updated 12/05/04

Automated Package Processing System (APPS)

Postal Automation Redirection System (PARS) Automation Automated Postal Centers
Labor Force Schedule Optimizer System Reshaping  the Workforce Bringing Automation to Full Circle (pdf)
Changing Postal Workforce in the 21st Century USPS Corporate Flats Strategy USPS Corporate Flats Strategy FAQ
USPS/NALC Memorandums on Route Inspections   Repositioning the Workforce

Distribution Technology in the Postal Service, PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE by Thomas Day USPS engineering VP

Postal Automation Discussion


Automated Package Processing System -Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The USPS has provided the APWU with a deployment schedule dated Nov. 2, 2004, [1.7 MB pdf] Nov. 2, 2004, [682k pdf] (deployment schedule only) and an APPS Methods Guide [25 MB pdf], dated August 2004. (Deployment schedules dated August 2004, [pdf] and June 25, 2004, [pdf] are now obsolete.) The deployment of these machines will affect the staffing levels of SPBS clerks. Each APPS machine can eliminate two or three Small Parcel Bundler Sorter (SPBS) machines, and has a throughput of 18,000 pieces per hour. Staffing in Associate Offices may also be affected, due to the consolidation of parcel distribution, similar to what occurred with flats when FSM 100 machines were introduced. Some SPBS machines may be redeployed into some offices that did not previously have them. (12/5/04)

Below are excerpts from the APPS Methods Guide

The staffing recommendations are based on the system requirements at a “steady state” of operation and using standardized methods. The APPS staffing tool is to be used in conjunction with the APPS Methods Guide. The staffing recommendations do not include resources for rotations, breaks, leave, or DCO staffing at RECs. Staffing recommendations change as site-specific new or updated information is provided to the model. The largest capacity containers are assigned to the highest density distribution points in descending-order.

1.1 Purpose
This guide provides United States Postal Service® (USPS®) managers and supervisors with the methods, procedures, and guidelines for use with the Automated Package Processing System (APPS). integration of the key mail processing concepts and practices, contained within this guide, and the APPS hardware and software create a highly effective and productive operational
system for parcel and bundle processing. With an APPS Methods Guide, the APPS management team is able to create the effective and efficient APPS operating environment to achieve the required system productivity.

The guide provides general information on APPS, but is NOT intended as a replacement for formal training or other standardized operator instruction. APPS Methods Guide users include in-plant support personnel, mall processing managers and supervisors.

6.0 Staffing
This section of the manual provides USPS® managers and supervisors with an overview of the
factors, that affect required system staffing, the details and tools to develop site-specific requirements, and the information necessary to provide comprehensive staffing resources that will allow the APPS to operate at its maximum efficiency.

This guide provides general information about the staffing process for the APPS. It is not intended to make specific recommendations on staffing positions.

6.1 Introduction
The APPS requires a specialized process to determine effective and efficient staffing. Unlike the SPBS, throughput for the APPS is constant regardless of mail type, shape, and size. When determining staffing requirements for the APPS, managers and supervisors are required to consider the following factors: mail type, sort program, container type/mix, and other needs depending on the machine’s configuration.

6.5.3 Staffing Report
The model creates a report that provides the recommendations for the maximum numberof operators specific to each subsystem (feed, semi-automatic, sorter). For dual APPS configurations, an odd numberof operators on the Feed Subsystem will mean that
two operators will be assigned to one induction and three will be assigned to the other. The induct that is unloading more pallets and hampers will be assigned the odd operator. The semi-automatic induct requires one person per operating station. The number of sorter operators does not require an equal number of operators on each side of the machine. The majority of operators will tend to be required on the higher density outputs or those outputs using

7.0 Training Requirements 5
7.1 Introduction
This section of the manual provides USPS® managers and supervisors with the general information about training and the training requirements for APPS plant supervisors and operators, in-plant support specialists, and remote encoding center supervisors and keyers. Tables 7-1 through 7-3 show a complete list of plant courses for specific personnel required to attend a particular course, the course number, materials, length, and location. Training listed for responsible positions must be completed before assignment to the system.

7.2 Training Method
APPS training courses employ a “train-the-trainer” delivery method. With this method of training representatives from a particular site attend a trainer’s class at the National Center for Employee Development (NCED) in Norman, OK. The site representatives are required to have completed the field presenter’s course prior to attending the APPS train-the-trainer sessions. After completing the training and returning to the field site, these new “trainers” present the APPS field training to the site personnel, including other supervisors, operators, or in-plant support personnel.

7.3 Remote Encoding Center (REC) Operations Training

The NCED assigns APPS REC operations train-the-trainer billets. A limited number of these train-the-trainer offerings are planned to serve the limited number of REC5 assigned to process APPS images. REC trainers are expected to provide subsequent training beyond the initial-trainer needs.

Group leaders are responsible for conducting keyer training at the site. Supervisor trainers are responsible for training other supervisors and managers at their site. REC supervisors and keyers are expected to be trained and ready for APPS image processing during their first plant’s bum-in period. Keyer training should be delivered on a lust in time” basis. Additional training sessions may be necessary to support additional plants in deployment and plants that are in the early phases of operational “ramp-up.” -

8.0 Safety
This guide provides United States Postal Service® (USPS®) managers and supervisors with the general safety precautions for use with the Automated Package Processing System (APPS). Because of its large size, integrated subsystems, multiple functions, and various electrical and mechanical components, APPS presents potential hazards that require strict adherence to established safety protocols to ensure a safe operating environment.

