Postal Control Systems
As A mail processing clerk for the U.S Postal Service, my success is measured by two indicators, the amount of mail volume left on hand at the end of each day and the number of dispatches that leave the building on time. If the dispatches to the stations leave on time and I have a limited amount of mail volume left on hand my day has been a success. Through this paper I will discuss the control systems used to ensure that success. At the end of the day there is only one indicator that determines organizational success or failure, a happy and satisfied customer.
As stated in the text, organizational control is defined as the process used to monitor and regulate how efficiently and effectively an organization and its members are performing the activities necessary to achieve organizational goals (Jones-George:Essentials of Contemporary Management.pg.285). My plant is different from your typical organization in that my customers are actually the post office that you may use to mail letters. The mail is gathered from postal stations all over the city and filtered through my plant. We call this mail originating because it was originated locally. We also process mail that comes from all over the world. No matter where it comes from, the way it is processed is all the same. In the plant Feed forward Control is used more as an internal tool. For example, the clerk is given a target for expected output per hour for his machine. This allows the clerk to be responsible for his own time management. Managers, however, are able to monitor the productivity of each machine in real time, giving them the ability to ensure the machines are operating at a pace that will allow them to reach their target. This is a part of Concurrent Control. If the machines are running to slow, maintenance may be called in to examine the machine to determine if there is a problem. This is the good thing about establishing target goals and evaluating performance in real time. Problems can be addressed immediately. There are times when A letter may become jammed in the machine or a belt may come off causing the machine to shut down. When this happens a red light will come on anywhere on the machine that has A problem. This allows you to immediately fix the problem.
Not all control systems in my plant function the way they should. Organizational control as it pertains to motivating and rewarding employees to promote better job performance and boost morale is seldom practiced in my plant. There is no formal method of training. Any training provided for a new employee is pretty much done by the person they are assigned to work with. That only helps if that person is willing to train. To succeed in this plant you have to be pretty much self motivated. Our employers are of the opinion that your pay should be motivation enough. Unfortunately, rewards for high performance or outworking your job description are not given. On the contrary, a lot of employees are harassed, badgered, and even sometimes threatened by managers to get productivity out of them.
To evaluate postal control systems, we use several technological criteria. One system is called DPS (Delivery Point Sequence). Each letter is fed through A Bar Code Sorting Machine that sprays a bar code on the front of the letter and an identification tag on the back. The letter is then sorted into the route that the carrier takes while making his deliveries. The mail is then recollected in order and fed through the machine a second time and sorted in order by each address the carrier will make a delivery to along his route. So when the carrier receives his mail at the station is already separated in order by address for every stop along his route. Another system used closely monitors the DPS process in the plant. It tracks the throughput per hour for each machine. Since everything in the plant centers around the time that mail is to be dispatched to each city, this allows managers and employees to ensure that dispatch times will be met. A maintenance team is readily available for each shift to address anything from letter jams in the machines to machine breakdowns. Another system that is used is called the Low Cost Tray Sorter (LCTS). This system is used to separate mail as it comes from the trucks into the cities and states they will be sent to after they are processed. For example, I currently process mail for Greenville, Texas. The LCTS separates all the mail that is to be processed for Greenville and placed in a container for me to pick up. After I have picked up all the mail for Greenville I will then run it through the barcode sorter so that it will be arranged in delivery sequence order. Finally, there is the dispatching process. Each city has a time that mail is to be dispatched to the dock, loaded on trucks, and taken to its final destination.
Creativity is a very iatrical part of my job. Managers seldom listen to employees. Most of the processes we have in place are ineffective. Creativity is not openly promoted but it is vitally necessary. If you operate totally within your job description you will fail most of the time. Many of us have to skip lunch or breaks to make dispatch times. This could be due to machine problems, inexperienced workers, short staffing, or even too much mail volume for the day. One example of the creative approach taken when there is too much mail volume and not enough time to process it in order to make a deadline would be what we call splitting. A machine processes 30,000 letters per hour. You have a dispatch time of 6 a.m. You have 70,000 pieces of mail in your machine and its 4:15 a.m. By taking half the mail to another machine, or splitting it, you are able to finish both halves in time to make the dispatch. Once the mail reaches the station it can be put back together and then delivered. One problem with splitting is that some stations are understaffed and the carriers may be late beginning their routes if they have to spend too much time putting the mail back together.
The Postal Service was very creative in using benchmarking as a management technique. When the explosion of texting, e-mailing, and on-line bill pay came about the Postal Service was devastated. Not only because of these new ways of communicating but also because at the same time the government made us responsible for our own debt. This along with souring fuel prices hit us pretty hard. So because of new technology impeding the low of first class mail we decided to focus on parcels. By monitoring companies like Fed-Ex and UPS we were able to come up with a cheaper flat-rate method of delivering parcels and made ourselves a formidable competitor in this arena.
Another way benchmarking was applied was through organizational restructuring done like companies such as IBM had done. Since lay-offs was not an option, postal facilities were clo0sed all over the country and their operations were moved to major plants like the one I work in. This move created revenue because it negated the operating costs of all of those facilities. The employees were given the opportunity to retire early or moved to a facility where they could be better utilized. Unfortunately relocation was a part of this process and everyone was not able to do it. The final part of the process was to eliminate unnecessary overtime. This was huge because most employees had been doubling their salary in overtime for years. In essence, this was like taking a 50% pay cut. It was good for the company, but a lot of people lost their homes and jobs.
There has been a major impact on my life because of the organizational control systems within my plant. Most of it has been physical. The floor in the plant is an extremely hard surface. A lot of the people who work there have pain in their legs, ankles, feet, and backs. I have flat feet and recently I was told by my physician that the joints in my ankles are starting to deteriorate. Because of the constant bending and lifting I am always sore. Starting an exercise routine outside of work and losing a little weight has helped some. The dust created from the mail going through the machines is also an issue. Some clerks combat this issue by wearing masks. Each machine takes 2 people to operate. Because we are understaffed, we sometimes have to work alone. This creates an instance of one person doing the work of two. After about an hour you begin to feel the physical effects. Cramping, dehydration, and stiffness are the things we combat the most.
The professional impact has been far greater than the physical in my case. After spending two years in management I began to see the postal service from many different angles. From the management side I have a better understanding of postal operations and mail flow. I have a deeper respect for my co workers. This has given me managerial experience and also helped me to develop as far as human relations are concerned. As a supervisor I made it a point to listen to my employees and to move expediently to solve their problems. What I discovered was that most of the time they just needed someone to listen, Not only to their complaints but also to their ideas. As a supervisor my first duty would be to make sure that I was adequately staffed. This was hardly ever the case. So I would roll up my sleeves and work side by side with those people that didn’t have a partner. This eventually gave us a mutual respect for each other.
As I stated before, my plant does not give incentives for job performance or positive feedback, so, I was asked by a fellow class mate how I am able to work for a company like that. My answer was simple. Pride of ownership and an understanding that I do not work for my managers. Instead I work for the citizens, the customers in the cities that I process mail for, at the end of the day there is only one way to determine organizational success or failure. a happy and a satisfied customer.