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Why postal services can't make money

Ernest Bywater

The reason government owned postal services can't make money is because their rules and style of operation is decided upon by idiot bureaucrats who have no idea of how to do things. So they make a policies that means they can employ trained chimps who don't need to think.

Take the Australia Post system - for the bulk of locations only certain high priority items go by air, the other air service is remote locations with air as the only viable service. Along the east coast it's mostly by trucks. The way the system works now is each regional centre keeps for delivery mail in their area, and the rest goes to the mail centre in their state capital. There all mail for other states is sent to the main centre in the capital city of the state of destination, which then sorts it into the regional centres for its state, which then sorts it into the post offices for its area.

There's a huge amount of mail goes between Sydney and Melbourne each day - both ways. At different times each day their are trucks that go from Melbourne to Sydney, and they stop to drop mail to Victorian regional centres until they cross the border, then they stop to pick-up mail from the regional mail centers in NSW along the way - and the reverse. All the mail they collect in transit to Sydney is delivered the the main Sydney center in Chullora, along with all the mail they carried up from Melbourne. There it gets sorted into the regional centres and sent out to them.

The border between the two states is the Murray River, and the main road between Sydney and Melbourne crosses the River at the twin city of Albury - Wodonga. The trucks from Melbourne will delivery mail fro delivery in that part of Victoria to Wodonga, then collect mail from Albury to take to Sydney. The trucks from Sydney to Melbourne do the same in reverse.

Now, like bureaucrats, you probably think this is a logical way to do things. But this isn't how it was done 25 years ago, and it isn't how the courier companies do things.

All mail and most courier deliveries to my town come via Albury. There are a few courier companies that send things from Sydney via Wagga Wagga to the north of here, but most come via Albury to the South.

Now you have the background we get to the meat of the problem. When I purchase something over the Internet from a company in Melbourne they usually send it via Aust Post Parcel service. They put it in the system in Melbourne, and Aust Post send it 900 kms to Sydney in a truck that stops at Albury to collect more mail to go to Sydney. The item then spend a day in Sydney being sorted and waiting for the night truck to take it 510 kms to Albury to be given to the local people to deliver to me. So the parcel travels 1,410 kms when it need only travel 390 kms.

Now 30 years ago the system had trucks dropping mail for to the other regional centres along the way, so 25 years ago the truck from Melbourne would have left my parcel in Albury when it stopped to collect mail from there. But sometime in the last 25 years the bureaucrats streamlined the system with a process and policy that now has my mail delayed a day while it travels and extra 1,020 kms - and incurs the extra fuel costs of carting it all the way to Sydney and back again.

Any system that incurs the cost of carrying something 3 times further than it needs to can't operate efficiently and cost too much.

.....................

What triggered this was the notification I just got of a parcel just reminding me of some mail non-service comments in another thread.

Replies:   Bondi Beach  Not_a_ID  Grant
Bondi Beach

@Ernest Bywater

The reason government owned postal services can't make money is because their rules and style of operation is decided upon by idiot bureaucrats who have no idea of how to do things. So they make a policies that means they can employ trained chimps who don't need to think.


``Just about everyone who works in the Post Office is an alien.''
--- Will Smith to Tommy Lee Jones, MIB 2.

bb

Replies:   graybyrd  Ernest Bywater
graybyrd

@Bondi Beach

Which begs the question: who will sort and deliver the mail when we deport all the aliens?

Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

``Just about everyone who works in the Post Office is an alien.''


it sure seems like it.

Ernest Bywater

@graybyrd

Which begs the question: who will sort and deliver the mail when we deport all the aliens?


The machines will just have to do it unsupervised - which means the efficiency will increase dramatically.

Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

Now 30 years ago the system had trucks dropping mail for to the other regional centres along the way, so 25 years ago the truck from Melbourne would have left my parcel in Albury when it stopped to collect mail from there. But sometime in the last 25 years the bureaucrats streamlined the system with a process and policy that now has my mail delayed a day while it travels and extra 1,020 kms - and incurs the extra fuel costs of carting it all the way to Sydney and back again.


A lot of this had to do automated processing of mail. Pretty much a comparable system exists for the USPS, only they don't rely on state capitals. And they used to have more facilities, but as volume has dropped, the number of sorting locations has dropped. (My hometown had a regional sorting facility unti recently)

Of course, USPS will do one better, the post offices now evidently only divide up incoming mail from the sorting facility. So now, when we send a letter across town, it gets collected, goes to the central post office in town, gets loaded onto a semi, sent 200 miles away, so it can then be sent back to the originating city.

They automated things to reduce manpower costs. They only put automated facilities in select locations because the equipment and it's maintenance was expensive, so it was only placed in areas where a "sufficient volume" of postal traffic moved through.

And with the event of the internet and text messaging virtually destroying most uses of 1st class mail, volumes have dropped, so they're now closing post offices and sorting facilities to "reduce costs" but incurring new transport and time delay costs in the process. So now instead of using money to finance "excess equipment/personnel" they're using it to finance all the fuel and equipment they're using to take stuff hundreds of miles out of route.

Although postal mis-routines can be epic sometimes too. I remember one certified mail package I had(with tracking) while living in Southern California that started in SoCal(City of Industry), then went to Minneapolis-St.Paul before heading back to San Diego for delivery.

Grant

@Ernest Bywater

Why postal services can't make money

Because they have to deliver to pretty much everywhere, and that costs a lot of money. They also have to deliver letters, which are a low value product unless it's a bulk business/government department setup.
If the Postal services were still responsible for all letter services (other companies got in to the lucrative bulk mail business), as well as parcels, then that income would not only cover the standard letters they are required to deliver for the whole country (not just the nice & juicy high density markets) but it would also allow them to make a significant profit.
As it stands, the large freight companies pick & choose the areas with the most profit, and leave the less profitable areas to smaller companies/one man delivery operations & the Post.

