The process of organizing, categorizing, and delivering mail is no small feat for the USPS. That is especially true in urban areas, particularly at the Metro NY Distribution Center. The center is one of the largest processing and distribution centers in the U.S. and is also one of the more well-known facilities.
The Metro NY Processing and Distribution Center processes and distributes mail from all over New York City but also inbound international mail. This includes mail designated for the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. It also includes mail from the John F. Kennedy International Service Center that is inbound international pieces. Records show this processing and distribution center handles around 1.96 billion pieces of mail in 2015! Read further to find out more about how the Metro NY Processing and Distribution Center operates.
The Location of the Center
There are actually two Metro NY Processing and Distribution Centers, so it’s easy to get them confused as both are large entities. The main one is the New York Morgan Processing and Distribution Center located at the United States Parcel Post Building on 9th Avenue in NYC. The other is the Queens Processing and Distribution Center on 20th Avenue. New York has others in Mid-Island and Melville, but these are the two metro centers.
Both the Morgan P;DC and the Queens center process and distribute incoming and outgoing mail. They handle originating mail sent to them by local post offices, stations, and branches in their own service code areas as well as make sure mail from other areas reaches residents and businesses living in their service areas. The service areas for originating and inbound mail may not be the same for all process and distribution centers. For instance, the Morgan center takes in mail originating from several boroughs but only processes outgoing mail to those in Manhattan and the Bronx.
The Difference in Processing and Distribution
There is a difference between a USPS processing center and a USPS distribution center, although they can be in the same building as they are in these two New York centers. A processing center processes mail coming in for that geographic location and prepares it for shipping.
A USPS distribution center is a mechanized plant that ships out the mail and packages to get them to businesses and residents. It’s the transportation arm of the USPS that gets your mail or packages to the final destination. More than 250 mail processing centers exist across the United States. They sort, check zip codes, check for safety, and collect mail to dispatch. In many areas, mail from all over the region or state heads to a designated processing center first before being transported further on its route to the final recipient.
The USPS has 22 independent distribution centers located in key spots across the country. These facilities dispatch mail and packages for delivery. Every piece of mail and package will go through at least one of these centers, perhaps several, to get to you. New York has a third separate distribution center beyond the two that are located with the Morgan and Queens processing center. The Brooklyn Distribution Center handles all mail and packages going to businesses and residents in that area. It’s located at 1194 Metropolitan Ave.
What Happens at Distribution Centers
Mail arriving at USPS distribution centers is categorized for specific service areas. They are loaded onto trucks and head for the nearest post office to you. Some mail has a longer destination route. It is processed for transport to other areas by truck or plane. Eventually, all mail will wind up at a regional distribution center closest to you where it will be sent to local post offices.
Messaging from the USPS
Those who live in the New York service areas may get a message that their mail item or parcel is being processed through the Metro NY distribution facility. That means it is at the Morgan or Queens location and is being prepared to be sent to its final destination. Typically, that is going to be Manhattan or the Bronx if it’s in the Morgan facility.
Getting Stuck At the Center
Sometimes, those expecting mail or a package will get a notice their parcel is “stuck in transit” at the Metro NY Processing and Distribution Center. That could happen for several reasons. One could be an overload of packages that must be processed, like what happens during the Christmas season. It could also be the package is waiting to be logged into the USPS system. Generally, the “stuck in transit” message on tracking means no Metro New York processing or distribution center depot has scanned the package in the past 24 hours.
Sometimes USPS customers will get a “transit to destination” message. This means the processing center is done with the mail or package and it’s ready to be shipped. It could be shipped to another processing center closer to its final destination or could be sent to its final distribution center where it is transported to the local post office for delivery.
What’s the Wait For Packages?
Typically, under normal conditions, packages can move from one destination to another through the Metro NY Processing and Distribution Center in one to four days.
Many studies on USPS distribution centers seek to show how officials have reduced dock and wait times for packages. Many of these centers have added new technology that reduces dock wait times. Those who live in the Metro NY service area will likely get their packages quickly. Those who live outside the area but whose packages must run through the Metro NY center either as originating mail or as part of the distribution route may see delays.
Delays can happen for many reasons. The weather could prevent some staff from coming into the center or trucks from moving in distribution as they normally would. Government lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic played a huge role in delays in 2020. Another factor was employee shortages due to COVID-19 spreading.
Inspections and Audits
The USPS routinely gets inspected and audited by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG is a federal government department that ensures national offices are running efficiently. That includes processes but also includes budgetary elements like revenues and expenses.
