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USPS Working to Fix Sorting Machines

WASHINGTON — A postal official told members of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee at its quarterly meeting here Wednesday that the U.S. Postal Service is working to correct the damage that some of the agency's new flat-sorting machines are doing to the mail.

The AFSM 100s are considered “intelligent” flat-mail-sorting machines that can decipher hard-to-read addresses while sorting faster than previous equipment. The USPS has said that a two-year nationwide deployment of 534 AFSM 100s was completed recently and that the machines sort 15,000 pieces of mail an hour — three times the rate of earlier machines — at one-third the cost.

But “we have found that some of the machines can cause damage to flats [such as] tearing or ripping covers,” said Tom Day, vice president of engineering at the USPS.

Day told audience members that the USPS is working with postal employees as well as with the machines' manufacturer, Northrop Grumman.

The USPS has prepared a training video for all employees who run the AFSM 100s that “emphasizes what can be done to minimize damage,” such as loading the flats into the machines properly and ensuring the machines are properly maintained.

Northrop Grumman has proposed solutions and is testing a machine with a new feeder.

“So far, we are seeing a significant reduction in damage from this new feeder,” Day said. Northrop Grumman is also testing new software systems on the machine.

After testing is completed, Day will have to get the program funded. Day said he could not identify the percentage of mail that is damaged by the machines, only that “we know that the number is not high. But we still consider this to be a very important problem that needs to be fixed.”

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