February may be a short month, but it's already a record breaker for one type of downsizing at the U.S. Postal Service.
USPS has launched Area Mail Processing studies this month that could lead to the closing or significant downsizing of 20 processing and distribution centers. The previous record month for such new AMP studies was September 2010, with 13.
The Postal Service has also approved six AMP consolidations this month, deciding to move work from facilities in Daytona Beach, FL; Lufkin, TX; Muncie, IN; Wichita Falls, TX; and Zanesville, OH to those in nearby cities.
Some AMP consolidations in major metropolitan areas affect hundreds of employees and generate millions of dollars in projected annual savings.
But the latest studies are mostly smaller-scale efforts focused on moving work from non-metro buildings to those in larger cities. For example, the Muncie move (shifting originating mail to Kokomo, IN) and the Zanesville plan (all mail processing to Columbus) are each worth about a half million dollars in annual savings.
With a few exceptions like the Bronx, NY P&DC, most of the new studies are also unlikely to yield million-dollar savings. Four of the new studies will focus on facilities in Wyoming towns -- Gillette, Riverton, Sheridan, and Worland -- that have a combined population of only about 50,000.
The other studies launched in February involve facilities in Augusta, GA; Bluefield, WV; Frederick, MD; Gainesville, FL; Gary, IN; Glenwood Springs, CO; Hattiesburg, MS; Hickory, NC; Kinston, NC; Lancaster, PA; Las Cruces, NM; Meridian, MS; Portsmouth, NH; Rockford, IL; and Wareham, MA.
Both the Government Accounting Office and many mailers have urged the Postal Service to shrink its network of approximately 260 P&DCs.
The consolidation efforts usually stir up opposition from postal unions because the affected employees are typically reassigned to jobs in other towns, sometimes more than 100 miles from their current locations. But the pain might be eased for many if, as widely reported, the Postal Service is working on another round of early-retirement incentives.