Now 30 years ago the system had trucks dropping mail for to the other regional centres along the way, so 25 years ago the truck from Melbourne would have left my parcel in Albury when it stopped to collect mail from there. But sometime in the last 25 years the bureaucrats streamlined the system with a process and policy that now has my mail delayed a day while it travels and extra 1,020 kms - and incurs the extra fuel costs of carting it all the way to Sydney and back again.

Because the Post Office is a government corporation, and it must be run as a business- it is not about providing a service.
Since it has to be run as a business, it must compete with other businesses and it will do what is necessary to match or outperform them.

Any system that incurs the cost of carrying something 3 times further than it needs to can't operate efficiently and cost too much.

Actually it saves a lot of money by not having the main haulage trucks stop off at every other place they pass through.

Replies:   Not_a_ID  Ernest Bywater
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Grant


Actually it saves a lot of money by not having the main haulage trucks stop off at every other place they pass through.


Depends, when there is enough volume to take a "straight shot" correct, it's advantageous to skip stops. The Less Than Truckload carriers love to use 10 and 20 foot trailers in double or triple combinations for pretty much that reason, although they may make extra stops.

The driver turns up, breaks apart the trailer chain to leave one or more trailer behind, in a dock or parked for someone else to dock, pick up next set of loaded trailers and back on the road.

Much faster than stopping at every whistle stop along the way, open up the trailer, unload what's staying, load what's leaving and hope things are "in order" for the next stop so they don't have to unload 3/4this of a trailer to get to their stuff.

As things get more advanced they'll probably have an AI optimizing the routing to minimize miles traveled and simply start "skipping" their way down the line in some form. Probably about the time robots start driving the trucks so the traditional workday is less of a concern.

Which is the other side of the problem many postal services have. Like most government employees, they enjoy generous retirement plans, which are largely government (pay scale) mandated, but aren't funded by the government. So that postage stamp you just purchase may instead be funding some pensioner who retired 30 years ago.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Not_a_ID

Depends, when there is enough volume to take a "straight shot" correct, it's advantageous to skip stops. The Less Than Truckload carriers love to use 10 and 20 foot trailers in double or triple combinations for pretty much that reason, although they may make extra stops.

The driver turns up, breaks apart the trailer chain to leave one or more trailer behind, in a dock or parked for someone else to dock, pick up next set of loaded trailers and back on the road.

Much faster than stopping at every whistle stop along the way, open up the trailer, unload what's staying, load what's leaving and hope things are "in order" for the next stop so they don't have to unload 3/4this of a trailer to get to their stuff.


And the problem with having loads (even partial ones) dropped off here and there is you need facilities & staff and equipment to sort it all out ready for delivery.
It costs. It costs a lot.
Hence the use of a very few main centres where the mail is broken up & then forwarded (even though it may be going back the way it came) to the relevant delivery centre for the actual delivery.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Actually it saves a lot of money by not having the main haulage trucks stop off at every other place they pass through.


I could understand that if it was true, but it isn't. The main trucks stop to drop and collect at the other Mail Delivery Centres they go near on their way out of the state on their main route, and stop to collect only at the main MDCs in the state they enter. I know a fellow who does the Melbourne Sydney run on a regular basis. He stops to collect at the Lavington MDC in Albury, but only delivers there when on the way from Sydney.

From speaking to people it all comes down to some streamlining policy changes made in the last decade or so where each centre only ever sorts mail into two groups - local and everything else. Then the everything else goes to the state capital to be sorted and sent to the regional centre nearest the destination. Too bad if the mail has to go past the destination to reach the state centre.

Replies:   Grant  Not_a_ID
Grant

@Ernest Bywater

Too bad if the mail has to go past the destination to reach the state centre.

Yep.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Yep.


What's especially annoying about this is I know the truck from Melbourne stops to collect mail from Lavington on the way to Sydney, but doesn't drop anything off there. So the parcel continues to Sydney and then comes back - costing extra fuels to do so. The Lavington MDC is already fully staffed to sort mail.

The craziest thing is, until the change in policy they used to drop mail at the intermediate MDCs - but don't now due to a policy change. The truck runs are still the same. The result is an extra couple of days delay in delivering the mail, and they wonder why people say not to use the postal service because it's too damn slow.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Ernest Bywater

The result is an extra couple of days delay in delivering the mail, and they wonder why people say not to use the postal service because it's too damn slow.

In some cases, maybe. In most cases it's not.
In fact it's on par with most freight services even in the major centres that have their own aircraft. And well ahead of them in many of the remote areas. And is the only option in many more remote areas.

The fact is one size doesn't fit all, but that's what management aims for because it makes it easier for them.
And any input pointing out any flaws in the system from inside is generally ignored, or not taken as factual.
It either takes an external consultant to recommend something that those inside Post have been saying for years, or for enough customers to show that there is an issue for those higher up to take notice.

sejintenej

@graybyrd

@Bondi BeachWhich begs the question: who will sort and deliver the mail when we deport all the aliens?

What difference would it make? The Royal Mail decided to send all my mail abroad, refused to help retrieve it and didn't pay the costs. On top of that some mail was deliberately destroyed - and they claim to have no responsibility or liability.

As a retiree I have the theoretical right to subsidised rail transport; Royal Mail's actions have had that right blocked for the rest of my lifetime (unless I give false information or move elsewhere).

