When you are tracking your package, you might have come across a status claiming that your package is at the distribution center. Have you ever wondered what does a distribution center mean and what does it have to do with your packages? Well as you might have guessed already, a distribution center is a warehouse, also known as a hub or a service center where your packages are scanned and processed. These distribution centers play a huge role in carrying and delivering your mails every day. If you have no idea what a USPS distribution center is and how does it work, then this is the right place.
USPS Distribution Center
A USPS Distribution Center has many names, some of which are regional distribution facilities, or simply a network distribution facility, etc. USPS claims that a distribution facility is more like a service hub. A service hub, or simply a hub, is a facility that is similar to Area Distribution Centers and Sectional Distribution Centers. The primary goal of the USPS distribution hub is to act as a cross-dock facility. In simpler terms, a distribution center unloads the packages from the freight(trucks, ships, airplanes, etc.) and stores them in the warehouse for distributing it to the various delivery units. The distribution centers unload the prepared packages and transport them to the connected delivery units. A distribution center is a significant unit of the USPS delivery system as it saves transportation costs.
Mails That Are Eligible to Be Accepted by the USPS Distribution Center
Not all mails qualify to be accepted by the distribution centers. Every package must have the address and the zip codes to be eligible for delivery.
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The distribution centers accept direct cross-dock containers which directly load the packages from one freight to another. The is little to no storage time and the freight is loaded in less than 24 hours. Hubs accept certain kinds of mails which should have the 5-digit zip code along with the 5-digit carrier route. Mails that are eligible to be accepted by a distribution center are as follows:
- Standard mail
- Periodical mail
- Printed mails and
All the above mails can be packed in pallets, bundles, sacks, and containers.
Certain categories of mails cannot be accepted by the distribution centers:
- FSS prepared mails
- Mails that are supposed to be sorted in bundles
Why Does the Mail Go to the Distribution Centers?
All the collected packages from the post offices are placed onto the freight and are taken to the distribution centers for processing. At the distribution centers, the packages are scanned and processed, which helps in sorting the packages according to the destinations mentioned on the packages. Based on the zip codes, the packages are grouped and are placed in containers. These containers are loaded onto the freights and are carried to another distribution center which again sorts the packages based on the local post offices. In simpler words, package sorting becomes easy with USPS distribution centers.
What Happens at a USPS Distribution Center and How Do They Work?
When the mails are placed at the post office for shipping or dropped in the collection box, these packages travel across many processing and distribution centers where the packages are scanned are placed onto the freight for delivery. The address labels are read by the automated systems and are converted into barcodes. All the processing and scanning are done by the automated systems before the packages are routed to their destinations. The stamps are marked so that they cannot be reused, and the barcodes are printed on the packages. These barcodes are scanned once again to sort them based on the destinations.
These centers work 24 hours a day and the unloading is done at night so that the mails can be dispatched by morning. According to USPS, sorting, and processing done through automated systems saves time and effort when compared to processing done by hand.
How Long Do the Mailpieces Wait at the USPS Distribution Center?
As the USPS packages travel through many distribution centers, it is difficult to come to a precise answer. Some distribution centers that process and scan the packages take about 3-4 days whereas some distribution centers unload the packages from the freight, sort the packages and directly load them on another freight.
Additionally, the number of packages a distribution center processes is also important. If the packages are more in number, then it takes more time. And if you are mailing packages during the holidays seasons, then it might take more than a few weeks.
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So, How Long Will It Take to Reach the Destination After the Package Has Left the USPS Distribution Center?
Once again, determining the amount of time it might take for the package to reach your doorstep is not precise. Your package travels to many regional facilities before you get to receive it. When you receive this notification while tracking your package, you can understand that your package is safe and is entered into the USPS database by the automated system. So, even if you lose or misplace your package somehow, it can be retrieved easily as it is scanned and processed.
After visiting 2 or 3 regional facilities, the mails are dropped at the local post office which will dispatch the mails to the destination address.
