How the Postal Service uses tech for your holiday stamps

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For this holiday season, the U.S. Postal Service is piloting a new way to manage its stamp inventory, and it all started with a frustrated husband who couldn’t find the Christmas stamps his wife requested.

When Kathy Warnaar, the USPS manager of information technology performance achievement, was at the grocery store during the holidays last year, she encountered a frantic man who asked the cashier for Christmas stamps. The cashier replied that the store had run out of them, and the man was visibly upset, Warnaar said.

Warnaar took the experience to a meeting of the agency’s IT team and found that other employees had encountered similar problems.

“[Because I work for the USPS] I felt somehow personally responsible to find these stamps for that man,” Warnaar told FedScoop in early November. “That man and his wife wanted a lovely stamp on their Christmas cards. That meant something to them. That means something to me.”

So, in response, the IT team got to work. Using the ServiceNow platform, USPS developed a new mobile-compatible stamp inventory management system to increase the efficiency of the stamp’s return on investment.

“As we produce stamps, there’s a fixed amount that get produced,” USPS Vice President of IT John Edgar told FedScoop Friday. “In the general process, at some point in time, we take a look at our stamp inventory and decide that whatever’s left is pulled back out of circulation and ultimately destroyed.”

But to avoid this, the team developed a desktop app with mobile compatibility to manage the general stamp inventory at the post office level nationally and locally.

“We use that information to move the inventory between post offices to meet local demand, not just national demand for those particular stamp products,” Edgar said. “This application, which we built on the ServiceNow platform, is designed to do just that. It gives both the national view and local post offices the ability to manage their inventory.”

It’s the first holiday season that the post office has used this inventory management system, which it says can help to avoid or lessen the amount of problems like the one Warnaar encountered at the grocery store.

“If they are starting to run low on a particular holiday stamp, it gets identified early, and we can then identify geographically local sites that may have excess where the sale demand is not as great at that one particular office and use that information to reallocate the inventory and continue to make the stamps available to the general public in the limits of the overall production run,” Edgar said.

So far, according to Edgar, the progress is going well. USPS employees are primarily using the desktop version of the application, but as they become more familiar with it, the mobile feature may get more use.

Transitioning out of the holiday season, the inventory system may help USPS cut down on the amount of stamps wasted and destroyed, which will directly result in cost savings for the independent government agency that receives no taxpayer funding.

“The expectation is that it will reduce the amount of inventory that at some future point in time has to be disposed of,” Edgar said. “We’ll be more efficient about how [stamps] are made available to where people want to buy them.”

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Applications & Software, apps, Government IT News, holiday season, Innovation, John Edgar, Kathy Warnaar, Mobile & Wireless, mobility, ServiceNow, stamps, Tech