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Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Dark Of Night . . . Nor Bargaining Unit Rules Shall Stay These Couriers . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/24/2017 | 3:19 PM

At one point, I felt that local last-mile parcel delivery could be the salvation of the USPS. But, based on personal experience and widespread complaints from a base of Fedex/UPS delivery destinations, I'm not nearly so confident today.

In fact, parcel delivery riddled with flaws could wind up being the undoing of the once-proud federal (now privatized) service.

Here's the deal, as H. Ross Perot used to say. Without knowing the details (also attributed, btw, to Mr. Perot), the United States Postal Service (USPS) makes home deliveries on behalf of B2C shippers, replacing the costly footprint of a redundant national network. In consequence, the mailman (or mail lady, as the case may be) spends an inordinate amount of time cramming slightly-too-large packaging into demonstrably too-small mail boxes during the daily delivery.

Sundays see a flotilla of mail trucks bearing nothing but parcels retracing the carriers' weekday steps.

Obviously, such reliance on a third party cries out for meaningful performance metrics, and measures—useful or accurate being independent variables—are definitely in the USPS wheelhouse. Home or local delivery is a chancy business, to be sure, so allowances must be made for nobody home, no shows, underaged signatorees, rabid dogs, and shady neigborhoods.

What we see in our moderately upscale community is a disproportionate log of tracked shipments showing a status of "delivered," but with no evidence of delivery, such as having the merchandise in hand, for example. As if by magic, the "missing" delivered parcel shows up in the next day's (parcel) mail, a classic maneuver to offload problems—and work—to another shift. But, in the meantime, to the consumer, the shipment appears to be lost. And a razor-thin margin operator is forced by customer service imperatives to send a replacement for something that will show up of its own accord.

The beat goes on … A note indicating attempted delivery is left when the recipient is languishing with a Dos Equis as the Browns shoot themselves in the foot once again. A hostile pet is indicated when the most dangerous animal in the neighborhood is a calico cat.

How much of this nonsense will shippers—and customers—tolerate before entertaining the cost of a captive delivery network? What will it take the USPS to wake up and smell the malingering? How much will it take to fire the non-performers? Can postal workers, once taken on, actually be dismissed for cause? Are today's metrics subject to review and audit? Are fudged measures of performance simply a way to postpone the inevitable?  Will the USPS get stuck with an investment in people and equipment when the parcel carrier(s) fire their sorry behinds? Will we even care by then?

It's time, perhaps even past time, to restore the sense of duty and mission that once characterized the postal service. Or, the end might just be in sight. 



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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