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The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the second largest employer in the country next to the Federal government. It hires more than 600,000 postal workers and processes 200 billion mails and parcels in a year or about 400,000 pieces a minute. To be able to do its job efficiently, the USPS has to make use of an intricate network of systems and personnel. From hiring to sorting to processing to delivering mail, the most extensive mail organization in the world has to be efficient but quick at the same time.
Integral to keeping the credibility and trust of the American public in the country’s mail system is the US Postal Inspection Service. This agency secures and inspects mails and parcels to check if illegal items are transported through this channel. From scams involving counterfeit checks to educating the public about these scams to working against child pornography, among others, postal inspectors ensure that the Federal postal system is not abused and used by unscrupulous individuals and organizations.
To ensure that mail is delivered to their intended location, the Post Office makes use of ZIP codes or Zoning Improvement Plan codes implemented way back in 1963. The first digits from 0 to 9 indicate localities from the East to the West Coast while the next two numbers represent specific regions. The last two numbers indicate the specific post offices that the mail is to be delivered. In 1983, four numbers were added to the ZIP code to indicate street groups or high-rise building, further making mail delivery quicker and more efficient.
The USPS also uses technology to process mail. Postal workers use the Intelligent Mail system which employs bar codes on parcels to check and track mail as it goes through the mail channels. For magazines or large envelopes, the USPS uses the Flats Sequencing System. For addresses written by hand, post offices have machines that are able to read these. Mail is forwarded to people who have changed their addresses through the Postal Automated Redirection System.
While technology and computers have made entire mail sorting and delivery process more efficient, postal employees still do the nitty-gritty every day work. Postal employees put outgoing mail in mailboxes where they are gathered by postal trucks to be brought to the post office. Machines (operated by postal workers, of course) sort mail and reads bar codes. After sorting, they are shipped to the regional post office that is supposed to receive them. Upon arriving there, more sorting is done so that they are arranged by postal delivery routes. In the end, a postal mail carrier delivers the mail to their intended recipients.