APPS Passes 1st Test, National Deployment Begins Next Month -The Automated Package Processing System (APPS) passed its first test recently at the Twin Cities Metro Hub in Minneapolis, MN, and begins national deployment in next month (July) at the annex in Oklahoma City, OK. APPS combines the latest in automated package sorter technology with optical character reader, bar code reader and video coding capabilities to process a wider range of packages and bundles — even irregularly shaped ones. A total of 74 APPS will be deployed to 70 mail processing facilities by fall 2005 -USPS Today News (note: Postal Reporter has learned today that  USPS has awarded  jurisdiction of the APPS machine to Level 4, Mail Handlers.(6/9/04)

Mail Handlers Named as Primary Craft for Automated Package Processing System Staffing (PDF) -In a letter dated June 2, 2004 from John Dockins, USPS Manager Contract Administration, APWU and NPMHU learned the Postal Service has identified mail handlers as the primary craft to perform work associated with APPS. USPS also determined the appropriate level to perform activities associated with the APPS is Level 4. "It is the position of the APWU this piece of mail processing equipment should be staffed by clerks" (6/9/04) Video overview of APPS

 Maintenance for APPS will be split between ET 10s, Level 8 MPE’s and Level 5 General Maintenance Mechanics. All preventive maintenance performed to the main machine transport will use Level 8 MPE and Level 5 General Mechanics. All preventive maintenance performed on the OCR/VCS or the system PC will be performed by the Level 10 and Level 8 MPE’s.

The Twin Cities Metro Hub MN has been selected as the First Article Test site for APPS, supported by the Wichita KS REC. The FAT is scheduled to begin in January 2004. National deployment will begin in Spring 2004.Processing Operations also will support field implementation with orientations for this program. The orientations will follow the presentation and break-out format in a one day session. The first orientation for the earliest deployment sites has been scheduled for November 13 in Dallas TX. The full orientation schedule has not been set yet for all sites.  (source: USPS)  Update: APPS FAT begins 2/17/04

A further description of APPS is provided below.

The APPS program contract, which carries an initial value of more than $300 million, requires Lockheed Martin to build and deploy 74 U.S. Postal Service package processing systems nationwide beginning in 2004. The Postal Board of Governors must approve additional quantities beyond this initial buy. If all additional quantities are exercised through 2006, more than 120 systems could be delivered. (11/1/03)

The APPS program will provide the U.S. Postal Service with a fully integrated, end-to-end system capable of automatically sorting high volumes of first-class packaged mail, Priority Mail envelopes and parcels, and bundled mail such as magazines or catalogs with greater efficiency and higher accuracy. The Lockheed Martin system is capable of processing more than 9,500 packages an hour with machine printed or handwritten addresses.  Lockheed Martin Press Release

APPS is the next generation of Small Parcel and Bundle Sorting (SPBS) equipment. At processing speeds 2 to 3 times faster than current equipment, APPS will replace SPBSs at 74 high volume sites. Some current SPBSs will migrate to sites now performing manual distribution. APPS configurations include one and two induction stations and high and low bay variations to accommodate space restrictions. Sortation is to the 5-digit level, with remote on-line video coding performed at Remote Encoding Centers for pieces unresolved by the OCR/BCR. Lockheed Martin is the main contractor. (10/16/03)

Automated Package Processing System (APPS)

This machine will replace many Small Parcel Bundle Sorters in the larger offices. The Lockheed Martin machine tested in St. Paul, MN has been accepted by the USPS.

The attached deployment schedule is still the target. The time line should be the same, although some plants may move up or down the list as conditions dictate. This is the usual way of implementing new automation.

The USPS has purchased 74 APPS machines with an option to buy 50 more.

There will be a definite impact on the staffing level of SPBS clerks. Each APPS machine can eliminate 2-3 SPBS machines and has a throughput of 18,000 pieces per hour.

It is possible there could be some effects felt in associate offices due to consolidation of this type distribution similar to what we saw with the implementation of the FSM 100 for flats.

This could also result in the down flow or redeployment of SPBS machines into some offices that did not previously have them.

The first article test is scheduled for November, 2003 in Harrisburg, PA.

It is the position of the APWU this piece of mail processing equipment should be staffed by clerks but the USPS has not taken a position as yet on staffing or on jurisdiction. (source: APWU )

Diagram of APPS machine

Containers filled with bundles of second-class and standard mail or priority mail are automatically unloaded into the system at in-feed stations (1). Bundles travel along a conveyor to a singulator (2) that lines up the items in single file for ease of processing. The next station (3) confirms that items are singulated as it weighs and cubes items while in motion. Then they pass through a data capture system (4) with bar code and optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Both can read labels on all four sides in a single pass. Bad reads are automatically sent to an off-site encoding room where people read electronic images of the OCR labels, identifying the package for later sortation. Items then pass through the distribution subsystem (5) with shoe sorter that diverts them to induction stations (6) that synchronize the package for transition onto the cross-belt sorter (7). The system sorts each item to the designated mail chute that feeds the mail basket for items to that particular zip code. Unsorted items circulate on the system for as many as six cycles before they are automatically sorted to a re-processing station.

Check out PARS page

Home| Postal News | Your Rights | PostalMall | Editorials |  Resources |  Links About  |  What's New Search| Letters to Editor