Mailroom backlog generates wait times of over 90 minutes

September 15, 2017

Students have expressed frustration at long mailroom wait times since school started on Aug 30. The wait times, which can be up to an hour and a half, are the result of multiple factors including new staff, system errors and package quantities.

The backlog can in part be attributed to the fact that first-years had not been inputted into the mailroom system until the middle of last week. The Xerox company oversees mailroom operations, and their Client Operations Director, Paul Bevilacqua, confirmed that first-years are now integrated into their system. The mailroom team, including Bevilacqua, his manager William Mccafferty and site lead Dan Cazeault have spent the last two weeks working 15-hour days to ensure that the backlog gets resolved.

Long lines at the Brandeis mailroom in Usdan.

Physical equipment is maintained by Xerox. Occasionally that equipment relies on data provided by the university and ITS provides support. The failure to input first-years into the mailroom sorting system can be attributed to all three parties: the mailroom, ITS and the university.

Xerox continually searches for ways to improve its processes, and each semester there are minor tweaks to optimize the sorting and storage process. The fundamental process of receiving, staging and shelving packages has been in place since Xerox arrived on campus in 2014.

The mailroom is staffed to its full capacity by 14 employees who are working overtime to help improve the flow of packages out of the mailroom, including Saturdays. New hires are still getting used to the mailroom processes and need time to adjust, said Bevilacqua. Bevilacqua brought in temporary and student workers to lessen the workload.

Students trying to pick up packages before they were ready has also lengthened wait times. Packages have to be handled four times, explained Bevilacqua. They are received, staged alphabetically, shelved and distributed when students come to the window. Students receive an email to come collect their package at the third stage.

A status of “delivered” on an online package tracker often means it has arrived at the carrier distribution center, but not necessarily at the Brandeis mailroom. An email from the mailroom is the only real signal that a package is ready to be picked up. This issue was further complicated because first-years were not receiving these emails and had no confirmation their packages had arrived before getting in the line.

The school is now conducting a root cause analysis. When they have more data, any necessary changes will be implemented. “We want to note that lines of some length have always been a part of the fall rush period, due to the extraordinary package volume received at the beginning of the school year,” wrote Jim Gray, Vice President for Campus Operations. Bevilacqua estimated that they had received around 1,000 packages a day from Sept. 4 through Sept. 8.

The level of package congestion at the beginning of the academic year is somewhat typical. A large backlog occurred last fall when the mailroom received a similar influx of early-semester packages. Gray sent out an email to the student body using similar tactics to address the backlog. They hired additional staff, updated technology and added weekend hours.

Bevilacqua is optimistic that the traffic will lessen along with the wait times by the end of the month. The mailroom will continue to have hours on the weekend while the peak demand for packages exists. Those hours can be found posted on their door. Typically, the mailroom will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, although this past weekend the hours were extended to 4 p.m. to help deal with the backlog.

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