simple logistics

Are simple logistics costing you the American taxpayer money?  Very likely.  And I’m sure for plenty of reasons other than the one I am going to try and impress upon you right now.

Now take for example you are trying to travel from point A to point B, they are 2.3 miles apart.  Here they are on a map:

Hypothetically, lets say you wanted to mail a letter from your house “A” to your friends house “B”.  Now, I have no idea how the post office works, but lets assume all the letters get collected for the day and are taken to a local post office for sorting.  Basically, you go from your house A, to the post office C, to your friends house B.  Still doesn’t seem that bad right?

So why on earth does a letter sent from A to B go through a postal sorting center D, 90+ miles away? [not drawn to scale]

I kid you not.  Letters going from A to B travel more than 90 miles there and back.  How do I know?  We have been receiving lots of little envelopes in the mail recently, and our friends in house (A) sent theirs to our place (B), and it was stamped as going through (D).  Even though there is a post office (C) ONE MILE from our house.

If anyone knows why the post office works this way, or how they go about sorting and distributing mail please let me know in the comments below.  Isn’t there the technology to electronically sort mail that should stay in town?  Do they really need to pay all that money for fuel to transport letters 180+ miles when they really only needed to go <10?  Is this the reason the price of stamps goes up every two months?  seems like a simple logistics problem to me.

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7 thoughts on “simple logistics”

  1. I was really torn on if I should send you our reply through the mail or hike it up 1 flight of stairs. After seeing the stamp already on the envelope, I couldn’t let it go to waste. you should probably get it in 1-2 weeks after it processes through BFE and back.

  2. It’s cheaper/faster for each city in the region to drive a truck to Rochester, have the mail sorted at their massive and efficient facility (economies of scale AND function!), and then drive back with all of the mail in the region for that town.

    Otherwise, every town would pay to sort their own mail and… then what? Drive a truck to EVERY other city? Even if each truck took a route with multiple cities (which would add days to delivery time), every town would need a fleet of trucks and drivers. Plus a sorting facility, equipment, and personnel.

    You could try to sort the local mail and split out the letters staying in town, but you’re still going to need the space/people/equipment to do the sorting. And you’d still need to drive the rest to Rochester. If your Ith to Ith mail already gets delivered in a day or two, would you – as a federal taxpayer – want to pay for local sorting in every town in the nation so that a diagram of the letter’s route looks prettier? It wouldn’t be faster and it’d cost a hell of a lot more.

    The USPS operates from an unenviable position of high fixed costs – their infrastructure costs a ton and it doesn’t cost less to deliver 500 fewer letters from Ith to Syr in a week. The mail gets sorted the same and the trucks still have to drive their routes. When the economy tanked, less mail was sent (direct mail campaigns, letters, everything), meaning less revenue from postage – but the cost of operating the USPS didn’t decrease. So the price of postage went up to compensate. If the volume of mail eventually increases to previous levels, expect the prices of postage to stabilize (except for increases to stay in step with inflation).

    As I understand it – no, there isn’t electronic means of sorting letters, at least not a bar codes scanner-type system. I mean, they’re addressed by hand… it’s going to be tough to get a machine to read even the zip code. There’s a reason all package postage has a scanable bar code.

    There is significant time/money put into logistics optimization software designed to help modified routes and such to minimize cost. I believe UPS was the first to do this. They used route software coupled with traffic-sensitive GPSs in their trucks that worked down to limiting left turns (because they take longer than right turns due to oncoming traffic). Kind of amazing.

  3. 1st: Zane wins.

    2nd: there is an easier way, email.

    3rd: Kellen knows too much about mail

    4th and final: Immigrant workers sorting mail by hand would be pretty inexpensive.

  4. 1st: Zane wins. MIB II references are hard to beat.

    2nd: I realized about halfway through that response that I know WAY too much about the mail… some of it is from a case study on UPS, the rest from the Operations course I guess.

    3rd: Immigrant workers wouldn’t even have to be able to read English – as long as you understand the Arabic numerical system, you’d be good to go for at least the zip codes.

    4th: Why isn’t “Megan Fox Tongue Kisses Scarlett Johansson” a movie yet? Because I would pay $8 to watch that for 90 minutes.

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