Detailed Report Sanford Consulting


Ms. Betty Roberts is a 78 year old woman who lives in the rural town of Good Hope, Georgia. All of her children live in Virginia; she mostly sees them on holidays. She makes one trip to town each week to buy groceries. Each day, she looks forward to her mail arriving—hoping that she will get a letter from one of her grandchildren. She usually gets her mail around 1:00 p.m., but some days it can be as late as 2:30 p.m. What if Ms. Roberts could consistently get her mail around 12 :00, do you think she would be happier? We at Sanford Consulting do.

Customers of the United States Postal Service demand that mail be delivered at the same time each day. The goal of the USPS is "to deliver every piece of mail every day in a timely, affordable, consistent, and accurate manner." However, w hen our team began to evaluate Rural Route 5, which serves a portion of Monroe and all of Good Hope, we recognized that mail was not being delivered as timely as possible.

Jim Haralson, an employee of the USPS for 30 years, is the mail carrier for Route 5. His evaluated route serves a total of 421 boxes, with a total distance of 94.57 miles. Route 5 serves 120 boxes in Monroe and 301 boxes in Good Hope. Jim first reports to the Monroe office, where he is often delayed leaving out on the route for two primary reasons:

    1. There is a 6:30 a.m. mail run to the Monroe post office. After the mail is received, there are 3 employees who sort the mail by route. This takes time and the carriers often have down time just waiting for the mail to be sorted.
    2. The custodian picks up Delivery Point Sequence (DPS) mail from the Athens post office each day. On most days, the DPS mail arrives at the Monroe post office by 7:00 a.m., but sometimes it is delayed until as late as 9:30 a.m. Most of the DPS mail is p resorted by route before it is ever reaches Monroe. However, every day there are pieces of mail which have been wrongly addressed and must be handed out to the appropriate carrier when it arrives in Monroe. This serves to further delay the carriers from c asing their mail and ultimatley from getting out on their routes.

The Good Hope route is unique in that Jim cases mail at two post offices, Monroe and Good Hope. When Jim leaves the Monroe office, which is often late because he has to wait on mail to be sorted, he serves the boxes in Monroe and then must go to the Go od Hope office to case the mail for the largest portion of his route. Being delayed in Monroe for any length of time causes mail delivery to be later than it should be.

The Sanford team identified two possible solutions for correcting the delivery problem:

    1. Jim’s reporting time could be pushed up to about 7:45 a.m. After evaluating the situation, we concluded that this option was not an appropriate solution. If Jim did report later, he may not have any idle time, but it is likely that he would often miss dispatch time. Dispatch time is when the mail collected for the day is sent out to other offices to be delivered the next day. At the Monroe post office, dispatch time is around 5:00 p.m.; the goal is for all carriers to be back from their routes by 4:0 0 p.m.
    2. Two, Jim could report to the Good Hope office first. This option would definitely reduce idle time and would involve changing the actual structure of the route. We set out to determine if option two was feasible.

The Good Hope post office serves one route, whereas the Monroe post office serves 18 routes. The mail arrives to the Good Hope office at 7:00 a.m. As the postmaster at Good Hope separates the mail, Jim could immediately case the mail. Our solution was to have Jim first report to the Good Hope office at 7:00 a.m. and case his mail there. However, he would not yet be able to deliver the mail because all DPS mail for Good Hope arrives in Monroe; this is because Good Hope is considered a satellite office o f Monroe. After casing mail in Good Hope, he would drive 6 miles to the Monroe office and case his mail there. Time that had previously been spent waiting on mail to be sorted in Monroe would be spent actually casing mail in Good Hope. After casing in Mo nroe, Jim could begin delivering mail.

We quantified the improvement in mail delivery by measuring time spent on the route, idle time spent at the Monroe office, and the average time of the day by which the route was finished. From one week of preliminary data, we determined that Jim spent an average of 8 hours and 40 minutes on the route each day. Also, during the 5 days prior to implementing our solution, Jim had spent an average of 30 minutes waiting on mail to be sorted in Monroe. On average during the same 5-day period, Jim did not fin ish his route until 4:15 p.m. After implementing our solution for one week, Jim spent an average of 7 hours and 15 minutes on the route. No idle time was spent waiting on mail to be sorting once Jim arrived at the Monroe post office; he was immediately ab le to case his mail and start delivering. Also, on average, Jim finished the route at 2:30 p.m.

You may be wondering why we did not figure in mail volume for the above calculations. Mail volume is essentially a number that measures the feet of mail a carrier has to deliver; it is not a count of the number of items to be delivered. Mail volume is computed for letters (anything less than 5 ¾ inches) and flats (anything greater than 5 ¾ inches). It is important to recognize that a given mail volume can be misleading. For example, if a carrier’s mail volume was 2.75 feet for flats on Monday an d 1.25 feet for flats on Tuesday, the mail count could actually be more on Tuesday. Most of the flat volume for Monday could have been Southern Living magazines, whereas on Tuesday there could have been one-sheet newsletters in the mail vol ume. It is easy to recognize that it would take a carrier longer to case thin one-sheet newsletters than to case thick Southern Living magazines. In order to be thorough and be positive that our data was not skewed because the mail volume was light , we did look at mail volume for the week prior to implementation and for the week of implementation. For the prior week, there was an average mail volume of 11 feet. For the week of implementation, the average mail volume was 12 feet and 3 inches. The ma il volume was actually greater the week of implementation. However, this does not mean the mail count was heavier.

By having Jim first report to the Good Hope office to case his mail, we successfully eliminated any idle time at the Monroe post office. Beyond this positive outcome, Route 5 customers benefit from this solution; they receive their mail earlier in the day and in a more consistent manner. Ms. Roberts can now look forward to receiving letters from her grandchildren earlier in the day.