U.S. future retiree health benefits for the

U.S. Postal Service and Quality Management

The United States Postal Service’s first Postmaster General
was Benjamin Franklin in 1775 (about.usps.com/1775).  U.S.P.S, or as it is more commonly known, the
Post Office is an independent agency under the federal government.  The responsibility of the Post Office is to
deliver mail and large parcels to homes and commercial businesses in all 50
states and U.S. territories, including military installations at home and
overseas.   

About U.S.P.S.

The postal service employs over 500,000 people and controls
thousands of small trucks, trailers, and airplanes all over the United States. The
Postal Service began and appointed Benjamin Franklin on July 26, 1775, just 3
short weeks after the United States declared independence.  At that time, a salary of $1,000 per year was
offered to the Postmaster General, and $340 per year salary for a secretary and
Comptroller (about.usps.com, 2017). The postal Service has been delivering mail
for more than 230 years.  The Postal
Service is the second oldest federal department or agency of the United
States.        U.S.P.S
is the main provider for $1.4 trillion mailing industry (USPS.com). 

Over the years, the Postal Service has struggled losing
billions of dollars.  This loss was
assumed to be caused by the rise of the internet, and people using less
stamps.  The Washington Post printed an
article in 2012 by Frederic Rolando stating, “there is indeed red ink, but the
reasons are unrelated to the mail.  In
2006, Congress required that, within the next decade, the Postal Service
pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years – a burden no
other agency or company faces.  That
accounts for 85% of all the agency’s red ink since – and more than 90% of the
$6.46 billion shortfall from the first half of fiscal 2012.  Before pre-funding began in 2007, the Postal
Service had annual profits in the low billions” (Rolando, 2012). 

When Congress made these requirements of the Postal Service,
it put them in a quick downward spiral and money loss was imminent.  Management teams began disagreeing amongst
themselves, producing a hostile work environment, which only complicated
issues.  The conflict and hostile work
environment caused an uproar; employees were filing complaints against
management, and in turn, the hostility and tension was rolling down to
customers. 

The Postal Service is a giant company.  For companies of this size to run smoothly,
working as a team must happen.  One way
for companies to make improvements is to look to their competitors, or those in
the same field as they are.  For example,
postal operations in Canada and Japan are separate from their government.  The postal service is regarded as a
business.  If the United States were to
transition into treating the USPS as a business and not a government agency,
their operations and profits could improve drastically.  There are a few steps that the Postal Service
could take to improving business, such as, incorporate technology throughout
the Postal Service, and start a customer survey to learn where the downfalls
and breakdowns are within the company. 
The best, and most effective way to gauge performance is by asking your
customers how you are doing. 

TQM Methodologies – U.S.P.S.

            Total
Quality methodologies such as ISO 9000 and Six Sigma principles would be
beneficial to the Postal Service in improving performance and revenue, as well
as customer satisfaction.  Total Quality
Management’s simple objective is to “do the right things, right the first time,
every time” (Hashmi, 2016).  According to
Hashmi, TQM is both infinitely variable and adaptable.  In fact, it is becoming recognized as a
generic management tool that any industry can tweak to satisfy their
needs. 

            Performing
a SWOT analysis should be USPS’s first step to improvement.  A SWOT analysis identifies Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to an organization.  “The SWOT analysis addresses key factors that
determine future success, and might include customer and market needs,
expectations, opportunities for and role model performance, core competencies,
competitive environment, and performance relative to competitors and comparable
organizations” (Evans & Lindsey, 2011). 
Having used SWOT analyses previously in other projects and classes, a
personal experience of mine has been that they are very beneficial, and often
bring up things that you would not have otherwise known about your
company.  When performing a SWOT
analysis, it is important to ask questions such as (brighthub Project
Management, 2018):

1)   
What do you do well?

2)   
What makes you superior to the competition?

3)   
Is your customer base strong?

4)   
If asking a customer of yours, what would they
identify as one of your strengths?

5)   
Do you have a sustainable competitive advantage?

6)   
Is the organization concentrating to achieve
objectives?

7)   
What are the essential human resources
essentially required but not available?

8)   
Are funds available when required?

9)   
Are there any indicators to be beneficial for
the industry?

10) What
are the market trends?

11) What
are potential obstacles to achieve objectives?

12)  Are company products changing due to other
innovative emerging sources?

            The
textbook states that the “purpose of the balance scorecard is to translate
strategy into measures that uniquely communicate your vision to the
organization” (Evans and Lindsay, 2011). 
A balance scorecard will allow the Postal Service to ask pertinent
questions to make improvements. 

