The USPS’ Radical Plan
But investment in the postal service has been almost non-existent the past few years because of its cash crisis. Its plan is unrealistic regarding how quickly changes can be implemented and, so far, has not addressed the investments necessary to fix the underlying causes of the agency's inefficiency.
The plan, for example, would reduce the number of processing and distribution centers from more than 500 to fewer than 200 in the next 12 months. Successfully pulling off such a massive overhaul in one year is a pipe dream even in the unlikely event that Congress doesn't interfere. And it seems likely that some of the remaining facilities would need—heaven forbid—some capital investment to take on the work moved from closed centers.
The postal service has too many inefficient delivery vehicles and too many mechanics—but only because it hasn't had the cash to update its fleet, despite the clearly favorable return on investment.
Almost anyone who works for the USPS will tell you it has too many supervisors and management layers. But it has been unable to invest in the kinds of organizational changes that would enable it to thrive with a simplified structure.
Opportunities do exist for further automation and the use of information technology to streamline operations. But those would take time and money to implement. The postal service's inability to provide accurate estimates of pension benefits to prospective employees is just one example of how difficult it can be to automate USPS processes. Anyone who has dealt with PostalOne! or other balky USPS websites has seen how the agency has struggled to make its IT investments pay off.
And anyone who has stood in line trying to mail a package in mid-December can tell you that the postal service needs a comprehensive overhaul of work methods and employee scheduling, the scale of which would intimidate even the most high-powered consulting firms.