Only 11 of the massive machines are up and running, which is about eight months behind the early-2009 schedule for the system that is supposed to revolutionize the handling of catalogs, magazines, and other flat mail. But another 39 installations will be complete by the end of July, postal officials said at last week’s MTAC (Mailers Technical Advisory Committee) meeting.
That would put the program less than six months behind the original schedule. But what happens after July isn’t clear.
The USPS is committed to buying another 50 Phase I FSS machines from Northrop Grumman, but its installation schedule for those machines has been “under development” since August, when postal officials announced a reworking of the Phase I plan in response to declining flats volumes.
One participant in a mailing-industry tour of the Northrop Grumman manufacturing facility last month described it as “all dressed up and no place to go,” waiting on the USPS to decide on a smaller version of the football field-sized machines that is more suited to lower volumes.
Flat mail is down 26% in the past four years, noted a USPS presentation to MTAC. FSS machines are operating in four locations – Dulles (northern Virginia); Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, MO; and Phoenix. Installations are nearly complete in New Jersey NDC (Jersey City); Washington, DC; Mid-Island (Long Island, NY); Northwest Boston; Orlando; Van Nuys, CA; South Florida; Trenton, NJ; and Indianapolis.
Postal officials say that another seven locations will be operating by July 31 – Greensboro and Raleigh, NC; Fox Valley and South Suburban, IL; Los Angeles; San Jose; and Michigan Metroplex (Pontiac).
For more information on the FSS, please see:
- Flats Sequencing Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Bravado: Despite declining flats volume and two failed "acceptance tests", USPS officials are still enthusiastic about FSS. Another acceptance test was supposed to be conducted back in the fall, but results of that have not been released.
- Declining Volumes Lead to FSS Expansion: The Phase I plan was expanded to 42 facilities and nearly 2300 ZIP codes, versus 32 locations and 1300 ZIPs in the original plan.
- The Unofficial Guide to Flats Sequencing: In a Q-and-A format, Dead Tree Edition explains FSS and its projected impact on mailers and postal employees.