            These
days, many businesses are using customer surveys as a way to gauge customer
satisfaction.  Some companies, such as
retail chains, randomly send questionnaires via email, or ask a customer prior
to checking out online if they would be interested in filling out a survey.  While this particular method may not work for
Postal Service offices, having paper surveys, or those that are on the bottom
of a receipt can be very beneficial. 
Some generic customer survey questions include: How was your service
today?  Do you mind elaborating on the
services you used at our branch?  What
wait time did you experience?  How did
our staff perform (i.e. friendly, smiling, efficient, knowledgeable)?, Did we
meet your expectations?  Having this type
of feedback will also show managers what areas they need to emphasize in
training situations. 

            The
Postal Service is primarily a customer service industry, whether customers are
visiting the branch, receiving mail to their homes, or having packages
scheduled for pickup or delivery via the web. 
This means it is imperative that customer service be the main priority
for the industry.  If customers are not
utilizing the post office, then the post office has no reason to continue being
open, and the federal government will lose money. 

Improvements  Using total quality management techniques like
six-sigma or supply chain management to improve businesses such as the postal
service can be very beneficial. 
According to Evans & Lindsay, a good process design will ensure both
goods and services are meeting external and internal customer
requirements.  There are a few other
factors worth considering when making improvements to the Postal Service;
safety, process performance & variability, productivity, environmental
impact, green measurement capability, and maintainability of equipment.  The aforementioned factors also contribute to
process design (Evans & Lindsay, 2011). 
Implementing these factors will allow for a business to provide customer
appeal, as well as making the business standout from competitors. 

The textbook defines process control as “an activity of ensuring
conformance to the requirements and taking corrective action when necessary to
correct the problems and maintain stable performance” (Evans & Lindsay,
2011). 

Six Sigma Philosophy. Evans
and Lindsay (2011) defines six-sigma philosophy as “a philosophy based on
understanding and improving processes on a project-by project basis”.  The main
objective of the six-sigma methodology is to implement a mesaurement-based
strategy focusing on process irpovement and variation reduction through the
application of Six Sigman improvement projects. 
In order to achieve this, both Six Sigma sub-methodologies must be
used.  These are: DMAIC and DMADV.  DMAIC is an improvement system involving
steps (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) to take an existing process
and look to imrpove incrementally.  DMADV
(define, measure, analyze, design, verify) is a system used to develop new
processes (sixsigma,com, 2016). 

Six sigma is based on the
goal of removing waste and enhacning performance with a technical and statistical
approach.  The concentration is on
removing defects and errors, while making experts out of people.  If USPS implements the Six Sigma philosophy,
it will be able to develop ideal cost saving measures that will improve
operating expenses and eliminate unproductive areas of the Postal Serviec.  Six-Sigma will also allow the Postal Service
to integrate other incentives to produce higher proft margins in new
areas. 

In this case, when using
six-sigma in the postal service, it would be beneficial to use DMAIC to fix
processes like shipping times, employee shortages, and customer service
training.  Then, use DMADV to create new
processes that will aid in profit regeneration, while still ensuring customer’s
are receiving the best service possible. 
One example I can think of personally is creating a schedule that
ensures postal workers are not overworked. 
This does not currently seem to be in place, and postal workers,
especially around the holidays, are mentally exhausted.  Bringing in temporary or part-time employees
to aid in relief efforts for those employees who work full time would be a good
use of a DMADV practice. 

Below you will see two charts
that illustrate how the Postal Service could inrease profit margin.  In early 2017, the Postal Service reported
it’s first profit in five years.  While
societal factors such as the age of digital communication, and other services
like UPS and FedEx could have contributed to this decline in proft, as well as
the aforementioned retiree savings mandated by the government, interacting with
postal service employees is sometimes an agonizing process.  From personal experience, and as someone who
visits the post office frequently, I find that I dread these interactions.  No matter what mood you are in when you enter,
you are guaranteed a bad one when you leave. 
In my area, postal workers are dull, drab, discouraging, and often times
rude.  My philosophy is if you hate your
job, leave.  I am fully aware that people
have bad days, but when it is a constant trend, and you are in customer
service, maybe you should re-evaluate your career choice. 

                    

                   

             

            The charts
above are illustrations regarding the loss of Saturday Mail services within the
United States Postal Service.  If this
service was cut, anywhere from $1.6 billion to $3.4 billion could be
saved.  

Conclusion.  The United States Postal Service is a
large operation, that although is an independent agency, still has to abide by
rules of the Federal Government. 
Decisions that the federal government makes will have lasting impacts on
the Postal Service, and often have derogatory impacts, as seen with the retiree
mandate.  Although there are no plans
currently in effect to change the classification and jurisdiction of the post
office, we can hope that in the future we will transition to a Post Office that
is treated as a business, rather than a government entity.    Throughout this paper, I analyzed how
making changes involving total quality management and the six sigma philosophy
could benefit the United States Postal Service.