Postal Official Says USPS on Right Track

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NEW YORK -- The focus for the U.S. Postal Service in 2004 will be the same as in 2003, a postal official said yesterday: productivity, service and labor relations.

"You've got our commitment to continue to improve from a service, efficiency and people standpoint," Patrick R. Donahoe, executive vice president and chief operating officer, USPS, said at a Periodicals Focus Group meeting for the New York Metro, Northeast, Capital Metro and Eastern areas that took place in New York.

As for service, Donahoe said that the USPS will look at the whole idea of access, "whether it's acceptance units, business windows at retail or extended window hours." In general, the agency will use some capital investments to "purchase equipment that makes it easier to do business with us."

He also said that "we are going to squeeze down our networks, without sacrificing service."

The USPS is currently focusing on safety issues for its employees "because good safety and good accident rates reduce workers' compensation costs down the line," Donahoe said. "It's the right thing to do from the people standpoint, but is also the right thing to do from a dollar standpoint."

John A. Rapp, USPS senior vice president of operations, also spoke and discussed two research and development programs for flats that the agency is considering.

One program, the Flats Sequencing System, would raise flat-sorting technology to the level of sophistication as letter mail by sorting magazines, catalogs and other flats into delivery order.

The second, Delivery Point Packaging, would build on the Flats Sequencing System by sorting letters and flats into delivery order simultaneously, then bundling them into individual delivery packages.

The Flats Sequencing System could be operational by 2006 with Delivery Point Packaging following in 2007. The USPS hopes to decide regarding the systems by the end of fiscal year 2004.

Rapp also said that the USPS would complete enhancing the feeder portion of its AFSM 100 machines by May 2004.

AFSM 100s can decipher hard-to-read addresses while sorting three times as fast as previous equipment. AFSM 100s sort flats weighing up to 20 ounces at a rate of up to 17,000 pieces per hour. However, last year some major printers and flats mailers said the machines occasionally ripped the covers off heavier saddle-stitched, glossy-cover catalogs and magazines.

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