Good thinking

If a pop-up warning message on a sorting machine screen recently prevented an operator from accidentally running the wrong sort plan, you can thank Jason Kreutzer and the Postal Service’s IdeaSMART program.

Kreutzer, an operations support specialist at the Des Moines, IA, Processing and Distribution Center, got the idea after analyzing a series of incidents that occurred on the plant’s automated letter sorting machines.

He noticed sort plan mismatch incidents would occasionally occur when operators, sometimes filling in for others on a break, would simply run a loaded sort program without double-checking to make sure it was the right one.

“For instance, an operator might think they are running Standard Mail because that’s what’s staged at the machine,” Kreutzer said. “But if he’s wrong and the wrong program is loaded, you have mail going to the wrong place, which ultimately delays mail processing and deliveries.”

Kreutzer’s idea offered a fail-safe: Once you loaded the sort program, a screen would pop up asking, “Are you sure you want to continue with this program?”

He submitted his suggestion to the Postal Service’s IdeaSMART program, which allows employees to offer ideas that could improve customer satisfaction, generate revenue, improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs.

Kreutzer’s proposed solution was evaluated by a team that included Amit Cholkar, technology development and applications director, and Yousri Bel Hadj, an engineering systems technology management associate.

“We have to think through the complete solution. We have to make sure a change does not have an adverse impact on other systems and processes. We make sure the idea is fixing the root cause and not just putting a Band-Aid on the problem,” Cholkar said.

Peer feedback indicated plants nationwide had experienced similar sort plan mismatch situations.

“Sort plan mismatch is a very common issue. If you start the wrong sort plan, you could wind up sending mail for Sacramento to New York. [Kreutzer’s solution] could very quickly alert operators that, for instance, before they went on break, they were running a different sort plan,” Bel Hadj said.

In order to implement the solution, the IdeaSMART team worked with the firm that writes the sorting machine software. When it was time to upgrade the software, Kreutzer’s proposal was included.

Overall, the process — from submitting the idea to implementation — took several months.

“It might take us a while, but we definitely want employees to send more ideas our way,” Bel Hadj said.

The pop-up warning message, which is active on 960 sorting machines at 40 sites, will be deployed nationally later in the year. It is expected to significantly reduce sort plan mismatch incidents — and it all started with Kreutzer’s idea.

“I’m pretty proud,” he said.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov. Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.

Leave home without it

The Postal Service wants employees and contractors to remember they should not take USPS-issued mobile devices with them on international vacations or other non-work-related excursions abroad.

Personnel who use these devices must protect them against damage, unauthorized access and theft, according to the Postal Service’s AS-805 Information Security policy handbook.

Unless an individual receives authorization, they must not travel with USPS laptops, smartphones, tablets and removable storage-media devices to destinations outside the United States.

Aside from theft concerns, criminals could gain access to postal mobile devices or laptops when connected to unsecured Wi-Fi, leaving the USPS technology network and data vulnerable to online attacks.

Domestic travel with postal devices is permitted, so long as employees and contractors adhere to USPS security guidelines.

Postal workers are also reminded that they are prohibited from loading USPS documents and other information onto personal devices or connecting personal computers or mobile devices to the organization’s network.

If postal-issued devices are lost, missing or stolen, alert your manager immediately, email the CyberSecurity Operations Center and call the Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

Parcel lockers

The Postal Service has updated its parcel locker requirements for apartment buildings.

The update revises Standard 4C of the Postal Operations Manual, changing the current 10-to-1 mailbox-to-parcel-locker ratio to 5-to-1 to better accommodate increases in package volumes.

According to the manual, all new and remodeled apartment buildings — which are required to install USPS-approved 4C equipment — must have at least one parcel locker for every five customer mail compartments.

Buildings with a minimum of five mail compartments must have at least one parcel locker.

In both cases, parcel lockers and mail compartments should be located close to the entrance.

Buildings with mail receptacles installed on exterior walls have similar requirements.

Apartment buildings should verify appropriate locations for installations of parcel lockers and mail compartments with local Postmasters.

News Briefs

Scanning snapshot

A snapshot of Postal Service scanning data shows the national rating was 96.84 percent during the week ending April 2, down almost one-quarter of a point from one week earlier.

The data was collected April 7.

Central led the four areas with a rating of 97.13 percent, while Southern ranked last with a 96.59 percent rating.

Among the 67 districts, Western Pennsylvania, part of Atlantic Area, ranked first with a 98.33 percent rating, while Atlanta, part of Southern Area, ranked last with a 92.2 percent rating.

Scanning data allows customers to track their mail and packages, which helps USPS deliver excellent service, boost loyalty and drive revenue.

To see the latest data, go to the Informed Visibility website and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.” Postal Service employees must request Informed Visibility access through eAccess.

Got news? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.