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Innovations help drive Ramstein postal operations

An Airman places a package on a shelving unit in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kaliah Evans, 786th Force Support Squadron postal clerk, places a package on a shelving unit at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 10, 2020. The Northside post office is due to receive new high-density shelving units in the near future that will greatly expand its storage capacity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

Two Airman sort through mail in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Stacy Thomas, left, and Airman 1st Class Michael Bradley, right, 786th Force Support Squadron military postal clerks, process incoming first class mail at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 10, 2020. Currently postal clerks sort first class mail by hand, but the Northside Post Office is due to receive a mail sorter that will drastically increase sort time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

A volunteer scans a package in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base.

A volunteer scans a package that is ready for pickup at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2020. Volunteers assist postal clerks by providing an extra hand behind the parcel pickup windows which in turn reduces the wait time for customers that are picking up packages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

An Airman assists a customer in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Diamond Durant, 786th Force Support Squadron military postal clerk, helps a customer in the lobby of the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2020. Since the click-and-ship initiative was passed down from the U.S. Postal Service, Airmen have been posted in the lobby of the Northside Post Office to assist customers with any inquiries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

An Airman scans a package in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Darren Hinds-Webster, 786th Force Support Squadron official mail manager, scans a package at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2020. The Northside Post Office uses a software program called SC Logic to easily identify the location of a package once they are ready to be picked up. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

An Airman assists a customer in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kamar Francis, 786th Force Support Squadron postal service center noncommissioned officer in charge, assists a customer from behind a divider at the parcel pickup window at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2020. Since the onset of COVID-19, the Northside Post Office has taken many precautions to help prevent the virus’s spread. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

An Airman stands in front of a physical distancing marker in the Northside Post Office at Ramstein Air Base.

A U.S. Air Force member waits behind a physical distancing marker at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 9, 2020. The Northside Post Office has enacted many precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Every unit in the Air Force faces its own set of unique challenges. Those challenges inevitably lead to solutions through innovation. For the Northside Post Office on Ramstein, innovations are always driven by one idea: how to better serve the customer.

Some of these innovations and initiatives have already been implemented while others are still in the works.

One such addition rolled out at the Northside Post Office in 2019. Named after the company that developed it, SC Logic is an automated postal scanning system that sends push notifications to customers, letting them know when their package has arrived.

“All Kaiserslautern Military Community post offices are transitioning to paperless notification for package services in November of 2020,” said Tech. Sgt. Darren Hinds-Webster, 786th Force Support Squadron official mail manager. “This will return roughly 3,000 man-hours annually to the post office.”

In addition to returning man-hours, the initiative will also save the government $87,000 in printing materials, aligning the post office’s processes with the Paperwork Reduction Act.

The next evolution to the SC Logic initiative due to roll out early next year, is the addition of kiosks. Customers will input their box number into the kiosk, which will then notify the postal clerks in the back to gather their packages. Once gathered, a notification will be displayed to the waiting customer via a television monitor outside the parcel pickup window.

This system will allow postal clerks to gather multiple packages at a time for customers which will streamline pickup times. “The goal is to decrease the customer’s wait time and increase our productivity,” said Senior Airman Melissa Lewis, 786th FSS postal clerk.

While these initiatives directly affect the customer and can be more readily observed, others will be more indirect and not seen from the outside of the service window.

Currently, the postal clerks in the postal service center section dedicate eight hours per day sorting through roughly 30 trays of first class mail. This hefty task takes Airmen away from other duties that could improve customer service experiences. It was apparent this process needed overhauling and change is on the way.

“With the help of the 700th Contracting Squadron, the 86th Comptroller Squadron, and the United States Air Forces in Europe Strategic Plans and Programs, we have secured a fully operational first class mail sorter,” Hinds-Webster said. “It should be in place by mid-November, this year.”

The mail sorter far exceeds the capabilities of sorting by hand and is able to sort 14,000 pieces of first class mail in one hour, returning tons of man-hours to the squadron.

In addition to streamlining processes, other considerations like physical space are also being examined. Recognizing the need for more space, the postal flight worked with civilian industry leaders to design high density shelving units.

“Over the past 13 years, postal operations have grown by 110%, yet the storage capacity has remained the same,” Hinds-Webster said. “These shelves will return over 5,800 square feet to the post office and prepare our facilities for the constantly growing mission.”

Not all of these innovations were derived from local needs; some are directed straight from the United States Postal Service.

In order to alleviate missent packages and streamline mail system flow, the USPS recently mandated that all customs forms will be filled out online, prior to shipping.

“There are several ways to do this,” said Senior Airman Patric Bushee, 786th FSS postal clerk. “There is still the old way of filling everything out by hand here at the post office, but now there are online options as well. Customers can choose the ‘click-and-ship’ option which allows them to fill out the form and process payment all online, that way when they come in they can just drop it off and be on their way. Or they can fill out just the customs form online, it will generate a barcode which we can then scan, pull up the information, and then process payment at the time of drop off.”

Of course, all these innovations and initiatives would not be possible without the people behind them, driving them forward. And the postal clerks of the Northside Post Office don’t always go it alone. During the holidays they invite people to take tours of the Post Office and encourage volunteerism.

“We always appreciate the efforts of our volunteers,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Tausch, 786th FSS customer service noncommissioned officer in charge. “We look forward to working with them this holiday season.”

To volunteer you can go to: https://booknow.appointment-plus.com/9rm3mcns/, select “Postal Services - VOLUNTEERING” under the “Select Base Agency” dropdown menu, then select the location you would like to volunteer under the “Select Base Service” dropdown menu, choose the date you’d like to volunteer, and then continue through the prompts.