USPS Christmas Card Delivery Defects


Happy Holidays everyone. One of my Christmas cards that I sent out was returned by the Post Office, the envelope and card had pretty much been ripped in half.

The back of the envelope reads, partly, “The U.S. Postal Service handles over 202 billion pieces of mail each year. While we make a concerted effort to process, without damage, each piece of mail, an occasional mishap does occur.”

It certainly does! Even if the post office is at a 6-sigma quality level (which I doubt), that comes to about 1 million damaged/destroyed pieces of mail each year.

I hope the Postal Service takes a “lean” approach, where each piece of damaged mail is an opportunity for root cause problem solving and the elimination of future defects through process improvement and poka yoke (error proofing).

If a machine jams and mail is getting ripped, the workers should do more than just un-jam the machine and get things running again. They should ask “why” the jam happened and follow the Toyota “5 Whys” approach to fix the real root cause. This way a “zero defects” lean mentality can work to try to prevent every mailing mishap. This is a different mindset than saying “well, we're six sigma and world class, we only damaged 900,000 pieces of mail this year.

The USPS says, “We are constantly working to improve our processing methods so that these incidents will be eliminated.”

The final thing that bothers me, not that it breaks my wallet, is that the USPS doesn't send you a stamp to replace the 37 cents that you spent on the mail that they damaged! Now, to do that, would really make me feel like a “valued customer.”

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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