Keeping the Mail Moving

Here's how the U.S. Postal Service improved its logistics operation with help from a third-party logistics provider.

Keeping the Mail Moving

When the United States Postal Service found itself faced with keeping track of and maintaining its nationwide inventory of mail bags, trays, pallets and containers, postal officials put out a call for competitive bids. Managing these items, which number in the hundreds of millions, was interfering with the Postal Service’s primary mission of delivering the mail.

New Breed, a third-party logistics company, won the contract. The company took the Postal Service’s logistical nightmare and turned it into a precise, measurable and robust system that should save the Postal Service an estimated $450 million over the next 10 years.

New Breed designed the facilities, supply chain operations and information systems for keeping track of the mail transport equipment — the bags, trays and containers used to move mail within the Postal Service.

In an effort to control costs and improve customer service, the Postal Service decided it had to do a better job of managing this equipment. Postal officials wanted to be sure that they had enough equipment to do the job and that the equipment was available where and when it was needed.

"Processing orders, tracking, sorting, repairing and delivering millions of bags, trays and mail containers kept us from processing the mail," says Paul Seehaver, executive director of the Postal Service’s mail transport equipment service center program.

"Before New Breed helped us organize and track our mail transport equipment, we didn’t know how many pieces of equipment we had or where they were located," Seehaver says. "We would have too many bags in Newark, but not enough in Los Angeles, where we would have an overflow of cardboard trays. The facilities and material handling systems that New Breed designed and implemented for the Postal Service have changed all that."

Workers in these facilities determine which mail transport equipment items need repair and which are too worn to save. New Breed keeps track of inventory with a sophisticated complement of computer software, based on strict postal criteria.

New Breed fully operates four of the Postal Service’s mail transport equipment service centers, which are located all across the country. The company oversees the supply chain functions for the remaining 18 facilities, including training staff, managing inventory, managing distribution and controlling 2,500 trailer loads of product each day with a custom-designed information system.

New Breed also helped the Postal Service identify opportunities to recycle some material. For equipment that cannot be repaired, the company coordinates its removal and disposal, generating an estimated $29 million in recycling revenue.

Third-party logistics services by New Breed Corp.

Conveyors Link Automation and Efficiency

It takes reliable production components to produce reliable automotive components

. That’s the operating philosophy behind the Indiana Automotive Fasteners Company’s automated production plant in Greenfield, Indiana. It governs manufacturing components for international automotive customers including Toyota, Honda and Ford, and it has helped the company emerge as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of automotive fasteners. The plant is one of seven operated by IAF and its parent company, Aoyma of Japan.

Two principles guided the design and operation of the 4-year-old, 225,000-square-foot plant. One was to automate and make the plant sufficient. For example, in addition to producing and shipping fasteners on site, the company manages its own wastewater treatment operation. The other principle was to support the company’s mission — To Produce Quality Fasteners — carefully and completely with sophisticated, integrated production equipment, as well as with a clean, quiet working environment for employees.

The company recently installed a 6100 Series industrial conveyor to maintain production volume and quality for a two-shift operation. Also challenging was handling fasteners that had been processed in a variety of caustic chemical baths for metal finishing.

The new conveyor allows reliable production of fasteners at rates of 1,200 containers per day.

When the plant opened in 1996, a plastic vibrating hopper was installed, but it proved to be incompatible with production on the barrel zinc plating line. A more conventional conveyor with a bearing pulley later replaced the hopper. This was more efficient, but the conveyor was not well suited to the wet environment.

Processing operations are clean, but wet. The conveyor takes a lot of punishment given the production volume and the weight of the fasteners. A typical container weighs as much as 100 pounds; and there is a 24-inch drop between the containers and the conveyor surface.

The stainless steel conveyor withstands the chemicals involved in the plating process. The V-guided belt tracking system on the new conveyor maintains proper belt tracking. A V-groove in the center of the frame keeps the conveyor belt in place.

The IAF production line includes a second low-profile conveyor. A 3100 Series conveyor operates in the dry finished products area. This conveyor, measuring 32 inches long and 30 inches wide, serves as the transfer point bringing the finished products to a station where they are inspected for quality and automatically weighed before packaging and shipment.

Low-profile conveyors by Dorner Mfg. Corp.

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