Gathering for the first time since 2019, mailing professionals flocked to Phoenix for the National Postal Forum (NPF). People came ready to work – attending classes, connecting with vendors on the exhibit hall, and hearing from postal executives on products and policies.
A group of volunteers kicked off the conference with a different kind of work. Partnering with the NPF, The Berkshire Company sponsored a Habitat for Humanity build day on Saturday. The crew installed roofing, painted sections of the exterior and assembled work stools. We ended the day with a presentation of a mailbox for the new homeowners.
Classes kicked off on Sunday afternoon – and people were eager to learn. Many classrooms were filled to capacity and students were engaged. That energy continued throughout the four days, whether the session started at 8:00 in the morning or towards the end of the day. I was impressed not only by the questions during the classes we taught, but the follow-up questions afterwards.
The exhibit hall was limited to Monday and Tuesday. The shorter time period seemed to drive more traffic. Many attendees had specific research in mind and were armed with questions. Our client meetings with vendors were productive. The president of one of the software companies said it was his most successful trade show – even when compared to pre-pandemic events.
A major draw of the week was the keynote speech by Postmaster General (PMG) Louis DeJoy, This was PMG DeJoy’s first NPF since taking office in July 2020. The first part of his speech carried the same message the industry has heard for almost 2 years. First, the US Postal Service (USPS) was in dire straits – both financially and operationally – when he took over the reins. Next, the fault for allowing the USPS to sink to that level falls on the shoulders of prior USPS leadership. Lack of strategy and execution by management led to the USPS being overwhelmed by the changes in commerce and communication.
PMG DeJoy said that his team is now focused on the right things and that the USPS is a better organization and in a better financial situation than a year ago. He expects that the USPS will consistently meet the new services standards and be financially solvent by 2024.
There are more changes coming. The USPS will close some annexes, while reactivating dormant facilities, and redesigning others. In the PMG’s words, they are going to “reinvent the delivery network”.
The USPS is going to realign the destination delivery units – the buildings from where carriers are dispatched. The PMG noted that there are many units within 10 miles of each other and they need to be consolidated. However, he didn’t provide any details on what will happen with those delivery units that are attached to post offices, and whether or not those retail locations would also be closed.
At a luncheon with industry leaders, PMG DeJoy was asked about how these changes will impact how companies prepare the mail. Virtually all business mail, marketing mail and periodicals are handed to the USPS in a manner based on the existing network. Further, there are efficiencies to be gained now, simply by adjusting the mail preparation rules and regulations the USPS imposes on mailers. It appears this point has not been given much consideration by USPS management.
On a positive note, there were several members of the USPS Board of Governors and Postal Regulatory Commission in attendance. This was the first NPF since their appointment to the Board or Commission. They took the time to meet with business mailers of all sizes, not only hearing their concerns, but witnessing the passion they have for this industry.
“Passion” was the byword for this “comeback” NPF. We’ve all participated in countless webinars and online meetings for the past several years. Replacing that with face-to-face interaction – on the trade show floor, in classrooms, and at networking events – was needed by all. Reenergized and retooled, we’re in a better position to face the future together.