The University Record, December 10, 1996
Mail Service's new early morning crew means faster deliveries
Recent changes in Mail Service operations have resulted in faster delivery. Sam Mustazza, a 28-year veteran employee, sorts mail for morning delivery.
Photo by Bob Kalmbach
By Stephenie Koehn
At 5 a.m., while most of us are still deep in dreams, employees on the early shift at University Mail Service are already on the job, sorting the average 16,000 to 18,000 campus mail letters and 500 parcels the service handles each day. In just four hours, at 9 a.m., the Mail Service trucks will begin rolling, distributing the flood of mail campuswide.
The creation of that early workshift, one of several changes implemented by the unit in the past six months, probably has had more impact than any other single change in improving the quality of its service, says Mail Service Manager Pat Squires.
"The alternate workshift allows more timely mail sorting than ever before," Squires says. Its inception in August has enabled Mail Service to consistently provide a one-day turnaround on campus mail, pickup point to drop-off point. "We're real proud of the one-day turnaround," Squires says. "We don't see any reason it's going to stop."
The total effect of this and other changes has been to streamline and improve Mail Service operations, particularly where campus mail is concerned, says Steve Lindimore, operations manager. Reorganizing campus mail routes based on campus maps, volumes and pickup needs has also led to a more efficient and speedy operation. The planned installation of signs designating mail stop locations and approximate times of service should also enhance service.
The signs, Squires says, grew out of her realization that most campus mail stops "weren't very well identified." If Mail Service employees have trouble finding the mail stop in a building, it slows them and the total operation down. "We deliver to 176 buildings," says Bill Griffin, Mail Service's assistant manager. Some 50 percent of those buildings get serviced twice or more each day. "Our routes are timed," he says.
Campus mail, however, is just one of the functions of the Mail Service. It also picks up U.S. Postal Service outgoing mail for processing, sorts and delivers U.S. Postal Service packages sent to campus addresses and handles bulk mail, known officially as bulk permit standard mail. Additionally, the unit processes United Parcel Service mailing and "international remail," a service in which mail destined for foreign locations is classified "bulk mail"---with charges calculated based on combined weight, rather than by the piece, to save money---then posted at the overseas destination.
Mail Service now offers, for a fee, a bulk mailing preparation service. Bulk mailing preparation, says Griffin, can be very complicated, and the new service eases the process for customers. Mail Service is limited at this time to mailings of 3,000 pieces or less, but "we're investigating equipment which will allow us to do large bulk mailings," says Lindimore.
Also in the planning stages: a procedure which would allow customers to have something printed at University Printing Services and mailed in one seamless operation, says Squires, who also manages University Printing Services.
"One of the most important things people can do to help is insist that addresses are correct, and correct them if they're not," Squires says, adding that "this is one of our primary roles---to help people understand this process. We'll come to their unit, provide seminars. That's one of the things we plan to stress for the coming year---how to prepare mail properly."
"The better you prepare your mail, the faster and better the U.S. Post Office can process it. More pieces per hour and less handling time mean faster, more economical delivery," says Griffin.
One additional change, instituted July 1, is a new mandatory requisition which must be filled out for outgoing mail. The new form is "basically an audit trail," says Lindimore, "which allows us to charge the postage back to the unit" and thus simplifies the task of mailing for the customer. It requires the mailer to count the number of pieces to be mailed, Lindimore says, admitting the controversial new form has "created a bit of a stir." The forms were instituted for proper accounting and to provide accurate billings, he says.
Squires says the changes brought about during her first two years at the helm of Mail Service are just a start. As the unit points itself toward the 21st century, a number of challenges loom. "The biggest (challenge) is to build people's confidence that we are providing a viable campus mail service, to reduce the demand for courier service. If we can provide this service well enough we can eliminate the need for the tremendous number of couriers on campus. The University's money will be better spent," Squires says.
A second challenge will be to educate people to prepare their mail to render it "automatable." And finally, she says, Mail Service will focus on continuous staff development through team-building exercises, goal-setting, morale improvement and continual cross-training. "The employees are the mail service. I'm thrilled with the progress our staff has made since I've been here," Squires says. "Staff is the key. We can't do it without them."