Thursday, April 5, 2012

FSS Machines Running Far Slower Than Planned

Flats Sequencing System machines continue to run much slower than their target speeds and aren't getting any faster. But they also aren't breaking down as often as they were last year, according to a Postal Service presentation.

From October through mid-February, the average number of pieces sequenced hourly ranged from 7,000 to 10,000 per week, well below the target of nearly 12,000. Throughputs so far this year have stabilized in the range of 8,000 to 9,000 per hour with a slightly downward trend, according to a presentation Megan J. Brennan, USPS's Chief Operation Officer, made at a recent Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meeting.

But the "Mean Time Between Failure", a measure of how frequently the machines break down that was at about 10 for most of August and September, has been consistently above 13 recently. And the time it took to get a machine back online dropped by about one-third in a six-month period.

Postal officials reported that rapid deployment of the huge machines -- 89 during Fiscal Year 2011 -- led to service challenges and a "learning curve for technicians." USPS has updated FSS-related training, instituted more diagnostic maintenance, and revised various procedures to improve efficiency and reduce extensive delays in the delivery of flat mail, such as catalogs and magazines.

It's also working on ways to reduce the frequent damage to mail pieces that has earned FSS the nickname "Flats Shredding System".

Increasing the machines' reliability may be more important than increasing their speeds. FSS' erratic performance wreaked havoc during the busy fall mailing season, especially for letter carriers whose routes were "adjusted" (expanded) under the assumption that FSS would enable them to spend more time delivering the mail.

Many reported that they still had to sequence more than half of the flat mail they deliver, sometimes on their laps during "street time." Among the comments:
  • "Since the start of the fall junk mailing season, we've had many days where were get raw flats we have to manually case because the one machine they have at the plant can't keep up with the volume. Needless to say, along with the fact management overestimated FSS's savings by making our routes mega-routes, O.T. is pretty much a daily occurence."
  • "Flats come in late and destroyed. Some days we have zero FSS, other days we have 10 trays. Three days last week it showed up late and the carriers had to come back to the office to retrieve it. This week the FSS came in postcons because management didn't anticipate the amount of flats we are receiving and didn't purchase enough FSS carts. 
  • "The day before Thanksgiving I had 3 trays of FSS. The day after Thanksgiving I had 21 trays plus 5 tubs I was supposed to throw in the morning. I've seen a lot of disasters in my 26 years here but this system is a complete failure. 
Dead Tree Edition has published more than 20 articles about FSS, which is supposed to revolutionize the handling and delivery of flat mail, including FSS Is Increasing USPS's Costs, Expert Says, 7 Reasons the Jury Is Still Out on Flats Sequencing, and the ever-popular Unofficial Guide to Flats Sequencing.


Anonymous said...

All, Liz has an idea and would like some feedback in regard to your Local's
interest. At the National Convention after the Parade of States, she want to
set up Regional hospitality parties, at the same location of the Parade of
States. It would be called Regional Street Parties. We have a band called
Haute Chili. Food wagons will be available to buy food and they will have Bars
set up.

Remember the Eastern Region rules! Let me know of your Locals interest in this
event, on a non-commitment basis, of course. Thx. AS USPS BURNS

Mike Gallagher
Eastern Region Coordinator
American Postal Workers Union

Anonymous said...

Mis-managed is the ultimate understatement. Cases have been shrunk for carriers to sort mail manually for no logical reason. Now when we case flats you have to use two hands and fold flats to get them in. FSS machines sort slick thin flats in globs of ten or more. Flats that are made of thin paper get shreded. Yesterday we had a shredded coverage of valu.mail with addresses facing backwards, very hard to deliver that way. Management keeps running same coverages that have failed for months now. Carrier routed mail easily cased now run thru machines. Grumann must have paid someone big!

Anonymous said...

Just another waste of freaken money !!! And they all wonder why we are going in the hole ??? DuHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhh

Anonymous said...

All of the above comments are common occurances at my office too. Plus the routes are longer, nightmare.

Anonymous said...

I find it disgusting that a USPS employee would refer to the "junk mailing season". If it were not for Presort Standard mail, he would probably not have a job.

Anonymous said...

I work on the FSS machine every nite in Philly P&DC. Lately we're not getting mail to process on the FSS. We hear its getting sent directly to the AO's. If you have this 7 million dollar machine, and the staff willing to work then why is it being sent to the carrier to sort. We hear its a call being made by Southeastern mgmt. (Southeastern merging with Philly P&DC in May.) We all know how new management is.....they're gonna com in and fix things. Yea Right.

I might add, it was a rough start but I do see our department coming together and things running smoother.

Anonymous said...

I am an MPE assigned to the 4 FSS Machines at the NJ NDC during TOUR 1(8pm-4:30am). Most of the problems with the FSS can be traced to people running the machines.

From improperly prepped flats (including those that fail to meet the min. criteria) to bypassing PCS and ad hoc entry of sort plans to be run, much time is wasted.

And yes, there are also faults on the maintenance side which must be addressed.

Overall, the use of the machines appears to be managed remotely by people so far removed from operations that they couldn't identify a CASTR if it was in front of them.

Sometimes it feels as if management doesn't WANT the FSS machines to work properly. Maybe that's why mail is prepped by casuals with zero training...

I could go on for days!

Anonymous said...

For City Letter Carriers, I recall the minimum manual casing standard as 8 flats per minute. This would mean that 17 carriers should sort a minimum of 8,160 flats per hour.

What is the staffing level of an FSS machine + maintenance + MTE costs + extra transportation costs + capital investment + etc. + etc.

In this man vs. machine contest John Henry the letter carrier wins hands down!!

Anonymous said...

Whose idea was this fss machine and why is there no accountability

Anonymous said...

To the MPC in NJ.....I had a total of 1 1/2 hours of training as far as prepping goes on the FSS. We watched a DVD, thats it.

Now after working on the FSS for almot a year, I still find myself wondering if what i'm prepping is right. We get almost no feedback. How can we improve if we don't know the specs?

And then they send the casuals over, they'll prep anything.

The whole operations seems to be a big joke.

Anonymous said...

FSS Machine needs alot of TLC to function the way its suppose to. USPS maintenace needs to soak in more about the machines from the last of the Northrop Grumman support team.