The OIG then takes the information found by its inspections and audits and files a report listing both things being done well and recommendations for improvement. Often, it lists recommendations on saving money as well as improving efficiency.
These reports are public records.
New York OIG Report
The OIG reviewed the NY Morgan P;DC and found several ways to improve mail processing efficiency. One thing it found was that 385,365 work hours could be reduced over five years. That would save around $15.2 million a year. The governmental office believes that 200,000 work hours should have but cut over the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, and the cost of those hours was around $8.5 million each year.
One point the OIG made was the Morgan facility had low productivity from 20111 until 2015, compared to the national average. It was between 25 to 43 percent lower than the national average, according to the report. The OIG listed several reasons for inefficiencies during that time including management’s failure to adjust work hours or the fact they didn’t follow the schedule for the facility’s daily machine for mail processing or software maintenance runs.
Another issue was higher than normal jam and reject rates. This was because machine operators failed to align mail edges properly and didn’t remove mail from automatic processing that didn’t fit it. This includes mail that was too long, big, tall, stiff, or thick. All of that cost the Morgan center more work hours, according to the report.
Issues in USPS fiscal year 2015 involved how work hours were managed. The OIG report said 385,365 work hours were automatically processed on a default operation number when they should have been charged to a specific, assigned operation.
The OIG said management should have adjusted those charges immediately but didn’t find the problem right away. Management found the problem and corrected it. However, they weren’t aware that more hours, totaling 477,982 work hours, were also charged to the default operation without correction. This skewed productivity numbers.
Recommendations for Morgan Center
The OIG had several recommendations for the Metro NY Processing and Distribution Center including:
Using the Run Plan Generator regularly to schedule mail processing machine operations. Training employees better to properly identify mail that can be automatically processed and remove it for manual processing.
- Make sure managers update employee data quickly and supervise where employees work.
- Human resources need to make assignments for new employees
- For the Managing Operating Data System to go through regular reviews.
Queens OIG Report
The OIG also did an inspection and audit on the USPS Queens Processing and Distribution Center. In that report, officials found that the center lacked machine capacity for all the mail and packages coming it, and that caused delays.
That facility received an overload of 82,000 packages that it could handle per day in the first two quarters of FY 2016. This is while the machines were operating at full throttle. One solution was for the plant manager to divert parcels to other facilities, which decreased delays later in the fiscal year by around 80 percent.
There was floor space for two additional machines expected to be operational in late 2016. Adding those two processing machines will provide 10 percent excess machine capacity, according to the report. However, that is based on no volume change and OIG officials estimated significant increases in volume given the fact that it grew 200 percent in the first half of FY 2016 at that location.
A site visit showed that some machines were running at top performance and observers believed that’s because they were running more hours to meet demand. Another dilemma for the Queens facility is the amount of international mail. Inspectors saw where several international pieces didn’t have U.S. barcodes which mandated employees to manually key in U.S zip codes, causing delays.
The plant manager also told inspectors he didn’t have enough staff to run all the processing machines so many employees were paid overtime and worked on the scheduled days off. That cost a considerable amount of extra pay. There were nearly 29,000 in overtime. The budget for the Queens center had 10 percent of its budget dedicated to overtime so the number of hours far exceeded the budget. The final tab for overtime hours was $1.1 million.
OIG Recommendations for Queens Center
The OIG had several recommendations for the Queens center including:
- Development of a two to five-year plan for staffing and additional mail processing machines.
- A plan to redirect mail to other facilities until staffing and processing machines are in place to meet demand.
- For the plant support manager to consistently implement a complete and updated processing operating plan.
Those who don’t want to have to go to a post office box or who may have mail delivery problems using the Metro NY Distribution Center should consider getting a Virtual Mailbox with US Global Mail. US Global Mail collects all your mail and packages for you and keeps them in a secure center near you. You can go and pick them up at your convenience.
However, it does much more than that. With a Virtual Mailbox, you can see all your mail digitally from any desktop or mobile device. You are notified when a new mail item arrives for you. You can then log into your Virtual Mailbox to see images of your envelopes on your phone or computer. Better than that, you can choose to have any or all of your mail opened and scanned automatically so you can read it online. You can then digitally save your mail so you can get to it anytime you want. This smart system also filters out sales pieces and junk mail for you. The Virtual Mailbox could save you time & money for international shipments too, depending on your location.