Alaska is “a very big small state,” in the words of Adam Fisher.
The in-plant support manager at the Anchorage Processing and Distribution Center explains it this way: Overlaid over the Lower 48, Alaska would stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to Indiana and from Miami to New York, with the Aleutian Islands reaching beyond the Rockies.
All that space, and only 731,000 people to fill it.
“We have to fly to most of our Post Offices,” Fisher said. “We deliver mail to many locations where there is no Post Office. We have a small and dedicated Logistics team focused on keeping track of hundreds of flights a day into and out of rural Alaska.”
Those awesome logistics — the largest state in the union by area with a population much lower than the smallest, Rhode Island — piqued the curiosity of USPS Chief Logistics and Processing Operations Officer Isaac Cronkhite and Logistics Vice President Robert Cintron.
The two packed their parkas and flew to the Last Frontier to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Alaska’s employees pull this Arctic hare out of a hat.
Alaska District Manager Ronald Haberman briefed Cronkhite and Cintron before their visit, which was organized by a group that included Fisher; Rita Oliver, the Anchorage Processing and Distribution Center’s senior plant manager; Marc Kersey, division logistics director; John DiPeri, division processing operations senior director; and Karlett Gilbert, regional logistics senior director.
On their first day, Cintron and Cronkhite toured the Anchorage center and discussed peak season, physical upgrades on the work floor and the center’s new automated delivery unit sorter machine.
The following day they took a trip to the western hub of Bethel. From there, they traveled by hovercraft to the remote village of Akiachak.
The secluded outpost was an eye-opener for Cronkhite. “It would be hard to overstate how essential the Postal Service is for people in remote areas like Akiachak,” he said. “We are truly a lifeline for them.”
He praised the Logistics team for their yeoman’s work keeping the mail flowing in the frigid landscape. “The hurdles are considerable, but the team thinks ahead,” he said.
Fisher and the Anchorage team don’t coast on their achievements.
“We’re always asking the question, ‘How many times do we need to touch a parcel before the carrier delivers it?’” he said.
“We also keep asking ourselves, ‘How redundant can we be so that, if a machine breaks, we can keep sorting?’”
That “continuous improvement” mindset is a big benefit for Alaskans, particularly those in remote regions.
Though they face “very interesting and unique logistical issues,” Fisher is unfazed. “We are ready for peak season and we will be ready for the future.”