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Postal Council Told Consolidation ‘Business Decision’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With the elimination of most overnight delivery service and the upcoming closing of the Youngstown Mail Processing Center, the Steel Valley Postal Customer Council hosted a seminar Friday so area businesses get a better understanding of how those changes will affect them.

Speakers provided a detailed overview of how mail travels from when it’s dropped off to delivery.

On Jan. 5, the U.S. Postal Service ended most overnight delivery of first-class mail, Troy Seanor, senior plant manager for the post office’s northern Ohio district, began. The decision, he stated, was based on improving efficiency.

“There is still a partial overnight standard for commercial mailers that enter their mail by eight o’clock [a.m.]. That will be delivered the next day,” he said. “What happened is that we opened this big operating window. By eliminating overnight, we weren’t waiting on mail. Now this [delivery point sequence] is taking place at noon instead of six in the morning. We’ve been able to utilize underutilized machines.”

Before Jan. 5, the machines used to sort overnight mail were used only about four hours daily. Now, the machines can be used 24 hours.

When the switch occurred, many private mail processors said they saw a slowdown in service and were unsure when deliveries would be made. Now, according to David Van Allen, spokesman for the Postal Service, many of those problems have been resolved.

“We researched and found out there were issues to correct. We corrected them. In January, there were some changes,” he said. “As with anything, it’s not like throwing a switch and everything works. Things need to be tweaked here and there. Thanks to the feedback from these large mailers, we were able to adjust and fix those issues.”

Even with mail being sent to Cleveland to be processed – which has been the case for several years, Van Allen noted – almost all customers can expect a 72-hour turnaround. All mail sent within the district is delivered within two days of drop off, Seanor said.

“If you send it in our district, we’re at about 96.7% turnaround within 72 hours. It was lower but we brought it up. We’re performing very high,” he said. “If I wanted something in my customers’ hands Thursday or Friday, I would want to have it in the system on Monday. If I wanted something delivered Wednesday, I’d do it on Friday.”

Mail service customers, including mail processors, won’t see any changes to service, Seanor made sure to reiterate.

“It does not change any access. Nothing changes for access, including for the bulk mail industry. You will see no change. Anything that happens with your mail today will be the same in August,” he said. “This isn’t such a major impact. We will maintain the hub operation here and consolidated dispatch in the morning.”

The upcoming consolidations of the processing centers in Toledo and Akron on April 18 will serve as a test run for the closing of Youngstown’s processing center, Seanor noted.

“If by putting everything in at once we run into some issues – if some machines go down that we don’t expect or something happens with software – we can move back to three or five machines in Akron until we correct the issues,” he explained. “If something happens in Akron, we may change up what happens here.”

What businesses will have to adjust to, Van Allen said, is the new mail cycle but, he noted, almost all services should remain the same.

“The mail process now flows 24 hours a day where it used to be only four. It does affect things for mailers, primarily business mailers, with things like when the best time to enter their mail into the stream,” he said. “The only processing going on in Youngstown right now is in the delivery unit. The mail comes back from Cleveland for delivery to Youngstown and [the mail processing center here] sorts out it for the carrier. Come July 18, that part of the processing will be consolidated into Cleveland.”

The move to Cleveland, Van Allen explained, was entirely “a business decision.”

“First-class mail has declined 53% over the last 10 years. We simply have more capacity to process mail than we need, more processing plants than we need. We’re adjusting appropriately so we can function long into the future,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.