Vice President, Technology Applications for the USPS who attended in person. Congratulations again, Garrett on your recent promotion!
We began the meeting with a presentation from Robert Cintron who discussed how the USPS prepared and is actively managing the peak mailing season, or what they call their Quarter 1 Readiness plan. Some things that the USPS implemented prior to peak included:
- Working on a deliberate plan for loading and unloading training that has been rolled out throughout the network, which appears to be a response to last year’s challenge of not following a first-in, first-out approach. And having designated teams for expediters and handlers to focus on cycle times at the doors
- They also increased facility space by opening 51 package support annexes, installing 89 new package sorters, increasing work floor space by 7.2 million square feet all of which should enable them to increase capacity by 2.4 million pieces per day.
- Robert also wanted to assure the industry that the USPS is “not getting out” of the air transport business but rather making sure the right products are in the right network. The USPS has 12% more capacity than 2021 for air transport.
Robert also discussed how the USPS is enhancing mail transport as well by expanding Surface Transfer Center capacity by 1.6 million additional square feet and adding 315 additional dock doors. The USPS has also focused a lot on logistics and yard control improvements leveraging data and technology to facility load and unload times. Robert urged the industry to continue to destination enter mail as close to the final destination as possible to shorten cycle times.
Finally, Robert discussed the Rapid Entry and Mail Unload, or REMU, initiative which is a joint USPS and industry initiative to share logistics and GPS data. Industry arrival times are updated in real-time using GPS units and data that is shared with the USPS. The truckload contents are mapped to the FAST appointments and the USPS has even developed some interesting visualization tools to manage the data and provide business analytics, though these tools are for internal purposes right now. Some DTAC members suggested that a workshare discount might be something for the USPS to consider providing to those MSPs that are able to share data with the REMU initiative. And on that note of workshare, it was suggested by some in DTAC including myself that perhaps that phrase doesn’t really reflect what the industry now provides the USPS, and that data sharing, and other collaborative efforts are more akin to value added services.
Next up, we heard from Marc McCrery, the USPS VP of Customer Experience. For the first time, the USPS has a single organization dedicated to delivering consistent Customer Care and Experiences, which includes consumer advocate, business service network, Enterprise Customer Care and Retention, Customer Experience, and Field Customer Relations. Marc noted that the toll-free number of 1-800-ask-usps had 94 million total network calls within the past year with 11.3 million of those calls answered by agents. The average wait time was nearly 9 and a half minutes. The primary reason for the calls were related to missing packages, which were reported as delivered but not yet received by the end recipient. I’ve personally seen this happen a number of times as well and suspect it is due to companies that use the USPS as the last mile delivery and report the stats of “delivered” for the package when in fact it was only delivered to the local post office. As data sharing continues to become ubiquitous and with carriers scanning packages at the delivery point, we should see less of this concern.
Marc did a great job presenting his vision for how he is going to enhance the customer experience. However, some members of DTAC seemed to feel that the focus was more on retail customer concerns and not enough on the mail owner or service providers. Knowing Marc, however, I am certain that he is working on actively improving that part of the customer experience as well. Marc has been a solid partner with the industry these many years and understands how the ecosystem of this industry works.
Finally, we heard from Garrett Hoyt whom I noted earlier attended the meeting in person. Garrett discussed his new role as Acting Vice President, Technology Applications and presented a few slides on active initiatives. However, most of his presentation was spent listening to concerns from DTAC members; especially software companies that are trying to prepare for five major releases in the next twelve months. DTAC urged Garrett and the USPS to consider returning to a scheduled major and minor release cadence whereby structure changes would be implemented with a January release and only price updates released for July. Garrett did appear to understand the challenge, though noted that there are a number of functional areas within the USPS that would need to come together in order to establish an agreed upon cadence. It was suggested that MTAC might be a venue for this, but most including myself feel that the Mailing Software Development Group, or MSDG which is a committee withing DTAC, would be the best venue for a conversation between USPS and industry stakeholder to align on not only a proper cadence for releases but also structural changes to Mail.dat and Mail.XML.
Turning to the Board of Governors, it looks like we have some changes coming. As I noted in a prior podcast, governor Bloom was reelected chairman even though there was an effort to table that vote likely since governor Bloom’s term was set to expire on December 8. It seemed odd to me that the Board of Governors would reelect governor Bloom to chairman without an active reappointment from President Biden, and so it wasn’t too surprising when we learned that President Biden chose not to reappoint Ron Bloom but rather put forward two other appointments to replace governor Bloom and governor Barger who’s term also expires on December 8.
President Biden appointed Dan Tangherlini, a democrat who had served during the Obama administration, and Derek Kan a republican who also served during the Obama administration and served as undersecretary of transportation for policy in the United States Department of Transportation during the Trump administration.
If the Senate confirms these two nominations, we will still have a politically balanced Board of Governors with four democrats, four republicans, and one independent. It would also mean that the majority of the governors are president Biden nominations, which some in the industry believe could be a move to roll back some of the service performance changes for First-Class Mail that were implemented as part of the Delivering for America plan.
The next several months will certainly be interesting for the Board of Governors, and personally I agree with what governor Ron Stroman said when he noted that there just didn’t seem to be enough savings to justify the change to First-Class Mail standards. Raising prices while reducing service continues to be a real challenge for mail owners to accept. The focus, in my opinion, should be leveraging the partnership with the industry to continually seek ways to share data such as the REMU project and to leverage advanced mail sortation and workflow automation to further induct mail into the system as Robert Cintron noted. Together, I am confident the mailing industry can help prepare the USPS for a sustainable and profitable future.
Thank you for listening to today’s podcast, and if you’d like to learn more about mail tracking, or how to better automate your mailing workflows, please visit us at BCC Software.com or give us a call. As always, we’d like to know “How can we help?” Thank you for listening to the podcast, and have a great day!