The network optimization plan announced yesterday by the Postal Service would apparently require the relocation or shutdown of some of the football-field sized Flats Sequencing System machines.
The vast majority of the 47 processing centers that operate the huge machines would be spared the ax. In fact, more than half of the FSS facilities would take on the sortation of mail from other buildings that would be closed. The consolidation plan would apparently result in a higher percentage of flat mail being sorted by FSS than occurs today.
But five FSS centers with a total of nine machines are on the list being considered for closure. Mail processing now done in Dallas; Van Nuys, California; and Los Angeles (Peck Annex) would be moved to nearby facilities that do not currently have FSS machines. (The original version of this article included Orlando, but the facility there that is on the study list is not the one with FSS machines.)
Work now done in Stamford, Connecticut and Fox Valley, Illinois would be consolidated into nearby centers that are already operating FSS machines. Also, a study of whether to consolidate the work now done at three Massachusetts locations into one includes two facilities that each have three FSS machines -- Middlesex-Essex and Northwest Boston.
The network optimization plan would close more than half of the 487 facilities that now process mail. But facilities with FSS machines tend to be large operations in major metropolitan areas, making them more likely to gain work from consolidation than to be closed.
FSS was supposed to revolutionize the handling of such flat mail as catalogs and magazines, which have traditionally involved much manual handling. The last of the 100 Phase I machines was turned on this past summer. It seems unlikely that any of the machines would be idled, but moving them would be no small feat.
The machines have enabled the Postal Service to eliminate thousands of carrier routes, but with the declining volume of flat mail it's not clear whether the $1.4 billion investment was worthwhile for USPS. For mailers, FSS means mail has to arrive at a sorting facility earlier in the day to receive next-day delivery. (See Special Mail Processing of 'Hot' Publications To End Friday.)
Also on the chopping block is the processing and distribution center in Lancaster, PA, which was supposed to be the test site this summer for a smaller footprint version of the FSS, nicknamed “FSS Lite”. It’s not clear whether that test has gone forward. In fact, with so many small and medium-sized processing centers being targeted for closure, it’s not even clear whether FSS Lite or FSS Phase II will ever be needed.