What Are the Issues You Might Face While the Package Is at the USPS Distribution Center?
The USPS performance is rather quick as they try to process mails faster as soon as the packages reach the post office and the distribution centers. But in the past few years, many customers complained that the delivery is slowing down and so is the online tracking system. USPS clearly states that the reason for slow delivery is the number of incoming mails and the time taken to process and scan them at the distribution centers. Additionally, the location of the destination is also a concern. The distribution centers need to sort all the mails and load them on the freights to reach the next distribution facility.
Another issue with late delivery is that the magazines, advertisements, and marketing media mails are processed by a machine called Flats Sequencing System. According to USPS, only 80 out of 100 FSS machines are being used and certain zip codes are eligible to run on these machines. Furthermore, the pallets and containers filled with such mail should be presorted by the post office before it is out for delivery. This is why many businesses chose to presort their mails before having the mails delivered. Not only does this save time but businesses also get a discount for presorting.
Benefits of Having a USPS Distribution Center
Did you know that you can have your mail picked up from the nearest distribution center if the package delivery was failed? If the package that was meant to be delivered to you fails to be delivered on time, then it is held at the post office and then it goes to the distribution facility. You can collect your package from the USPS distribution center if the delivery was failed a couple of times. Few advantages of having a distribution center are :
- Distribution centers save a lot of cost by processing and scanning the packages to make the delivery faster
- These facilities split huge shipments into smaller parts to make them eligible for delivery
- As distribution centers do not have enough space to store the shipments, the scanning and processing is done quickly so that the shipments do not pile up
The Journey of a Mail at the Usps Facilities
If you have ever wondered what happens to the packages when you deposit them at the local post office or drop them at the collection box? USPS delivers a million mails per day and these mails are strategically placed from one point to the next till they reach the rightful destination.
After collecting the letters from the post office and other collection services, the letters are sorted based on their sizes, shapes, and weight. Categorizing the letters is called Culling Operation. The stamps are marked so that the customers cannot use the stamps again. The addresses are also arranged so that they are placed on the same side for all envelopes.
Scanning Bar Codes and Addresses
The fluorescent barcodes are scanned and so are the addresses. If any address cannot be read by the automated system, they are sent to the remote center for a proper encoding to process the addresses and their bar codes. Every bar code has an address that it maps to. Based on the address present in the bar codes, the letters are sorted and these letters are carried to the different zip codes. Once the letters are sorted by the machine, they are carried to the next processing plant.
Transporting Mails to the Processing Plant
Letters bearing the same zip codes are stacked into trays and are carried to the post office of that zip code. These containers of mails are carried to the airport to fly across the country. After the plane lands, the letters are taken by the letter carriers working for USPS. The containers are loaded on the trucks and are carried to the processing plant for further processing and delivery.
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Delivery to the Destination
After reaching the processing plant, the letters are sorted once again based on the zip codes and addresses. The sorting is done using the bar code sorter machines. This is the last sorting procedure before the letters are taken for delivery. These mails are arranged in the proper order of delivery and then loaded on the trucks to be carried to the nearest carrier service, i.e., the post office. These letters are handed over to the letter carriers who take the letters for delivery.
Finally, the postal carriers drive to the locations mentioned in the letters and distribute the mails to the local residents and businesses.
Having more than a million mails delivered in a single day is not an easy task. USPS has come up with many innovative ideas to give their customers major satisfaction and has also invested in great technology to carry the mails quickly and efficiently. USPS Distribution centers sort and processes huge quantities of mails in a single time intending to have them delivered without any further delays.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’s)
The mails are transferred to 2 or 3 distribution centers, also known as usps hubs, before they reach the post office for delivery.
The USPS sorting facility is responsible for having the mails scanned, processed, and sorted so that they are ready for delivery.
Distribution centers are located in multiple parts of the state. You cannot find if there is a distribution center near you through the USPS locator tool. However, you can give a call to the post office supervisor and ask which distribution center your mail has traveled to.