The Postal Service has informed the unions that it’s implementing a plan “to remove and/or relocate an undefined number” of sorting machines and other types of mail process equipment, starting in August 2023 and continuing into fiscal year 2024.
The Postal Service is asking for volunteer maintenance personnel to perform the equipment removals and relocations. Preference will be given to workers at those facilities scheduled to have a machine removed and to those who are trained on the equipment.
The Postal Service says the volunteers may need to travel to other parts of the country for up to three weeks. If a particular project takes longer, a new team will rotate in. Volunteers must provide their own work clothes, hard hats, and safety equipment.
The list of equipment includes the full range of sorters and machines, including Automated Delivery Unit Sorters (ADUS), Advanced Facer Canceler Systems (AFCS), Automated Flat Sorting Machines (AFSM), Automated Parcel Bundler Sorters (APBS), Small Delivery Unit Sorters (SDUS), Delivery Bar Code Sorters (DBCS), Single Induction Package Sorters (SIPS), Robust Bulk Universal Sorters (RBUS), and so on.
The project is set to begin in August 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia, followed by Charlotte, North Carolina. These are the locations of the two new Regional Processing & Delivery Centers (RPDCs), so perhaps equipment from the regions’ P&DCs will be relocated to the new RPDCs in Palmetto (Atlanta metro), and Gastonia (Charlotte metro). The RPDCs are described as multi-functional and able to handle every phase of the processing operation for all types of mail, so they’ll need a wide variety of sorting equipment.
The equipment removals may also refer to clearing out space in processing centers so that they can be repurposed as Sorting & Delivery Centers (S&DCs) and changing the type of equipment so they can function as a Local Distribution Centers (LDCs).
Over 200 processing centers could eventually see equipment removed or relocated, but the Postal Service has not released a list of those facilities that will be losing their equipment and those that will be gaining them. The notification to the unions simply says that additional sites will be identified but they have not yet been determined.
Handbook PO-408, which provides the guidelines for doing Area Mail Processing (AMP) studies, describes a consolidation in terms of moving employees and equipment from one processing center to another, so it’s not clear why AMP studies have not been conducted before making arrangements to move equipment this summer.
In a recent USPS report to Congress (required by the Postal Reform Act), the Postal Service stated: “We will fulfill all applicable internal guidelines set forth in Handbook PO-408 and comply with all other applicable regulatory or statutory requirements in connection with our consolidations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Indianapolis and Memphis.”
According to the Handbook, the AMP process begins with a feasibility study to determine “whether there is a business case for relocating processing and distribution operations from one location to another. An AMP feasibility study must be conducted when a new facility project incorporates operations from two or more offices.”
Moving equipment to the new facilities in Charlotte and Atlanta would seem to fall squarely within the requirements of the guidelines. If the relocation of equipment is going to get started in August, AMP studies would need to begin very soon. The AMP studies conducted back in 2011 and 2012 each took several months.
Since there’s been no sign of an AMP study for the consolidations in Charlotte and Atlanta, it’s likely that the Postal Service believes the equipment relocation project does not require one. It would be interesting to hear why.
— Steve Hutkins