With the rise of email and other electronic forms I can see the mailing of letters becoming an anachronism

Not_a_ID

@Grant

And the problem with having loads (even partial ones) dropped off here and there is you need facilities & staff and equipment to sort it all out ready for delivery.
It costs. It costs a lot.


Yes and no. So long as things have already been sorted to some degree, it just requires containerizing the load in such a way that someone with a forklift can easily sift through what's on a trailer to get at what their stop can use. But that calls for further development of facilities along the way, and does little for cargo picked up enroute at some/many facilities.

Future options are another matter, but that depends on where robotics and AI ultimately takes us. Time still is a consideration as well. Truck/trailer turn around times would decide a lot, as well as the volume of trucks moving through.

A freight corridor that sees a truck rolling through every hour or so(or less) has more options than one that only sees one per day. As the higher traffic route can support having the truck drop one trailer, grab another and go, even if that stop only needs part of that load, since the next truck will turn up shortly to grab that dropped trailer and take it to its next stop.

It largely becomes a "game" of trying to keep your trucks moving with freight to the maximum extent possible, while also trying to minimize the number of idle trailers you have sitting around. There is a reason why many large trucking companies, UPS and FedEx included, maintain trailer fleets that typically outnumber their tractor fleet by at least 2 to 1, with 3 to 1 or more being common even in single full size trailer fleets(one trailer being loaded, one in transit, and the other being unloaded at any given point in time). The tractor + driver is the most expensive part of the operation when it comes to movement.

Postal service just has the added complicating factor of needing to sort many specific things to many specific places.

Unlike Wal-Mart which just normally needs to ensure they get a toaster to a given store, any particular toaster of a given type will do. Rather than getting a particular toaster with a specific serial number to a specific store. Site to Store is another matter, and that experience can be wildly variable for the customer as they DO try to move a specific item from Distribution Center to Distribution Center until they finally kick it out to their local store.

Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

I know a fellow who does the Melbourne Sydney run on a regular basis. He stops to collect at the Lavington MDC in Albury, but only delivers there when on the way from Sydney.


An individual driver doesn't comprise a representative sample. His "run" is optimized for what he's doing. There is nothing there that says there aren't 3 additional drivers working that same comparable route who handle the other 3 remaining respective legs to or from that facility and those locations opposite that driver.

Just because he didn't mention them, or is unaware of them himself doesn't mean they aren't there.

Melbourne to/from Sydney strikes me as a postal route that probably keeps a decently sized postal fleet of trucks moving between them. They aren't exactly small population centers.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Not_a_ID

An individual driver doesn't comprise a representative sample.


When he can cite and show you the policy and operational change documentation, and how it affects all the drivers, it does constitute a very valid sample.

The issue is the mail and parcels (which is what the majority of it is now, and always has been) used to be sorted into different bags or containers at each Mail Centre based on being local, other centres on the route, and the rest then it was loaded on the trucks that way,m and what was for the other centres on the route was dropped off on the way. Thus a letter or Parcel posted in area A for delivery in Area B was sorted to a container for Area B and dropped off there when the truck stopped to collect mail from the Centre for Area B. But a policy decision to have a major operational change to only sort as local and all other in the mail centres means anything not local must now go the state central mail centre and back out again. This means much of it travels a longer distance and takes longer.

In my case where the parcel could have been left at Albury but went to Sydney only to be sent back after crossing half the state in each direction is also true in the other direction. Mail and parcels sent from Albury now go to Sydney to be sorted before being shipped back through Albury to go to Melbourne - under the old system they were collected at Albury and taken to Melbourne by the truck going south - but not now everything not local MUST go through the state centre.

It's all sorted by machine, and thus is no problem to code the machines to split them any way they want to, but that means having to think - and that's a big no-no for bureaucrats.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Not_a_ID
Ernest Bywater

@Ernest Bywater

I may not have made it clear at the start, but the biggest issue is with parcels and not letters. I also didn't mention the for profit companies who operate on the same routes still work on the process of dropping items off at their intermediate centres.

Ernest Bywater

Somethings I didn't mention in the original post because I didn't think they were that important then, but have changed my mind due to some replies.

1. Australia Post has a guaranteed business because there's federal law making them the only organisation allowed to deliver mail. There are other companies doing a similar service but they don't deliver mail, under the law they operate a document delivery service and what they handle has to be, by law, over a minimum size. Which is why they have satchels for you to put your documents in because the satchel is just over that size.

The legislation sets a physical size for the various mail items, then everything over that becomes a parcel and the document delivery services are, legally, delivering light parcels.

2. Australia Post is only legally obliged to operate a mail delivery service, but they also choose to operate a parcel delivery service.

3. The bulk of the material handles by Australia Post are now parcels, and not mail articles. Mail is only letters in set sizes and weights.

4. Over 90% of the work done outside the Mail Delivery Centres are now down by contractors and not Australia Post employees. Outside of the cities you now find Postal Service contract offices and not post offices because Australia Post no longer owns, operates, or mans them. They operate from what was once an Australia Post Post Office.

5. In most rural areas the mail contractor is also the same people who do are contracted to do the deliveries for the major courier and parcel freight companies.

...........................

I've had two shipments come from Melbourne from different companies shipped on the same day from Melbourne. The one via the TNT network arrived two days before the way coming via the Aust Post network, and the people making the local delivery were the same contractor operating out of the same city. The only difference being the TNT parcel was dropped off on the way through while the Aust Post truck took the one through them to Sydney and back again.

The private companies can make a profit with a faster delivery by operating the way Aust Post used to, while Aust Post can no longer work that way.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

1. Australia Post has a guaranteed business because there's federal law making them the only organisation allowed to deliver mail. There are other companies doing a similar service but they don't deliver mail, under the law they operate a document delivery service and what they handle has to be, by law, over a minimum size. Which is why they have satchels for you to put your documents in because the satchel is just over that size.

