In addition to streamlining its network, the total complement and work hours of Teamster employees, UPS also made major strides in cutting layers of management by eliminating a significant portion of its district and regional management. Elimination of middle management reflects the fact that UPS's standards based management approach and strong information technology platform allows fewer managers to manage more territory and employees effectively.
The Postal Service, even though it has reduced work hours and employees, has not been able to get ahead of the curve in streamlining either its facility or transportation network. The Postal Service has not been as aggressive as financial conditions warrant in streamlining regional and area management.
Looking forward into 2011, the Postal Service expects that single piece First Class mail will decline by double digits from current levels and bulk First Class mail will decline by 6% further increasing over-capacity in its collection, mail preparation and origination sortation operations and may reduce demand for destination sortation capacity as well.
No one knows how well the consolidation efforts now in the evaluation stage will work to reduce the over-capacity problem. However, the public method projecting savings underestimate the benefits of plant consolidation because 1) they do not use volume forecasts which would identify the impact of declining First Class volumes on capacity needs; and 2) they do not use a net present value analysis that would show the impact over 2 to 5 years that would clearly show the value of early retirement incentives and some capital expenditures to speed the consolidation process and operating cost savings.
In addition, consolidation efforts are limited due to three reasons:
- the lack of capital that forces the Postal Service to use existing facilities that may not be ideally located for the most cost-efficient means of providing high quality service;
- the lack of a employment plan that includes focused early retirement incentives and severance pay that would reduce head count more quickly than now occurs; and
- full time job requirements which are increasingly difficult to justify given both declining originating volumes and the efficiency and service quality requirement that proportion of time that mail spends inside the walls of a processing plant decrease and the the time the mail spends in transit increases.
- the network that could optimally handle mail volume in 2020 while improving on or maintaining current service levels and how the constraints listed above prevent the Postal Service from having such a network;
- the additional costs that are imposed by the constraints identified above;
- the cost impact of not having such a network and the impact of those costs on postal prices and to a lesser extent on employee compensation;
- the risks of not having such a network creates for the Postal Service's ability to pay its obligations to the treasury and be self-sufficient; and
- the impact of not having an efficient operating network on economic growth.
Retirement Liabilities: I do recognize that the Postal Service has expenses for retiree benefit liabilities that no private sector company does in addition to having had its obligation for pension liabilities overstated. However, even if these expenses were liabilities were removed from the balance sheet, the Postal Service would still face the challenge of dealing with flat or declining volumes total mail and declining First Class mail volumes which has created the need to adjust the sortation and transportation networks. In order to be financially self-sufficient, the Postal Service has to move from behind the curve to ahead of the curve in its efforts to ensure that operating capacity fits the demand for mail.
Cuts in Management: As one reader noted, the Postal Service has made some cuts in district and area management. However, UPS has made an even larger proportional cut in middle management than the Postal Service. UPS made these cuts in order to deal with profitability challenges that exist due to competition from FedEx and slow growth in demand. The Postal Service's profitability challenges are even greater which would suggest that further consolidation of area and district management may be warranted on top of its efforts to streamline its production operations.