So lets start with what we know about Smart Post and how the Postal Service handles it.
What We Know
- The volume of parcels that FedEx Ground and United Parcel Service employ the Postal Service to delivery are growing faster than the United States parcel market is growing.
- The volume of parcels that the Postal Service is handling for all customers is not growing as fast as the overall market.
- The Postal Service's volumes for its products that that FedEx Ground and UPS use is declining while their volume using these products are increasing. This trend means that the Postal Service is becoming increasingly reliant on FedEx Ground and United Parcel Service to market its delivery services to shippers.
- The growth in the use of the Postal Service by FedEx Ground is attributed to the improvements in delivery service quality that came when the National Distribution Center network restructuring was implemented.
- The growth in the use of the Postal Service also came at a time that the Postal Service held rates for parcels under 1 pound constant (due to the rate cap) making the Postal Service's delivery service more competitive with FedEx Ground or United Parcel Service using their own resources to deliver light weight parcels. It is unlikely that costs that FedEx Ground or UPS would have incurred using their own resources remained constant during this period.
- The network distribution center realignment has reduced the cost of handling bulk parcels. See USPS-OIG (Management Advisory Report – Network Distribution Center Phase 1Activation (Report Number EN-MA-10-001)
- The cost savings from the network distribution realignment would have been larger if management had taken actions to reduce excess employees months earlier than they had. (See (Management Advisory Report – Network Distribution Center Phase 1Activation (Report Number EN-MA-10-001. p 12)
- A serious network realignment effort both cuts costs and improves service.
- Improvements in service and competitive prices increase use of the Postal Service's delivery service.
- The Postal Service could improve its competitive position in the delivery of printed advertising if it implemented a network realignment for its letter and flat mail streams that at least as aggressive as it just did for parcels.
- It may be time to rethink the current classification of some parcel services as market dominant products as most users of these products are buying delivery services from the Postal Service in a highly competitive market for the provision of services to deliver small parcels.
- Cost savings from network realignments require that plans to excess employees need to begin before it is known how many employees may be released. The USPS-OIG report indicates that it takes between 4 and 11 months to complete the Article 12 provisions in its labor contracts. So unless it begins the excessing process before a consolidation is approved, it will have excess employees in standby rooms for months waiting for the negotiated process to be completed.
- Currently network realignment including excessing unneeded employees takes as long as 18 months from the time a proposal is announced until all excess employees are reassigned.
- Current facilities may not be the right size or in the right location to optimally restructure the network. For example, consolidating carrier route sequencing in processing plants would reduce operating costs and increase the proportion of mail that the Postal Service handles that is route sequenced, as this consolidation reduces mailer transportation costs to the location where the sequencing occurs.
- Capital does not exist to cover the costs of relocating or expanding facilities to meet the needs of a more streamlined network.
- Capital does not exist to cover the severance or early retirement incentive costs required to handle excess employees.
- Political considerations make it difficult to consolidate facilities and just as importantly increase the time required to complete public hearings prior to announcing that a consolidation proposal will proceed. The effort required to prepare and hold public hearings add to the cost burden.
Instead the Postal Service is moving forward with actions that affect its core customers (mail that contains advertising, including advertising in magazines and accompanying bills and statements) the most: eliminating service on Saturdays and raising prices. The impact of this strategy is clear.
- Valassis is expanding its use of alternative delivery networks in nearly every market where such services exist.
- Firms that provide alternative delivery in portions of markets are expanding the geographic reach to cover more households. For example, Donnelley Distribution has just added Delaware County Pennsylvania to its coverage area and Power Direct is expanding into the Las Vegas market. Both of these companies provide services that effectively compete on a price and service basis with the rates the Postal Service charges for saturation flats.
- The Economist is experimenting with home delivery using delivery services that provide newspaper or periodical delivery for other customers. If the Economist's subscribers like the new method of delivery, it is likely that the Economist will continue to use alternative delivery.
- Major media companies, in addition to expanding their use of alternative delivery for periodicals and saturation advertising, are discussing nationwide distribution deals with hand delivery companies to move items currently handled as First Class mail to alternative delivery using a combination of drop-shipping and same day delivery, a service that the Postal Service does not offer, to avoid violating the private express statutes.