The legislation sets a physical size for the various mail items, then everything over that becomes a parcel and the document delivery services are, legally, delivering light parcels.


USPS is also a government granted monopoly on mail, specifically the bulk-mail categories, but IIRC, "1st Class" mail falls under their purview as well.

However, "Express Mail" is a field where others can compete against them on. Although the other providers cannot use the Mail Box, they'll have to deliver to the door or other designated location.

FedEx being the biggest example of that(Although UPS does as well, their "Expedited service" doesn't get as much marketing attention)

Parcel delivery likewise isn't a monopoly, obviously, otherwise the UPS business model wouldn't work in the US. ;)

Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

When he can cite and show you the policy and operational change documentation, and how it affects all the drivers, it does constitute a very valid sample.


Ok, that's different, and valid.

REP

My understanding is that all UPS mail/packages are sent to Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky. They get sorted and are the sent to local distribution centers for delivery. Their system seems to work okay.

I agree with Ernest it seems a stupid way to do things. However, the operating costs of having mail/packages sorted at their local distribution centers, and then sent to all the other distribution centers would probably be much greater. I'm willing to accept a small delay for lower rates.

What their system means for my mail/packages is if I send a package to an address here in San Diego, it has to travel over 4,400 miles (about 6,700 KM) to reach the recipient who lives 20 miles from my home.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Not_a_ID
Ernest Bywater

@REP

the operating costs of having mail/packages sorted at their local distribution centers, and then sent to all the other distribution centers would probably be much greater.


That's not quite what i was talking about. the way the system used to work was:

Truck route calls in at Mail Distribution Centres (where they do the regional sorting) Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon then to Central. The mail at all 5 centres he visits are sorted into six groups - local, one for each of the other centres, and then one for everything else. After collecting at Alpha he drops the stuff from Alpha for Beta when he stops there and collects what they have to go out to other centres. When he gets to each centre he drops what he has for them while collecting what needs to go to the places he's yet to visit. Everything else goes to Central.

Later a truck leaves Central to do the same run in reverse, and does the same thing. He drops off all the mail for them from Central, and collects the mail for the other centres he's yet to visit, and drops it off as well.

What this means is the mail between the centres on that run onlytravels between the centres, while all else goes to Central. No single truck needs to visit every damn centre, just the ones on their route.

cmdratom

Add in another element, at least in the US, that a postal employee, no matter how inept, is almost impossible to fire. Their quasi governmental status plus their extremely strong union insures that they can continue to get their fairly strong wages with the minimum of effort.
The reason why the lines at the PO are slow is because there is no reason for them to do the work quickly.

Replies:   graybyrd  Grant
graybyrd

@cmdratom

Broad-brushed, unjustified slander. Sounds like something from the current White House tweet book.

boydpercy

I don't think that it has been mentioned but the USPS is mandated to pay $5.5 billion per year to be paid into an account to fully prefund employee retirement health benefits, a requirement exceeding that of other government and private organizations. They are already behind before they even start. No wonder they lose money every year.

ustourist

It might give people more faith in their own post office if their government had it as well.
The UK Inland Revenue sends international letters through Malta Post and their Pensions service uses Post NL, which is in Holland.
Since both of those are high volume departments, imagine how much money is given to overseas companies to send UK government mail - and I assume it has to be flown there under another contract first.

Grant

@cmdratom

The reason why the lines at the PO are slow is because there is no reason for them to do the work quickly.

If it's anything like Australia the reason the lines are slow is because while most of the system now has tracking from the start to where it's either delivered or taken to the nearest Post Office for collection, that tracking isn't made use of when it comes to shelving the parcels- everything is still done the same way it was prior to item tracking coming in. 100% manually.

The way things are now, each item that comes in has the customers name written on it so it can be found on the shelf. That name is not always particularly legible & it's not unusual for letters to be misread. The shelves are set up for letters, small packets, parcels, large parcels & oversized items. Often the information on the card is vague (or not there) or the customer can't recall what it was they've ordered so they might have to check all of the different shelves before they finally find it. Since the shelves are alphabetical it's not unusual to have some sections jam packed, and others with barely anything on them. The smaller the item, the more difficult it can be to find it amongst all the others on that shelf.
Or the customer comes in with the tracking number on their phone, but can't remember what name they ordered it under (First name? Last name? Boy/girlfriend's name? Kid's name? Nick name? Friends name? (didn't want family to find out they're still ordering crap on line)) or they just had a typo (or 5) when they entered their name so it's not under the letter you would expect it to be (Please don't shop online while drunk, stoned, fatigued or extremely emotional in general).
There goes 10min time going quickly through everything to try and find it. No luck. Come back later with the right details or wait for a follow up card to be sent out with the actual name used- you idiot.

If there was even the slightest bit of intelligence in the higher levels, they would have implemented a system where each and every shelf and section & subsection of shelves at the Post Office would have it's own location barcode, and that barcode would be scanned when a item is placed on the shelf (along with that item's bar code).
When the customer comes in, they hand over their card with the tracking number, the person at the counter scans it, and the computer tells them which room, shelf, row the parcel is waiting.
If it's a heavy item, it'll flag that, and they give the card back to the customer and send them around to the loading bay to collect the oversized item.
From the time the customer presents their card, to the time they sign for & receive their parcel(s) would be no more than 30 seconds in 85-95% of cases.

