New Machine Sorts Large Mail

SAN FRANCISCO—What used to be the busiest day of the year, is now the busiest week, thanks to online shopping. Large orders have increased in size, so the postal service is using a new machine this year to process them, the Universal Sorting System (USS).

“One of the challenges we had in the past is that all pieces that were not machinable we had to sort them manually,” said Eduardo Cuadra, lead maintenance manager of Bay-Valley Postal District.

This new automated machine sorts more efficiently and accurately.

“It helps us to finalize the mail up to 2-3 hours earlier than we would have, doing it manually,” said Pedro Ortiz, senior plant manager of the San Francisco Processing & Distribution Center.

The machine at the San Francisco facility was installed in June, and it is expected to handle over 72,000 over-sized packages from Dec. 16 to Dec. 22.

“The throughput for this machine, can process 2,200 pieces per hour,” said Ortiz.

Packages are dropped from a container called the universal unloader, onto a loading belt, and the packages make their way around the machine.

The parcels then go through the singulator that lines them up in single file to go through a mirrored camera tunnel. It scans all six sides of the package simultaneously for a barcode and enters the information into the system. It also keeps a tally of all the packages it processes that day.

NTD Photo
The universal unloader drops packages onto the loading belt at the United States Postal Service in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)
NTD Photo
The singulator lines the packages in single file to be scanned individually at the United States Postal Service in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)
NTD Photo
The new universal sorting system has a camera tunnel that scans all sides of the packages. Taken at the United States Postal Service in West Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 17, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)

The machine sorts medium to large packages up to 70 pounds. And cannot take packages over 46 inches long and 28 inches wide.

“We have mail that we collect locally, that stays with us. And we also have mail that leads the facility into the rest of the country. And we can actually sort both simultaneously,” said Cuadra.

There are currently 21 of these machines throughout the nation.

People are kindly reminded to tape and pad the boxes correctly, and there are restrictions for mailing hazardous items.

Across the nation, over 200 million packages are expected to be processed during this week.

To ensure the goods are delivered before Christmas, first-class mail should be sent by Dec. 20th, priority mail by the Dec. 21, and express mail by the Dec. 23.