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USPS investigates dynamic routing for parcels and express mail

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

The US Postal Service is seeking ideas on how to develop a more sophisticated and dynamic approach to drawing up delivery routes for parcels and express mail.

The world’s largest mail delivery company has issued a request for information seeking industry ideas on how to develop a dynamic routing strategy for its competitive products – package mail, Express Mail and Priority Mail.

USPS is inviting contributions on how it can move away from the current “rigid” structure in order to cut costs, and to take account of the widespread changes to its network.

“Dynamic routing will play a key role in the overall success in the transformation of the USPS delivery operations model,” said the Postal Service, which handles around 40% of the world’s mail by volume.

The Postal Service, which made a $16bn loss last year, is already in the process of consolidating delivery routes and is looking into more centralised delivery approaches, particularly doing away with door-to-door delivery where possible.

It is also hoping that Congress will allow it to abandon Saturday delivery for ordinary mail, to save as much as $3.1m a year in operating costs. However, the intention is for package delivery and express mail services to continue to occur on Saturdays.

USPS said in its request for information that it needs a dynamic routing strategy to provide web-based software tools that will guide postal staff on coordinating deliveries in the light of the changes to delivery standards.

The new dynamic routing strategy is also needed as the Postal Service looks to expand its Same Day Delivery service to take advantage of the boom in e-commerce and retail home delivery. The Same Day service is currently being trialled in San Francisco.

It could mean postal delivery for packages, Express Mail and Priority Mail taking place throughout the day, rather than only late morning and afternoons.

The Postal Service said it would create new Express Mail hubs to contend with the new five day delivery model, it said.

Dynamic

The Postal Service’s private sector rivals have been using dynamic routing systems for years to improve delivery planning and cut down on costs. Most famously, perhaps, UPS has used computer modeling to shape its delivery system since 2004 to avoid left-hand turns where possible, because in many US states drivers can turn right on a red light, avoiding idling time.

The kind of product features that USPS is looking for includes the ability to plan for time penalties for road turns, along with many other aspects of developing the most efficient delivery routes dynamically, adjusting to issues including customised delivery deadlines for certain items, speed limits and traffic reporting.

It would have to be suitable for use by local site personnel to manage and provide instructions for delivery staff.

Initially, it would likely also plot pickup of Express Mail items from business customers and collection boxes. But the solution USPS is looking for would not necessarily be limited to a single service like Express Mail, or focused only on the delivery side of the process.

“The solution shall not be limited to solving a delivery problem within a segment of the USPS process chain, rather it should address, as appropriate, the total cycle of mail acceptance through final delivery — from first to last mile,” said the Postal Service.

USPS said its request for information was not a contract process at this stage, it is simply gathering ideas on how it may adopt a more dynamic approach as its delivery network transforms.

Several groups within the Postal Service are already engaged in dynamic routing studies and activities, looking at commercial off-the-shelf dynamic routing systems and also experimenting with custom-built solutions.

Ultimately, USPS is looking for a flexible and robust system, but also one suitable for quickly scaling up to the full USPS network. The request for information document said that if Congress allows it, the Postmaster General would want a new five day delivery system for ordinary mail to be operational within just 90 days.

Source: Post&Parcel/USPS

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