Flowchart app eases mail flow

With an eye to keeping costs in line, Postal Service officials have turned to diagram
and flowchart software to streamline the sorting, processing and delivery of mail.


“A lot of little improvements add up to a lot,” said Cris Dreher, a USPS
quality specialist. The independent agency launched the effort more than three years ago,
because an organization with 800,000 employees can save millions of dollars a year from
small changes, he said.


“We stopped doing things that don’t affect the customer,” Dreher said.
USPS has implemented a quality management system, named after late Commerce Secretary
Malcolm Baldrige, and has commissioned a Price Waterhouse LLP mail delivery study, he
said.


In mid-1996, USPS officials decided to standardize on FlowCharter 6.0 for Microsoft
Windows 95 from Micrografx Inc. of Richardson, Texas.


Setting one agency standard for diagrams and flowcharts has made it easier for
different offices to share data, Dreher said.


The agency bought 3,000 copies of FlowCharter through a contract with General
Technologies Inc. of Newport Beach, Calif.


Agency personnel had previously used Micrografx ABC FlowCharter 4.0 for Windows as well
as competing products.


“We were lukewarm to ice-cold about all the packages,” said Dreher, who has
used FlowCharter since Version 1.0. “We needed a relatively user-friendly
product.” USPS users especially liked FlowCharter’s graphical interface, he
said.


USPS now is in the midst of a 21'2-year upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Win95, Dreher
said. It purchases PCs and servers through the Acquisition of Desktop Extended Processing
Technology contract with Digital Equipment Corp. and is installing Windows NT Server 4.0
on the servers.


USPS users download the flowcharting software from a server in Raleigh, N.C., to their
local hard drives.


USPS cut the cost by purchasing a site license rather than individual copies with
manuals. But any postal user can download a Micrografx training manual as an Adobe
Portable Document Format file at http://www.micrografx.com
or can read it online in Hypertext Markup Language format. The site also has a
database that users can query for technical support, said Grady Tucker, federal sales
manager for Micrografx.


Postal employees have drawn literally thousands of flowcharts with the package, Dreher
said.


One hundred and thirty quality specialists are training about 10,000 USPS managers to
use the Micrografx software, as installation moves out from agency headquarters to
management offices and field units.


They also are learning to use a quality management manual developed by a contractor,
Dreher said. “We’ll be at this for a few years before we’re at every
post office,” he said.


In the meantime, an update to FlowCharter 7.0 is planned to let users drag and drop
items from shape palettes.  n

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