Monday, April 4, 2011

Hiccups in Consolidation

Recently, the USPS-OIG issued a report on the consolidation of Lima Ohio processing into the Dayton Ohio plant.  The USPS-OIG conducted the investigation at the request of Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH).   The audit showed that the transition did no go smoothly

The result of the audit resulted in critical comments from Congressman Jordan but he did not call for processing to return to Lima Ohio.   In fact, his comments, and a careful reading of the USPS-OIG report clearly indicates that the problems in delayed mail that has occurred between December 2010 and March 20111 are solvable through better management of labor and capital assets and hiring additional staff in Toledo, Ohio.  

The problems that occurred in Toledo reminded me of a similar USPS-OIG report in 2009 reporting on delayed mail in the Philadelphia Customer Service District following the movement of the main processing facility in the district to a new facility.   Philadelphia then was on the top of mailers complaints about service as time sensitive periodicals, advertising and transaction mail was facing delays that did not exist when the old facility was working.    However,  March 2011 audit of the the Philadelphia plant conducted by the USPS-OIG between November 2010 and February 2010, showed that most of the problems that existed shortly after the new plant opened have been resolved and productivity at the new plant was significantly higher than what existed previously.   Management felt that the problems that remained with color coding of mail and delayed small parcels could be resolved within two months of the report's publication.

Both Philadelphia and Toledo provide illustrations that moving operations involves good planning, strong communications with employees, and flexibility during the first few months of transition to ensure that service problems are solved quickly.  The Postal Service reviews of consolidations in Manasota, Lakeland, and South Florida, and Daytona Beach FL, and Watertown, and Binghamton, NY show that consolidations can produce EXFC scores equal to or above that what existed when two facilities operated within a quarter or two of consolidation.    Once the initial problems identified in Toledo are solved, Congressman Jordan and his constituants can expect results similar to what has happened in Florida and New York.   When that occurs,  Lima Ohio will have the mail serivce that the residents and businesses they expect.

One of the problems in Northwestern Ohio requires an additional comment.  This consolidation illustrates the challenge of staffing the receiving facility when consolidations involve facilities that are more than 40 miles apart.   Toledo and Lima Ohio are 78.8 miles apart according to Google Maps.   So it is not surprising that only 31 of the 41 craft employees made the transfer.   The others retired, were on leave that the Toledo facility did not know about or found jobs elsewhere in the Postal Service.   To solve the problem, the Postal Service and the local union signed an agreement that allowed for an increase in the number of casual employees and 8 employees were brought in who formerly worked in Detroit. (60.5 miles away) 

The new contract with the APWU gives Postal Service management significantly more flexibility to dealing with short term staffing problems like what occured in Toledo.   The new Postal Support Employees classification provide the Postal Service with an ability to hire staff quickly when forecasting errors that underestimate expected volumes or changes in the number of expected transfers of existing employees reduces the numnber of existing Postal Service employees that the facility now handling mail processing has available to work.

The addition of individuals from Detroit in Toledo, also suggests that plants going through consolidations that are more than 50 miles from the originating plant need to have access to a broader list of potential employees than just those from the facility losing mail processing to ensure full staffing.   If the Postal Service does not have a system in place already one needs to be developed as plants going through consolidation could be helped by having information on employees that are available.   In addition, the Postal Service might want to follow a practice used in other industries going through major operational changes and create a list of experienced postal clerks and mailhandlers who would be willing to accept a one or two month assignment in a new facility during a transition period in order to ensure that sufficient fully-trained staff is available.   This may require some additional travel expenses but creates opportunities for senior clerks and mailhandlers to gain experience in the transition process that could prove valuable to local managers needed extra hands to fill in where needed.


Anonymous said...

Service to all post offices in the Lima area will never get back to to the service standard before the consolidation. Mail was received by 7am before the consolidation to all post offices. Now they are lucky to get it by 8:30am causing route to be delayed. Some of the post offices are 160 miles from Toledo.

Anonymous said...

It's quite interesting that they reference the consolidation in Daytona Beach Fl as one that shows that EXFC improves. The fact is, the Daytona Beach consolidation hasn't happened yet! I don't know where they got their figures but maybe somebody should check them out!

Alan Robinson said...

Thanks for the catch. Sometimes writing at 4 am is not the best idea.