Believe me, the people behind the counter don't like dealing with pissed off customers, or asking reasonably behaved customers to come back later when they'd have a chance to go though things more thoroughly when there aren't 50 people behind them in the queue. They will do their best to get through the backlog as fast as they can.
Of course if you choose to act like a total cockhead, then you can expect to be screwed around with.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Not_a_ID

@REP

My understanding is that all UPS mail/packages are sent to Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky. They get sorted and are the sent to local distribution centers for delivery. Their system seems to work okay.


UPS (United Parcel Service) doesn't handle mail, although they do have an "Express Mail" option, albeit by a different name.

As to ground-freight, no, it doesn't see world-port unless World-port is the closest UPS sorting facility.

All UPS Air-Freight in the United States goes through World Port. So yes, in theory an overnight air express package from San Diego, CA to San Diego, CA would, in theory travel by way of their WorldPort facility in Kentucky. Although I suspect you'd find their system would kick it back to San Diego before it ever got on the more often than not.

Now if you sent it to LA from San Diego, that's another matter. ;)

As to UPS Ground packages, I think the local facilities do some basic checking to verify that it needs to leave the facility at all. If it does, it then heads to the nearest RDC. So even my local to/from UPS package shipping would be via the same City that the USPS is using to handle ALL of my local mail. Which makes them functionally the same in most respects.

Replies:   REP
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

If there was even the slightest bit of intelligence in the higher levels, they would have implemented a system where each and every shelf and section & subsection of shelves at the Post Office would have it's own location barcode, and that barcode would be scanned when a item is placed on the shelf (along with that item's bar code).


Good idea, except 90% of the Post Offices are now privately owned and they don't get paid enough to pay for that sort of storage and technology, and Australia Po9st won't pay for it, either. The parcels are recorded into the system using a barcode scanner supplied by Australia Post simply because they insist they be scanned and thus have to supply them.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Ernest Bywater

Good idea, except 90% of the Post Offices are now privately owned and they don't get paid enough to pay for that sort of storage and technology,

It's already there, they already have it in the systems they've got for tracking the parcels/letters.
It just a matter of software & putting barcodes on the shelves. It just needs to be implemented.

The parcels are recorded into the system using a barcode scanner supplied by Australia Post simply because they insist they be scanned and thus have to supply them.

The only reason Australia Post does it is to collect revenue from all the overseas mail/packages & because other companies offer tracking & customers expect it. If they could operate without it, they would. It would save a fortune, of course they'd also loose all that revenue when people took their business elsewhere.

Ernest Bywater

@Grant

It just a matter of software & putting barcodes on the shelves. It just needs to be implemented.


Grant, when i pick a parcel up from my local post office I have to sign on the hand-held device after they scan it. The unit is an AP scanner they loan to the post office. They do NOT have much in the way of shelves to store parcels on, but they do have them laid out in alphabetical order of the recipient on the two long shelves they have.

Now, for them to have that shelve broken up into sections with barcodes on them someone has to come out to do it, print the codes, and put them up. Then they have to be managed within the computer system on site. Two problems, like most local post offices now they have no on-site computer for that service, and they have no interest in paying for it to be done. Also, AP has no interest in paying for it to be done at the sites of the contractors who make up over 90% of the post offices. So it won't get done at the retail end. and in the sorting centres the don't use shelves.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Ernest Bywater

Now, for them to have that shelve broken up into sections with barcodes on them someone has to come out to do it, print the codes, and put them up.

No need for new shelving unless they are already short of space.
The barcodes are readily available as stickers on rolls.

Then they have to be managed within the computer system on site. Two problems, like most local post offices now they have no on-site computer for that service,

Unusual, as all the LPOs I've come across have at least one system that ties in with post- otherwise it's not possible for them to do any searches for parcels, nor do Western Union money transfers & the Post Bill Pay and other transactions.
Having a scanner on the desktop would be an added expense if they don't already have one, otherwise they would just be able to use the handheld scanners as they do now, with the added feature of it displaying where a parcel is located when someone comes to collect it.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Unusual, as all the LPOs I've come across have at least one system that ties in with post- otherwise it's not possible for them to do any searches for parcels, nor do Western Union money transfers & the Post Bill Pay and other transactions.


Grant there are two computer systems the post office uses, one is for the mail and parcel tracking services, and the other is for Point of Sale and Financial services. Two completely separate programs which the LPOs are NOT allowed to alter in anyway.

A few larger LPOs with enough business to justify doing so pay extra to have both programs loaded onto the one computer, and then have to switch by logging out of one and into the other. Where I've seen them do this they have two computers and most of the time one is left logged into each program. There is NO capability for them to add local storage locations into the software. However, that doesn't come into play with the smaller LPOs (which is the majority of them) at all, because the only access to the Parcel Tracking system is a hand held device that has a built-in scanner and the software only recognises the AP tracking codes.

Assuming AP update the software to allow for a local storage barcode, who is going to pay people to set up the locations, and then pay for the extra time of people to enter the codes and update what's in them. The contractors won't agree to accept the burden unless paid more, they get damn little as it is. And AP won't pay for it because they aren't their staff.

The major problem with the AP system is the base thinking behind what trigger this in the first place - the AP top management want a one size fits all system and screw the clients or anyone who wants anything that's outside of that. SO any changes you want to make have to fitting with, and work with, every damn LPO across the country, regardless of its size or design - I don't see it happening.

There's an AP policy in place that any parcel not collected within 3 working days is to be sent back - I know people who live and work in places where that just isn't possible due to how far they are from the nearest LPO and how far in advance they have to plan to be away from their property. They LPO contractor wanted to help them out and hold them longer, but the AP bosses jumped all over them, so what happens now is an 'authorised signatory' signs for the parcels and takes them home until the people are next in town. The authorised signatory is the contractors' kid and the parcels go to the contractors house where they get collected after hours up to ten days later. That's an extreme case of where the locals work to get around the stupid AP policies.

