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Data analytics key to USPS transformation, IG says

The U.S. Postal Service’s investment in data analytics will help drive the transformation of the postal industry, the USPS Office of Inspector General said in a recent report.

“Postal infrastructure is -- and will continue to be -- supported and enhanced by the use of big data across the supply chain,” according to the Aug. 26 report, “Step into Tomorrow: The U.S. Postal Service and Emerging Technology.”

Data and analytics are at the heart of USPS operations, helping improve the efficiency and quality of services. They inform applications that track packages for residents and business mailers and “could make the Postal Service more competitive and improve the quality of the products offered to their customers,” the report said.

USPS’ Informed Visibility – Mail Tracking and Reporting service, for example, combines actual scans of mail pieces with assumed and logical scans during handling to provide near real-time data on the location of mail in the processing and delivery network and its expected delivery date.

In its research, the IG interviewed industry experts and Postal Service management at a March event on the future of technological innovation in the postal industry. It also reviewed the USPS 10-year plan and asked international mailers and U.S. shippers to identify promising technologies.

Shipping industry representatives stressed the need for more visibility into processing and delivery issues. They cited benefits of enhanced tracking – whether through the use of GPS to track trucks and containers or the possibility of affixing RFID labels to packages and eliminating the need for barcode scanning.

Data analytics is are also key to delivery route optimization, one international postal expert said. Dynamic routing using real-time analytics would be the next frontier, he told OIG, enabling “better allocation of delivery resources (vehicles, drivers) and optimal vehicle loading.”

One international expert noted that artificial intelligence and machine learning will be key to predictive analytics, which would also help USPS allocate human and financial resources more efficiently.

Most experts the IG interviewed stressed the growing importance of data analytics in the past few years and in the near-term future.

“Continued development and implementation of tools reliant on analytics could make the Postal Service more competitive and improve the quality of the products offered to their customers,” the IG said.

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