I was thrilled when David Yench, branch manager of the Wellesley Hills Post Office, agreed to let me spend the day with him and his staff. After all the articles I had read about branches closing, private competition, and automation services eliminating the need for actual people, I was anxious to ask the folks at the Wellesley Hills Post Office what they were experiencing there.
I, like most people, had only ever set foot in the small, public section in the front of the building. However, it was obvious just by looking at the giant exterior of the building that much more was going on there and I was eager to take a look. One day last month, I was granted full access and it was a fantastic experience.
I arrived at 8 a.m. and work had already been underway for a couple of hours. The frenzy of activity starts at 6 a.m. as the clerks and letter carriers punch in and start collecting and sorting the mail. It’s an amazing, highly organized operation. Everybody knows the routine and everybody has a job to do. Trucks drop off bin after bin of automated mail sorted overnight at the Boston facility. Packages and priority mail go to their designated corner. Thousands of letters are sorted and huge crates of magazines and circulars get divided and distributed. Once all the mail has been organized by route it gets bagged up, ready to hit the street.
One of the things that struck me most was that for all I had heard about high tech automation and the post office embracing technology, the process I witnessed this morning seemed like it hadn’t changed in a hundred years. I expected to see a room full of machines sorting hundreds of parcels per second. The reality is that in Wellesley Hills they rely on their dwindling staff to hand-sort our letters, magazines, and packages by putting them into individual slots representing individual homes. When they’re done with that, they hand-deliver them to every mailbox in town.
I was happy to see the human element that has always been at the heart of the postal service is still very much alive here. The truth is that the larger sorting facilities ARE full of machines that process hundreds of parcels per second. These automated systems require fewer and fewer people as they become more advanced and it’s only a matter of time before the local offices adopt the same technology.
In this month’s “Inside Wellesley” segment I address automation as well as other “adaptations” to competition with David Yench, Kim Newcomb the branch supervisor, and Kevin McMahon a letter carrier.
Click here for an in-depth look at the future of the Postal Service through the eyes of the Wellesley Hills Post Office