May 16, 2002, 12:00 AM

New tracking could be quality enhancing tool at PO

Delivery confirmation and the ability to track delivery of packages will be a great tool to measure the Post Office`s ability to deliver packages in a timely manner, analysts say.

When the U.S. Postal Service rate hikes go into effect June 30, the Post Office will have enhanced ability to track and confirm delivery.

While the service will be a value to customers buying from retail web sites--they`ve already become accustomed to tracking packages through United Parcel Service and Federal Express--it also will be a great tool to measure the Post Office`s ability to deliver packages in a timely manner, observers of shipping systems say.

Willowbrook, IL-based R.R. Donnelley Logistics developed the tracking system in concert with the Postal Service last year. Donnelley has been applying bar codes to 20% of the packages it processes and tracking their delivery since then, even if the customer didn`t pay for the service. "We are adamant about our continuous improvement initiative and we needed real stats to prove that we were meeting our targets and to indicate where improvements were needed," says Linda Carlisle, director of brand development for Donnelley Logistics.

The Postal Service could take the same approach and, in fact, with its performance suddenly open to inspection and documentation by many parties, it could put pressure on the Post Office to improve its performance as well, Carlisle says. "This will give more visibility all the way around," she says.

Customers who want to track orders will be able to do so at the retail site where they made the purchase, at the Post Office`s web site or at Donnelley`s site for packages shipped through Donnelley. The Postal Service is equipping drivers with scanners to record the bar code at the time of delivery, much like the systems that UPS and FedEx use already. "The big carriers have been doing this for some time. This will bring the Post Office to parity with them," Carlisle says.


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