Package power

Letter carrier prepares to deliver packages

If you think the Postal Service is delivering a lot of packages this holiday season, wait until you see what happens next year — and the year after that.

Shoppers are expected to spend $123 billion on online holiday purchases in 2018, up 16.6 percent from one year earlier, according to data from eMarketer. In 2016, online shoppers spent $91.15 billion during the holidays.

This is driving major increases in package volumes for USPS and other shippers.

The Postal Service expects to deliver 900 million packages during the holidays this year, up from about 870 million in 2017 and 750 million two years ago.

A total of 2 billion packages are expected to be handled by USPS and other shippers this holiday season.

The numbers are likely to keep going up for the foreseeable future.

“It is entirely plausible that there will be 4 to 6 billion packages” handled by the Postal Service and other shippers five years from now during the holiday season, according to Brittain Ladd, an online commerce and supply chain analyst.

“Then in 10 years, that number could be between 6 and 8 billion,” he said.

To keep up with the increases, USPS in recent years has invested in new equipment and vehicles and added Sunday package deliveries.

The organization also hires seasonal help, although that can be challenging during a tight labor market.

“You have to be more creative in how you recruit holiday help. We’ve been very successful. Our brand helps us. We have a very trusted brand,” said Kevin McAdams, the Postal Service’s delivery operations vice president.

Surging package volumes also present shippers with logistical challenges, including the need to satisfy customers who want their orders as quickly as possible.

To become more efficient, USPS has introduced methods like dynamic routing, a technique that puts package delivery points in the most efficient, logical order.

“Technology opens up a world of possibilities,” McAdams said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity using technology to facilitate improvements in last-mile delivery.”

The closure of many brick-and-mortar retail businesses will also drive more growth in online shopping in the coming years, especially among consumers in rural areas.

DeeDee Lynch, a Snyder, TX, resident, is hitting the “buy” button on retail sites more often during this holiday season because many chain stores in her area have closed.

“When you live in a metropolitan area, you have so many more choices. But not when you live in a small town,” she said.

Better insights

Boxes full of mail

USPS is making a New Year’s resolution to provide employees with a mail inventory system that is faster, more accurate and less labor intensive.

Mail Condition Visualization (MCV), an Informed Visibility module, will become the organization’s system of record for mail processing conditions during fiscal 2019’s second quarter (Jan. 1-March 31).

MCV will provide near-real-time visibility of a facility’s mail conditions — including mailpieces and mail containers by processing operation, shape and category — while storing historical data.

The module will offer eight categories that apply to all mail shapes and classes at every kind of facility across the nation, including processing and distribution centers, network distribution centers, surface transportation centers and international service centers.

Additionally, MCV will provide visibility into mail shape and class conditions not reported within webMCRS, the current reporting system.

Because MCV offers 24/7 updates, users will have a more comprehensive account of current inventory throughout the day — an improvement from webMRCS, which provides a limited snapshot of the mail conditions at the completion of the Management Operating Data System day.

MCV is part of the Postal Service’s broader efforts to innovate, a core strategy, and move toward more streamlined, efficient processes. The organization will continue to provide employees with more information on MCV before it is launched as the official system of record.

Going local

Postal employees at USPS headquarters

The Postal Service is continuing to promote the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and the importance of giving back.

Across the nation, districts are holding events featuring representatives from CFC charities and guest speakers, including USPS employees whose lives have been touched by the annual federal workplace charity drive.

“This year, we have encountered many disasters that have taken homes and businesses from families,” Richmond, VA, Postmaster Joe Thekkekara told attendees at a recent Richmond District event. “With the holidays approaching, the need to donate is more important than ever.”

USPS wants to raise $6.4 million this year for the CFC, topping the 2017 total of $6.1 million. More than 8,000 charities are participating in the campaign, which is underway through Jan. 11.

Employees at a recent Northern Ohio District event learned about more than 30 charities, including United Way of Greater Cleveland and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

“CFC is a safe way to give back to those in need,” said Cynthia Mravec, a learning development and diversity specialist who regularly reminds co-workers that the charities are vetted by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Lorna Coakley, a business mail entry unit supervisor who serves as Greater South Carolina District’s CFC chair, recently organized an event where she encouraged employees to donate what they can.

“You never know how your giving can change somebody’s life,” she said.

Need to know

Broken shoring straps

Got straps? The Postal Service is working to find replacements for shoring straps that have broken metal buckles or are no longer usable.

In the interim, the organization is selling some straps through a surplus government equipment auction site.

Managers at processing plants, network distribution centers and other facilities that have large quantities of broken shoring straps should email Hillward Moore, an inventory control specialist, or Virginia Moderow, a sustainability project integration specialist, who can help USPS sell these straps.

The USPS Material Distribution Center provides these straps under number 0182 Strap, Shoring Assy, OA LG 144. The supplier part number is 5340030009382.

For additional information, managers can contact their local asset accountability service center.

Holiday operations. The Postal Service is providing general operating policy and planning guidance for the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day holidays on Tuesday, Dec. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 1, respectively.

A new memo, available on Blue, explains guidelines for delivery, retail, processing and logistics operations.

Semiannual report. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed 1,577 investigations during the six-month period that ended Sept. 30.

These investigations led to 400 arrests and almost $72.8 million in fines, restitutions and recoveries. This amount includes $37.2 million that was returned to the Postal Service.

The data is included in the OIG’s latest Semiannual Report to Congress, which notes USPS accepted 75 percent of the agency’s recommendations during the six-month period.

Got news for “Need to know”? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.

News quiz

Santa Claus stamp

Here’s Link’s latest “News quiz,” a weekly feature that invites readers to test their knowledge of recent stories. The correct answers appear at the end.

1. True or false: Some Post Offices may have limited hours Dec. 24, but all Post Offices will be open during regular business hours Dec. 31.

a) True
b) False

2. By what percentage did the Postal Service’s total revenue increase during fiscal 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017-Sept. 30, 2018)?

a) 1.3 percent
b) 1.5 percent
c) 3.1 percent
d) 5.1 percent

3. Fill in the blank: USPS wants to raise a total of (blank) for the Combined Federal Campaign this year.

a) $1.6 million
b) $4.6 million
c) $6.1 million
d) $6.4 million

4. When did Haddon Sundblom create his first images of Santa Claus for a Coca-Cola advertising campaign?

a) 1920
b) 1931
c) 1942
d) 1963

5. Match the 2019 stamp in Column A with its planned release date in Column B.

Column A
a) Black Heritage: Gregory Hines
b) Cactus Flowers
c) Hearts Blossom
d) Lunar New Year: Year of the Boar

Column B
I) Jan. 10
II) Jan. 17
III) Jan. 28
IV) Feb. 15

Answers: 1) a. 2) b. 3) d. 4) b. 5) a. III., b. IV., c. I., d. II.

Look for a new quiz next week and share your feedback with Link at uspslink@usps.gov.