Sunday, November 21, 2010
USPS has greatly accelerated the pace of machine installations now that it has nailed down where the 100 machines in FSS Phase I will go and what ZIP codes they will handle. Besides the 18 that were already processing mail and the 10 being added this month, another 46 of the football field-sized monsters have been installed, according to a revised deployment schedule USPS released recently.
The Postal Service says it is still on pace to have all 100 machines up and running by June of next year. The latest plan is for those machines to sort catalogs, magazines, and other flat mail for 2,328 ZIP codes in 47 locations.
As noted in Is The FSS A Boondoggle?, the jury is still out on whether the $1.4 billion Phase I investment will be worthwhile and whether FSS will truly revolutionize the handling of flats mail. But the machines do seem to be reducing letter carriers’ in-office time, resulting in fewer carriers needed for areas served by FSS. And some of the machines have had idle days for lack of flat mail to process.
One aspect of FSS not likely to succeed is a recently implemented program that lets mailers package flat mail the way they will eventually be required to do for FSS zones. Following the optional preparation standards would result in more copies per bundle and in pallets configured optimally for the FSS machines, enabling USPS to test its theories about the best way to create bundles and pallets of mail for the machines.
But using the optional standards means loss of carrier-route discounts, which would be a significant penalty for most mailers. So it’s hard to see why they would go through the hassle and cost to participate in the experiment.