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ASCM Insights

Supply Chains Struggle Amid USPS Restrictions

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In an effort to reduce costs, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has eliminated 2,900 late trips and 1,600 extra trips between mail processing facilities and local post offices, according to the bipartisan Federal News Network. A recent NPR report finds that, as a result, some trucks are leaving depots without a full load of mail — in some cases, with no mail at all.

Data from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) shows an 8% decrease in on-time first-class mail delivery, as well as similar declines for marketing mail and periodicals. At the same time, the agency has faced serious staffing issues, with about 40,000 employees contracting COVID-19 or showing symptoms that require them to quarantine. Several dozen have died. On average, staffing has been down by about 3-4%, with many large cities functioning at 20% below normal rates.

The USPS is a vital public service and plays a critical role in America’s supply chains; for many businesses, it’s the only delivery service available. Any service interruption can mean a loss of revenue, costly refunds and serious product damage. In fact, there are numerous reports of rotting meat; spoiled fruits and flowers; and, most appallingly, thousands of baby chicks arriving dead at poultry farms. One organic farmer in Maine told Bloomberg that, in a recent shipment of 4,800 chicks, she lost every single one.

“Hatcheries typically ship the birds to farmers by USPS, the only service that allows people to send live animals,” the article explains. However, newborns can only survive 72 hours without food or water, which equals a tight delivery window.

“Nearly 20% of the top 1,000 retailers fulfill at least some of their e-commerce orders through the Postal Service,” Beth Daly writes for academic journal The Conversation. She adds that the USPS is even more important for businesses in rural or isolated areas because of its wide reach and affordable flat rates.

Daly says that, without a reliable Postal Service, small businesses may need to resort to pricier FedEx and UPS options: “Higher costs could severely hamper their ability to operate and compete.”

It’s worth noting that an overwhelming 91% of respondents have a favorable view of the USPS, higher than any other federal agency.

Please vote

Of course, the elephant in the room is the growing wariness concerning the Postal Service’s commitment to delivering a flood of mail-in ballots for the 2020 election during a global pandemic. This is largely shaped by the fact that the USPS has become a political issue, rather than a tradition that’s been part of our electoral process since the Civil War.

Critics of the recent USPS changes believe that they will directly affect mail-in balloting, which will be desperately needed as a result of COVID-19, particularly by senior citizens and other at-risk groups. The fact remains: Inhibiting people’s ability to vote by mail is a strike against the Constitution, the democratic process and equitable voting rights.

America is in crisis. We’re in the midst of a deadly pandemic, systemic racial injustice, massive unemployment rates, an unstable education system, and global warming fueling deadly fires and hurricanes. We must make our voices heard to protect our country and the precious beliefs and principles it was built upon. Please vote. And if you don’t plan to visit the polls in person, request your ballot today, and get it in the mail as soon as possible.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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