Postal Service:

Automation Is Taking Longer and Producing Less Than Expected

GGD-95-89BR: Published: Feb 22, 1995. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1995.

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GAO reviewed the status of the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) mail automation efforts, focusing on USPS use of optical scanning technology to: (1) barcode all letter mail; (2) sort mail to individual addresses; and (3) adjust work methods to reduce the postal workforce.

GAO found that: (1) USPS faces difficult and maybe insurmountable obstacles to successfully completing its automation program by its 1998 target date; (2) USPS problems are compounded by opposition to the expanded zip code and the decentralization of the automation program; (3) barcoding and automatic sorting of letter mail to individual addresses is more difficult than expected and is behind schedule; (4) the shortfall in barcoding is due to optical scanners' difficulty in reading nonstandard envelopes and addresses and the delayed deployment of remote barcoding; (5) current postal incentives favor presorting of mail by mailers, which defeats delivery point sequencing because presorted mail must be merged before delivery; (6) most mailers have no incentive to use barcodes, since they are ineligible for barcode discounts or face cumbersome preparation requirements; (7) because of USPS failure to meet the barcoding target date and to include multiple occupant buildings in delivery point sequencing, carriers have not been able to reduce their in-office hours and adjust their delivery routes; (8) automation savings are small and difficult to achieve; (9) USPS has not reduced its workforce as expected and career employment is increasing rather than decreasing; and (10) more business mail is being diverted to electronic delivery methods, which will likely diminish the benefits of automation.

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