.................. on a related issue what started this ------------

I had a 2 box parcel shipment out of Melbourne on Friday afternoon, it was on a truck that went through the Albury Lavington MDC on Friday night, but they didn't drop it off because the policy is it MUST go through Sydney. Well I got one box today, but the other one is still in Chullora in Sydney - we hope - we don't know because AP split them up while they only used the one damn tracking number for the shipment, so checks on the tracking number at 10 a.m. showed it as being delivered, since they used the one number for both boxes. This evening (just checked while typing this) the system was updated to show the parcel as being in Sunshine, Vic - why is beyond me, want to bet it goes back to Chullora.

The system used to work well, but not since they introduced their streamlined processes.

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Assuming AP update the software to allow for a local storage barcode, who is going to pay people to set up the locations, and then pay for the extra time of people to enter the codes and update what's in them. The contractors won't agree to accept the burden unless paid more, they get damn little as it is.

If they didn't want it, they wouldn't have to implement it. The whole reason for doing so would be to save them time & effort & reduce people's waiting times while staff try to find items they've come for.
If their time & their customers is of no importance then they can continue to use the present manual system that results in so many wasted hours & upset customers as they queue up to 30 deep waiting to collect stuff.

There's an AP policy in place that any parcel not collected within 3 working days is to be sent back

First I've heard of it.
I think it was late last year the word came down that after 7 days they were to be returned. 7 days had always been official policy, but generally most places would give up to 4 weeks.

EDIT- officially on their web site it's 10 working days, so 2 weeks. Slightly more than 3 working days.

Ernest Bywater

@Grant

EDIT- officially on their web site it's 10 working days, so 2 weeks. Slightly more than 3 working days.


I've seen official AP signs at five different LPOs that say Parcels will only be held for three business days before being returned if not collected in that time. However, they're all rural LPOs and not city ones, so they may have different policies.

It may well be the website official policies may only apply to LPOs owned and operated by AP staff. They don't say.

Mind you, in the rural areas if the item won't fit in a standard letter box, it doesn't get delivered by the local bike contractor at all, you get a card and have to get it from the post office.

Replies:   Grant  Grant
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

If they didn't want it, they wouldn't have to implement it. The whole reason for doing so would be to save them time & effort & reduce people's waiting times while staff try to find items they've come for.
If their time & their customers is of no importance then they can continue to use the present manual system that results in so many wasted hours & upset customers as they queue up to 30 deep waiting to collect stuff.


Which they do you mean?

The current system in all but a few LPOs is the LPO is privately owned and works under contract to AP - the software to do the AP service is owned and maintained by AP. The LPO owners are not permitted to make any changes to that software at all. There are two main programs, one is a financial and Point of Sale program, and the other is the parcel tracking service.

The parcel tracking service is built around the AP parcel item barcode and has a very limited set of actions that can be done with it. The LPO staff can scan an item to show it arrived at the LPO, they can scan an item to show the entry of delivery to the person, and they can scan it to be returned - that is all the LPO staff can do with it.

To do as you suggest the LPO owner will have to incur costs and create a secondary system that doesn't link to the AP system at all - thus more work for their people and costs for equipment. The other option is for AP to change their software to allow what you suggest to happen and update all the scanners they've issued to the LPO contractors.

So who do you want to pay for this to happen? If AP do it the cost will be huge because what they put in place will be applied Australia wide and include LPOs that don't see ten people all day. If it's done only at one or two LPOs it has to be cost effective for them to operate two systems instead of the current manual one that works well for most. I don't see them paying for it.

Ernest Bywater

@Grant

If their time & their customers is of no importance then they can continue to use the present manual system that results in so many wasted hours & upset customers as they queue up to 30 deep waiting to collect stuff.


At the LPO level if this was happening for long enough each day they'd solve it by employing more part-time staff - - if it was cost effective to do anything at all. Most LPOs operate on very slim margins.

Ross at Play

@Grant

It's already there, they already have it in the systems they've got for tracking the parcels/letters.
It just a matter of software & putting barcodes on the shelves. It just needs to be implemented.

It just a matter of software ... It just needs to be implemented. WTF?
Sorry - there's no such thing as "just" when it comes to software. It does not grow on trees; somebody has to write it. And installing it in a huge number of different locations would be a massive undertaking.

Replies:   Grant
docholladay

I think part of the problem is the fact that the post office is expected to operate as a business while being managed by congress. Making it both a government agency and a business at the same time. It needs to be one or the other before it can be a success. As its configured for management purposes there are too many conflicting interests controlling the operational decisions. Not to mention one of the strongest unions I know of for the employees.

REP
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

Two things Not_a_ID:

1. I was using mail in a general sense. Call it what you wish, UPS accepts and delivers small, letter-like packages.

2. My comments regarding UPS's distribution system reflect the system the UPS generated description on the Internet described. The way UPS actually does thing may differ from what they say they do. I agree that it makes no sense for an item submitted at a City A UPS location for delivery to a City A address be sent to Worldport for distribution. It would probably be cost effective to divert the package into the queue of packages received from Worldport for distribution. I do not know the cost factors related to such a diversion, but there would be some cost at each UPS location and the total cost could be significant.
Minor edits added.

Grant

@Ernest Bywater

I've seen official AP signs at five different LPOs that say Parcels will only be held for three business days before being returned if not collected in that time.

Then that is their policy, not Australia Post policy. I suggest you take it up with them.

Which they do you mean?

The LPO.

To do as you suggest the LPO owner will have to incur costs and create a secondary system that doesn't link to the AP system at all

Why are you making things up?
What I have been talking about is a system that Post should develop & implement. Once done it would then be available to all that use the Post tracking system as it would be part of that system.

