Standardization has played a major role in improving efficiency in all operations and support functions. Launched in 2001, the Breakthrough Productivity Initiative (BPI) helped focus and structure process improvement efforts to drive productivity growth. BPI helps identify higher-performing units which are used as models; standard procedures are then established based on the best practices identified. Training is developed to share performance expectations, and targets are set to replicate success and drive performance to new levels.
Lean Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement
Lean Six Sigma tools are being applied to reduce variation and improve quality and efficiency. Continuous improvement practices began with plant equipment and process standardization. Value stream mapping is used to eliminate steps that reduce efficiency. A key area of focus is processing equipment performance, in particular, equipment maintenance, throughput capacity, and sort accuracy. New field Operational Industrial Engineers will play a key role in the implementation of standardized processes in plants.
Efforts to establish a solid understanding of 24-Hour Clock Indicators have helped improve control of and recovery time from service failures. Separate indicators are now established and tracked for every step in the process of moving the mail, from cancellation to dispatch, to delivery and the carrier’s return to the office. Nationwide use of the indicators has markedly improved consistency and conformance to standards and has reduced variability.
The Postal Service uses a variety of tools to establish standards for retail operations and provides a consistent level of quality and customer service at Post Offices. Increasingly, managers are aided by robust new scheduling tools to optimize resources. The Automated Workload Planning System identifies workload and the resources necessary. The Customer Service Variance and Customer Service Staffing models, deployed in 2007, help align staffing to changes in customer transactions.
The Mail Processing Staffing Opportunity Model (MPSOM) is an application that helps managers respond proactively to workload changes in plants, ensuring a better alignment of resources with volume, and, ultimately, helping conserve workhours and complement. National implementation of MPSOM is planned in 2008. Mail Processing Variance (MPV) is a complementary model that provides staffing, workhour, productivity, and workload analysis. MPV data track actual vs. targeted productivity from national to unit levels, and presents savings opportunities in a relevant and actionable platform.
The Run Plan Generator is an innovative program for scheduling equipment in plants to increase efficiency and reduce variation. This multifaceted application integrates a standardized, data-driven approach to forecasting, and uses a powerful scheduling model to display plan and actual production data and a means to evaluate day-to-day effectiveness.
Processes for standardizing maintenance are currently under review with further development continuing in 2008. At select facilities, remote video maintenance support will be expanded to shorten repair cycle times, reduce maintenance costs, and improve readiness. Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) plays a critical role in preventive maintenance of processing equipment and deployments. RCM analysis will be performed on FSS equipment in 2008 to ensure equipment is optimized.
The Tray Consolidation Initiative improves the density of trays and gains cost savings on air transportation by standardizing and consolidating sort plans and mail flows. National deployment will be completed in 2008.
Due to new requirements associated with changes in service standards and mailer behavior, the Postal Service is continuing to explore alternatives. A new concept, in the initial evaluation stage, would create a time-definite surface network to support the distribution and transportation of Standard Mail, Periodicals, and Packages. The Postal Service is conducting research to better understand industry best practices and capabilities for such a network. The concept includes the evaluation of options to revitalize the Bulk Mail Center network to keep it efficient, affordable, and responsive to evolving needs.
The consolidation of operations improves productivity, increases mail density in containers, and better utilizes equipment and transportation capacity. Local offices will continue to review operations for Area Mail Processing opportunities. In 2007 four remote encoding centers (RECs) were closed, resulting in a recurrent annual savings of more than $7 million. Eight RECs remain to support processing operations. Some non-core operations, such as mail assignment, were transferred from expensive airport property to processing plants. Over 40 air-stops with commercial air and cargo suppliers were standardized, with additional sites to be standardized in 2008. There are 20 surface transfer centers in operation, enabling the shift of mail from air to surface transportation while still meeting existing service standards.