The Postal Service relies on an array of sorting machines, scanners, robotics and other technology that operate around the clock to process a staggering 425 million pieces of mail a day.
Keeping those machines running is a 24-hours-a-day job, according to Billy Franks, field support and equipment implementation/optimization manager for the Maintenance Technical Support Center in Norman, OK.
“There are a lot of aspects to maintenance,” he said.
The center provides national support and maintenance policies for the Postal Service’s mail processing equipment. Franks guides the center’s help desk, which provides 24/7 support, along with about 100 national support technicians across the nation.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the technicians — also known as NSTs — have continued to repair postal machines and install equipment while providing sites with 24-hour telephone tech support.
A tenet of Delivering for America, the organization’s 10-year modernization plan, is providing reliable service.
Along with operations and logistics teams, the Maintenance Technical Support Center played an important role in the successful holiday peak season — including strategically locating NSTs in areas with high mail volume to ensure everything was working properly.
The center also completed 74 peak-season project requests from plants that wanted to, for example, move or replace 2,000-square-foot automated delivery unit sorters to make way for new, parcel-friendly 1,500-square-foot small delivery unit sorters.
Franks said 40 NSTs spent more than 2,600 days on the road last year supporting peak season moves, which saved the organization more than $2.6 million by not contracting out the work.
Each project request is carefully orchestrated with plant managers, engineers and other stakeholders, according to Connie Hayes, maintenance specialist.
“There are a lot of moving parts. It’s not like moving a recliner across the living room. When we take a machine down, even if we are moving it within the facility, it might [be offline for] eight days, so the plant will have to offload mail to a neighboring plant to ensure the customers’ mail isn’t delayed while the machine is down,” she said.
Sometimes machines are moved from one plant to another in a different state.
“No two moves are the same. It’s not cookie cutter,” said Don Wankel, a national service technician based at the Mid Carolina Processing and Distribution Center in Charlotte, NC. “When you walk into a plant, you have to figure out how to get the equipment out. It’s a challenge, but it’s fun.”
Meanwhile, the Maintenance Technical Support Center is busy working on 85 new project requests while, at the same time, assisting sites challenged by performance issues and maintaining the national help desk, which supports more than 150 tickets daily.
“The single best word I would use to describe the Maintenance Technical Support Center team is ‘responsive,’” said Chief Logistics and Processing Operations Officer Isaac Cronkhite.
“Whether it is responding to an alert on one of their 24/7 monitoring dashboards, an urgent call to the help desk or an ongoing concern with equipment, the entire team is ready to provide outstanding support and expertise to keep our plants running as efficiently and effectively as possible.”