If it's done only at one or two LPOs it has to be cost effective for them to operate two systems instead of the current manual one that works well for most.

The current system does not work well for most. It is one of the greatest causes of customer complaints.
It would be possible for those that don't wish to use to not do so, they could continue to use the present manual system.

At the LPO level if this was happening for long enough each day they'd solve it by employing more part-time staff - - if it was cost effective to do anything at all.

If it was cost effective. It's not, so people have to queue up at peak periods during the day.

Grant

@Ernest Bywater

Mind you, in the rural areas if the item won't fit in a standard letter box, it doesn't get delivered by the local bike contractor at all, you get a card and have to get it from the post office.

That's the case for all bike and foot based Posties.
The Postie delivers to the l/box. If the customer authorises a safe drop, then they will do that (if possible). For items requiring a signature they'll honk the horn & ring the bell/knock on the door (if it's possible).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Grant

@Ross at Play

It just a matter of software ... It just needs to be implemented. WTF?

Sorry - there's no such thing as "just" when it comes to software. It does not grow on trees; somebody has to write it. And installing it in a huge number of different locations would be a massive undertaking.

Yes, someone has to write it, and any company with any sort of experience would have routines that already do what is required. All they'd need to do is determine current requirements, allow for future requirements establish the required work flow, data dictionary, error handling & data formats & entry requirements. The biggest headache would be integrating it the existing system.

As for upgrading the software, push updates have been around for decades and are what's currently used for software updates.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Grant

All they'd need to do is

I cannot see how you could possibly finish that sentence without making things up.
I regard the fact that what you suggest has not been done as pretty conclusive evidence it is nowhere as easy as you think.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp  Grant
sharkjcw
Updated:

just about any small inventory system will work for what you want, the problem is that someone has to enter the name and location in the system.

edit Worked in a small warehouse for years inventory was tracked as name, row, upright, shelf,. system ran on a desktop running win98

Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Then that is their policy, not Australia Post policy. I suggest you take it up with them.


It's an AP printed sign with AP logos - I strongly suspect the AP has two sets of policies but only publicizes the ones that affect the facilities they own. The five LPOs in my region I've been into are owned by deferent people, spread out over 200 Kms apart and all have the exact same sign with the AP logo - I don't see them paying to have it made themselves.

Replies:   Grant
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

Why are you making things up?
What I have been talking about is a system that Post should develop & implement. Once done it would then be available to all that use the Post tracking system as it would be part of that system.


I pointed out there were only two ways it could be done - one is as a local thing, and the other is for AP to do it. Now that you talk about it being an AP one, for it to work they have to rewrite their software, set up the storage areas, and probably issue new hardware to handle the new software - with almost all of it going to contractors. I don't see AP doing that.

BTW: when you contact AP about delays at a LPO they tell usually tell you to complain at the LPO because that's a contractor problem.

Ernest Bywater

@Grant

If it was cost effective. It's not, so people have to queue up at peak periods during the day.


It's cost effective for AP because the issue is a contractor one, so AP has no interest in fixing it.

Replies:   Grant
Ernest Bywater

@Grant

The Postie delivers to the l/box. If the customer authorises a safe drop, then they will do that (if possible). For items requiring a signature they'll honk the horn & ring the bell/knock on the door (if it's possible).


In the rural areas anything that doesn't fit in a standard mail box isn't taken by the posties for any reason. They never get off the bikes while doing a delivery because the insurance doesn't cover them for anything else. I asked about it. They could get more coverage, but it costs a lot more, so they don't.

Ernest Bywater

Delivery update for parcel shipment of 2 boxes with same item sent as one shipment:

Friday afternoon - leaves Dandenong South, Vic
Friday night - arrives in Chullora, NSW 900 kms north after truck made a collection at Lavington, NSW on-route (among other stops)
Monday - afternoon arrives in Lavington, NSW
Tuesday - morning collect 1 parcel from LPO in Urana, NSW - check of tracking system shows it as delivered.
Tuesday afternoon - tracking system show parcel (the 2nd unit) in Sunshine, Vic.
Wednesday morning - tracking system shows the parcel in Clayton South, Vic

Danmed if I know why the last 2 locations they don't appear anywhere on the labels - attempts to contact AP about missing item not allowed for two more days because it's still within the allowed delivery time.

Note: According to shipper both parcels have barcodes with tracking number which includes info on post codes for shipping address and delivery address. Automated scanners and sorters shouldn't have them going to Sunshine or Clayton South. I now wonder if someone in AP has redirected one to steal it.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

I regard the fact that what you suggest has not been done as pretty conclusive evidence it is nowhere as easy as you think.


Or it could be so effective that someone has put a block on it. Kind of like the theory about super-efficient vehicles.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

Note: According to shipper both parcels have barcodes with tracking number which includes info on post codes for shipping address and delivery address. Automated scanners and sorters shouldn't have them going to Sunshine or Clayton South. I now wonder if someone in AP has redirected one to steal it.


Automated systems make mistakes too. Items also have tendencies to "stick" to other items. So it's possible your package hitched a ride alongside another package that was headed to those locations.

Not_a_ID

@Capt. Zapp

Or it could be so effective that someone has put a block on it. Kind of like the theory about super-efficient vehicles.


Or human factors killed it when they did their test/pilot programs.

An inventory control system is only as good as the people who use it. Also, an inventory control system that is reliant on Barcodes is only as reliable as the barcode stamp/plate on top of all of that.

