USPS initiates consolidation studies for P&DCs in Georgia and Oregon with more to come

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

The Postal Service has notified the unions and management associations of its intentions to initiate AMP studies for four mail processing facilities in Oregon and Georgia. These are the first AMP studies to be conducted for consolidations under the Delivering for American plan.

According to the notification, “feasibility studies will be conducted at the following facilities to determine whether efficiency and/or service could be improved by consolidating mail processing operations into Regional Processing and Distribution Centers (RPDC).”

The four P&DCs and the RPDCs taking on some of their operations are as follows:

  • Augusta, GA P&DC into the Atlanta, GA RPDC (in Palmetto, GA)
  • Macon, GA P&DC into the Atlanta, GA RPDC (in Palmetto, GA).
  • Eugene, OR P&DC into the Portland, OR RPDC
  • Medford, OR P&DF into the Portland, OR RPDC

The announcement doesn’t provide any details about what operations may be consolidated to the RPDCs, but a presentation shared with the unions and management associations a few days ago indicates that incoming and outgoing package operations, as well as outgoing letters and flats, will move to the two RPDCs, while incoming letters and flats will remain in the four P&DCs, which will be repurposed as Local Processing Centers (LPCs). The presentation shows that the Atlanta P&DC will be consolidated with the RPDC in Palmetto, along with the Macon and Augusta P&DCs, and become an LPC.

The presentation also has details about the consolidations that will take place in Virginia, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, Idaho, and California. In each case, the RPDC will take over all packages, outgoing and incoming, as well as outgoing letters and flats, and the P&DCs will become LPCs that process incoming letters and flats. (For an inventory of potential facility repurposings, see this post; and for more, see this post and this one.)

Eventually the transformation of the processing network now underway could encompass all 250 P&DCs. As many as 220 of them may give up operations to 60 RPDCs and be converted to LPCs and/or Sorting & Delivery Centers (S&DCs). The announcements about consolidations in Georgia and Oregon are just the beginning.

No worries, it’s just a study

The USPS announcement about the consolidation studies also includes the script for a Service Talk that managers are sharing with employees. The talk starts with “The purpose of the study is to see if it makes sense to consolidate some operations in to the [Gaining Facility Name]. Let me be clear: This does not mean that any changes in operations are being made now. This is just a study.”

This language is presumably intended to calm employees, but that’s not what the announcement’s effect will be. As the Service Talk proceeds to acknowledge, “there may be some reassignments made if operations are moved.”

Augusta GA

Reassignments to where? If there’s not a position in the P&DC itself after it’s repurposed as an LPC, where will employees be reassigned?

Spots might be available at the RPDCs, but they’re a long way away. The Augusta P&DC (525 8th St.) is 170 miles from the Atlanta RPDC (502 Walnut Way, Palmetto), and the Macon P&DC (451 College St.) is 96 miles away. The Eugene P&DC (3148 Gateway St., Springfield) is 115 miles from the Portland RPDC (7007 NE Cornfoot Rd.), and the Medford P&DC (2195 Sage Rd.) is 280 miles away. Those are not commuting distances.

Given that one of the purposes of the consolidations is to “improve operational efficiency,” it’s likely that some positions will simply be eliminated as employees leave the Postal Service via voluntary separations and early retirements.

According to the Delivering for America plan, the Postal Service hopes to save $5 to $7 billion in mail processing costs over the next eight years. Most of this cost cutting will come from reducing the workforce — mail handlers, machine operators, maintenance workers, etc. — perhaps 10,000 positions in all. That’s one out of every twelve mail processing jobs. (More on that here.)

The revised guidelines

The Area Mail Processing (APM) study procedures described in Handbook PO-408 have been revised and renamed as Mail Processing Facility Review (MPFR). A copy of the AMP guidelines (as of 2008) and the revised MPFR guidelines can be found here.  A detailed list of all the changes made in the revision is included at the end of the document; a more readable version is here. Among the changes are the following:

  • Effective December 2022, MPFR has replaced the term Area Mail Processing (AMP) to align with the facility optimization objectives in the Delivering for America (DFA) Plan. The revision also uses the term Mail Processing Facility Optimization Review (MPFOR). The Handbook has been revised in numerous places just to incorporate this change.
  • The revised guidelines no longer refer to “gaining” or “losing” facilities, since each facility involved in an MPFOR could be gaining and losing something. For example, the four facilities being studied would probably not be closed completely after the consolidation process, and instead become a LPC and/or S&DC.
  • The AMP guidelines explained that AMP was initially a local initiative that began when the district manager or senior plant manager notified the area vice president about their intention to conduct an AMP feasibility study, but it later was expanded to include a top-down approach. The MPFR approach is now strictly top-down: Headquarters identifies candidates for potential consolidations, and the senior vice president of operations at postal headquarters contacts the area vice presidents about initiating a feasibility study.
  • In the AMP process, the district manager had overall responsibility for the public input meeting (which occurs within 45 days after submission of a feasibility study to the area vice president). In the MPFR process, Headquarters and Field Corporate Communications have overall responsibility for the public input meeting.
  • The revised handbook contains numerous changes to reflect the Postal Service’s updated organizational structure.
  • The AMP guidelines stated, “Communications is an integral part of the area mail processing (AMP) process. The need for clear, consistent, and accurate communications is especially important when announcing an AMP feasibility study, notifying stakeholders about the public input meeting, and relaying the final decision about a proposal.” The MPFR guidelines have removed this passage as “extraneous.”

As for the significance of these and other changes in the handbook, that will become clearer as the process plays out, one plant after another.

Public input

Last week WGXA in Georgia published the USPS announcement about the changes taking place at the Macon P&DC, and news outlets WRDW and WJBF have the same report about the Augusta P&DC.

The Postal Service has posted online surveys for each of the four consolidations: Augusta, Macon, Eugene, and Medford. For background, the survey simply says the Postal Service is modernizing its aging network and “assessing how this facility can best support USPS service and operational goals in Oregon, as well as provide platforms to launch new products and competitive services for mailing and shipping customers in the future.” Needless to say, there’s nothing about the potential for negative impacts on employees, customers, and local communities. And there’s just a small box for comments with no questions or topics to elicit responses on specific issues.

Such news releases and surveys are intended to give employees and the general public an opportunity to participate in the consolidation study process. But public input is not likely to affect the outcome.

Medford OR

The Postal Service has spent over a year and committed over $125 million to build out the Palmetto RPDC, which is expected to open in October 2023 and take on operations from the P&DCs through early 2024. There’s no way the P&DCs in Georgia won’t end up sending their operations to this new facility.

The same holds true for the rest of the plan. Consolidation studies are contractually required, but the executives in postal headquarters have already decided what they’re going to do.

The MPFR studies will nonetheless reveal more details about the DFA plan, albeit on a plant-by-plant basis. We’ll learn more about the facility impacts and cost saving measures this week when the Postal Service responds to the first information request in the PRC’s public inquiry. We may also hear more in the OIG report on the S&DC plan, due out this month.

As the public learns more, there will be more questions. Not that anything will make the Postal Service alter its current course.

— Steve Hutkins

(Featured Photo: Macon GA Post Office and P&DC/Google Street View)

For more about network transformation, see our S&DC Dashboard.

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