U.S. Postal Service Facility Revs Up For The Holidays

Dec 17, 2019

U.S. Postal Service employees working at the Sioux Falls Processing and Distribution Center
Credit John Nguyen

The United States Postal Service is already in full gear to process, distribute and deliver holiday mail on time this December.

Most packages come through the Sioux Falls Processing and Distribution Center, where more than 300 workers handle millions of cards, letters, presents and packages.

Senior manager of distribution operations Phil Konkel says they see double the number of items during the holidays.

“On a normal mid-summer, we might do 50,000 packages,” he said. “On our busiest nights here, we’ll go up to 100,000.”

An employee at the Sioux Falls Processing and Distribution Center sorts mail by hand during a work shift.
Credit John Nguyen

The Postal Service expects to deliver more than 800 million packages nationally between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, averaging 20.5 million packages daily.

“This time of year, they can have upwards of 300 parcels or even more in one day,” USPS communications specialist James Boxrud said.

The center bustles with activity as packages land in mail bins and boxes move along conveyer belts. Items are distributed to delivery routes based on their destination. Each item that lands in the facility is marked with a label, destined for one of many locations.

“Many carriers start at 6:30 in the morning and start loading packages to bring them out,” Boxrud said. “They deliver about one hundred packages in the morning, come back, get their mail ready, grab the remaining packages and head back out.”

The busiest time for processing facilities is the two weeks before Christmas, when most last-minute shopping happens. The postal service adjusts accordingly to the holidays.

“We hire about 10 to 15 percent more employees for the temporary season,” said Konkel.

A flat sorter separating magazines to land in bins.
Credit John Nguyen

About 40 people work two shifts at the facility. The first shift runs from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and the second shift from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. The time in-between is dedicated to maintenance.

Over the last few years, Konkel has seen the facility evolve. Although this is one of the busiest times of the year, he loves working during the holidays. It challenges the staff to get the mail delivered on time.

“We can add more people or more transportation, but we have to hit that time,” he said. “That time will not change.”