Which isn't to mention you'd need to find a way to make that barcode make sense to the humans as well. So they're having to scan 20 shelves before finding the right one. ;)

Replies:   Grant
Grant
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

It's an AP printed sign with AP logos - I strongly suspect the AP has two sets of policies but only publicizes the ones that affect the facilities they own. The five LPOs in my region I've been into are owned by deferent people, spread out over 200 Kms apart and all have the exact same sign with the AP logo - I don't see them paying to have it made themselves.


Ask them about it.

The Post policy is 10 working days (ie 2 weeks). The only reason for it being shorter at those LPOs it that they don't want to be holding people's parcel's for them till they finally feel like picking it up.

EDIT- the other option is call 131318 & lodge a complaint and ask them why it is that everywhere else the Post requirement is for it to be held for 10 working days, yet at these locations it's only 3.

Grant

@Ross at Play

I regard the fact that what you suggest has not been done as pretty conclusive evidence it is nowhere as easy as you think.

I regard the fact that it hasn't been done is because management is too tight arsed & while they claim they want the customers to have the best possible experience, they don't have to deal with pissed off people that have been waiting 20min to get a parcel and then staff can't find it. Since they don't have to deal with those customers, it's not an issue.

It would save both Post and the customers incredible amounts of time and money. But the problem is convincing those with the authority that it is the case.

The simple fact of the matter is all the data is already there. Most of the programme is already in place. All it requires is a couple of extra fields & the additional programming to implement it.
As database software goes, it isn't a big deal- you're not building something completely from scratch, just adding to what already exists.

Grant

@Ernest Bywater

It's cost effective for AP because the issue is a contractor one, so AP has no interest in fixing it.

It also affects their Post Offices and parcel collection centres. It is not just a LPO issue. And given that the LPOs are generally much smaller than the Post Offices, the impact on them is less than it would be on Post itself.

Grant

@Not_a_ID

Which isn't to mention you'd need to find a way to make that barcode make sense to the humans as well. So they're having to scan 20 shelves before finding the right one. ;)

The shelves would all have their own numbers and letters based on each group, row, shelf & location along shelf, and position within that area.
The would be no more than 3 items in any location. (although in extreme peak periods it could be up to 5).
Scanning the item barcode would result it it giving you the location for that item eg A2 D4 R (Section A Row 2, Shelf D Section 4, Right).

Grant
Updated:

In answer to the topic of this thread "Why postal services can't make money", the reason Australia Post has problems making money, is because they pay so much to their upper management.
Highest paid postal CEO in the world.
The managing director of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour, has seen his salary package more than double — to a staggering $5.6 million — since he joined the government business enterprise (GBE) in February 2010.
... So the managing director and chief executive of Australia Post is not just the highest paid man in the Commonwealth's service, he appears to be the highest paid postal executive on the planet. In fact, Australia Post's old annual reports suggest the top five executives all make more than a $1 million a year.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-08/australia-post-ceo-salary-not-reasonable-international-peers/8251028

Replies:   JimWar
JimWar

@Grant

As Chief Executive Officer at UNITED PARCEL SERVICE INC, David P. Abney made $10,030,200 in total compensation in 2016. (Google)

Frederick W. Smith, CEO of FedEx made $16,757,033 in 2016 (salary.com)

Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General and CEO of USPS made on $415,291 in 2016 (postalreporter.com)

If the AP CEO makes that much then sounds like Megan is grossly underpaid.

So salary is not the reason for poor service. I know that the USPS has to have a post office in many locations that have few people while FedEx and UPS do not. It takes an act of congress to close a post office. Amazon uses USPS for many deliveries and to some areas USPS forward delivers parcels originated by FedEx and UPS.

Replies:   graybyrd  Ernest Bywater
graybyrd

@JimWar

Which of course accounts for the respect and notice that American members of congress will pay when a staffer approaches with a message:

Your worship (not really, but it doesn't hurt!), we have Mr. Abney [multi-millionaire] on the line;

--or--

Sire (again, not really, but egos are egos!), we have Mr. Smith of FedEx (richer than UPS CEO!) on the line:

--or--

Hey, Boss! That pushy broad, Ms. Brennan from the Post Office Department, is on the line again! (Federal pay scale, less than half a million)

Guess who drops coin in the Congressional donation box and gets a First-Class Reception, and guess who gets shown the bums' rush!

Ernest Bywater

@JimWar

So salary is not the reason for poor service.


it is when the senior execs are grossly overpaid instead of employing more staff to do the work better. Average wage for the public service is A$85,202 which includes 5.6 mill he gets paid as the top exec. Minimum wage is around the A$27,000 mark - varies with industry etc. So his $5.6 mill is equal to about 7,000 other employees.

https://www.livingin-australia.com/salaries-australia/

Replies:   REP  JimWar
REP

@Ernest Bywater

And don't forget the Golden Parachute packages these overpaid executives negotiate upfront that pay them immense amount of money when the company decides to dump them because they did a bad job of managing the company.

JimWar

@Ernest Bywater

Oh, I agree but since they privatized the AP as I believe you stated in an earlier post would they employ more workers if they had that money or would the money go to the investors or back in government coffers. Also top notch execs demand big salaries so someone must have felt that this guy was worth it whether he is or not. Any idea of where he worked before or what he made there? Article in "The Australian" stated that they had to pay him that to lure him away from National Australian Bank and needed someone of his strengths to keep AP ahead of DHL and TNT (FedEx).

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/robert-gottliebsen/why-ahmed-fahour-is-worth-every-cent-of-his-56m-australia-post-salary/news-story/8b3b687dd6a8c96237d6369db858bb05

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@JimWar

Oh, I agree but since they privatized the AP


They privatised the Local Post Offices by selling them off after the businessfied Aust Post - the AP itself is still government owned operation.

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