The Problems associated with Mail Segregation

I found this in my archives – maybe it might make sense to somebody ….

The Problems associated with Mail Segregation

System Definition

A system is required to monitor the efficiency of Mail Segregation within Post Office branches.  The system should provide an equitable measuring scale that can be used to compare efficiencies across all branches.

The system should have complete integrity and be closed to external influences such as RMG handling errors.

Segregation

POL require all SPMRs to segregate the mail they accept in branch into one of 7 categories.   1st Packets, 2nd Packets, Mixed, Franked, Special, PPI and Parcel Force.

There are a variety of special postal items that require special segregation such as Mail for the Blind and BFPO.

Post Office Limited provide each branch with a specification sheet detailing how to segregate individual mail items.

(Problem 1 – This sheet contains at least one known mistake)

The bags for 1st, 2nd and Mixed Mail require to be tied off and an identification label attached.

(Problem 2 – the design of the bag is such that even by tieing there remains openings through which mail could be interfered with)

(Problem 3 – delaying the mail – it is anticipated that SPMRs segregate the mail as they receive it.    However they need to devote time to the process of tieing and labelling bags for the last collection while counters remain open.  There is a problem with defining the cut off time for Mails Acceptance and including that within the Mail Segregation guidelines)

The original definition of segregation that was used when accepted by the NFSP was in relation to Packets only.   However it included by inference that ALL mail accepted in Branch is segregated.

(Problem 4 – there are no methods to record accurately on Horizon or manually the number of mail items accepted in Branch i.e. letters, PPI packets under 100g)

System Integrity

Once the bags have left the branch they are in the possession of another company.  Neither POL nor the branch has any control over the contents from that moment onward.

(Problem 5 – Mails Integrity – there are a multitude of stories surrounding what happens to bags once they leave the office.   Bags opened and emptied into others to save space.  Mail received by Postie squeezed into bags.    Bag labels lost. )

Error Checking

The full details of the current process of error checking are not known.  However it is known that a sample of bags from each branch are checked periodically and that the number of errors found by RMG staff are entered onto a computer system that is accessible by POL Branch Standards team.   It is not known if a member of POL staff is present during this checking process.

(Problem 6 – Random Sampling – it is perfectly possible and statistically likely albeit with a low percentage probability, that the random sample selected for a particular branch contains over time only the bags that contain the one or two errors that they ever make.  Vice versa it is as likely that the random sample contains only the few bags that the branch has ever sorted properly. In short it is not a precise method of measurement. )

(Problem 7 – It is not known if the total number of items found in the bag being checked is recorded.  This is necessary for efficiency ratings as bags can contain as little as one item and more than 1000.)

(Problem 8 – some of the errors being recorded are open to interpretation.  Is a packet a letter or vice versa.  Is a packet a large letter item?  The label attached to the mail item is not necessarily used as the decisive element)

Error Types

The types of error need to be defined.   A severity level needs be associated with each error and a fair and equitable solution must be found to incorporate all errors into an overall rating.   For instance how would one differentiate between a packet in the wrong bag and a mail bag with the wrong label on it.

Efficiency Rating

The system must provide a fair and equitable Mail Segregation Efficiency rating.   This is not in place and cannot be in place until such time as the problems mentioned above are resolved.   However considering how such an efficiency rating could eventually be provided lays down some straightforward basic criteria.

  1. a) the total amount of mail accepted over the counter in the branch must be recorded. Without this no percentages can be calculated.

(Problem 9 – a system to record every mail item accepted in branch would be expensive and time consuming)

  1. b) the integrity of the mail once it leaves the branch cannot be verified unless an auditor or branch official accompanies it all the way to the place of checking. It is therefore only possible to check the mail in branch prior to its departure.

(Problem 10 – when could this audit take place?   Only when the SPMR is prepared to release the bags to the Postie so there would be extreme delays in providing the mail to them.)

  1. c) Defining a fair and equitable rating system. A small branch taking less than 100 items per day is more likely to score highly if errors are counted individually rather than a percentage system used.

Risk or Reward

The results that the system produces will be used to implement control measures.  These could take the form of punishment on a scale of Contract Termination to Financial Penalties.  They could also be in the form of reward such as a bonus paid on performance.

With the exception of Contract Termination which would have to, by implication, be based on wilful neglect, the use of either penalties or rewards emphasises the overriding requirement that the system produces fair and equitable results.    That would require ALL SPMRs to individually agree to the provisions of the proposed system.

(Problem 11 – the introduction of a penalty system exposes POL to the consequences of a legal challenge unless the system defines all possible outcomes)

(Problem 12 – a reward system can also be challenged although not through the courts)

(Problem 13 – unless all mail handed over the counter is associated with a member of staff there is no method of associating mis-sorted mail to an individual.

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