‘We’re prepared this year’: USPS gearing up to handle another year of holiday packages

SPOKANE, Wash. — The pandemic has put a strain on all of us and the mailing industry is no exception.

“Last year, we were not prepared at all,” said Mary Smith, Customer Relations Coordinator with USPS.

She saw it all last year — toilet paper, mail-in ballots and Christmas gifts.

“I mean we had no way of knowing how, you know how much this was going to affect us,” said Smith.

All of these items and much more were sorted at Spokane’s Mail Processing and Distribution Center.

Plant manager Earl Eisenrich says it was a lot to handle — for employees and for the equipment.

“For last peak season, our volume went from an average of about 100,000 parcels a day to 200,000,” said Eisenrich. “So as you can imagine, that is tough to adjust to.”

In the center of the workroom floor is a mail sorting machine.

This automatic delivery unit sorter or ‘ADUS’ normally handles 120,000 packages a day.

With last year’s holiday season exceeding that amount, a second machine was brought in to meet this year’s demand.

“It’s just going to give us the ability to provide world class service through peak season,” said Eisenrich.

It’s one of 118 going into USPS plants across the country.

These machines will sort slightly bigger packages and an additional 80,000 of them each day.

“As peak season increases this plant will be 24/7, it’s really quite the thing to see. It’s incredible,” said Eisenrich. “We’ll be sorting through well over 300,000 parcels a day.”

When 4 News Now visited the USPS plant a few weeks ago, the new ‘ADUS’ wasn’t running.

But it’s only a matter of months before it’ll be necessary to get through the holiday season.

USPS is also hiring more employees to help.

“We’re just amping up and we want to give the best customer service that we can, and we’re prepared this year,” said Smith.

Eisenrich says planning for this year’s holiday season started as soon as the last one ended.

Right about now, we should be thinking about what we’re going to get.

“We’ve got the firepower, I think, across the nation now to where it’s going to be so much better for peak season,” said Eisenrich. “But it’s so important to have that anticipation, that package under your tree by the time Christmas gets here so mail early, it will help us help you.”

So the message is loud and clear — don’t wait until December. Order early this year.

Even with more machines and more employees, we’re still in a pandemic, so delays are still possible.