USPS Deploys Kinetica to Optimize its Business Operations

How does an organization that makes daily deliveries to more than 154 million addresses using hundreds of thousands of vehicles create efficiencies based on visualizations of near-real-time data? The United States Postal Service (USPS) turned to Kinetica as the foundation of its real-time analytics platform.
USPS Van

The Business

With more than 600,000 employees and a fleet of 215,000 vehicles delivering more than 500 million pieces of mail daily, the United States Postal Service (USPS) also has the country’s largest retail network — larger than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart combined, domestically.

Postal customers these days expect sophisticated services like just-in-time supplies, tracking and delivery updates, and dynamic shipment routing. The USPS knew they needed to improve their end-to-end business process performance while reducing costs at the same time.

The Challenge

To gain better visibility into operations, the every mail carrier now carries a device that scans packages and emits exact geographic location every minute.

USPS needed to be able to capture and use this data to improve various aspects of its massive operation, including improving carriers’ route efficiency.

USPS evaluated a variety of in-memory databases for real-time analysis, but settled on Kinetica for its unmatched performance with high volumes of streaming data and its native geospatial capabilities.

 

USPS’ application of Kinetica enhances the quality of service that US citizens receive by giving them a better, more predictable experience sending and receiving mail.”
Kevin Monroe, senior research analyst at IDC
A region showing a heat-map of delivery points with collection box icons representing mail-drop.
A region showing a heat-map of delivery points with collection box icons representing mail-drop.

Kinetica Solution

The USPS runs Kinetica as a 70TB in-memory database. Each node consists of a single X86 blade server from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, a terabyte of RAM, and up to two NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPUs (each with 2 GPUs). The system went live in 2014.

With those 200,000+ USPS devices emitting location once every minute, that amounts to more than a quarter billion events captured and analyzed daily, with several times that amount available in a trailing window.

USPS’ parallel cluster serves 15,000 daily sessions, providing the service’s managers and analysts with the capability to instantly analyze their areas of responsibility via dashboards and to query it as if it were a relational database.

And Kinetica has been running since with 5 9’s uptime.

Results

Service Improved by Analysis of Breadcrumb Data

Kinetica is used to collect, process and analyze over 200,000 messages per minute. As part of the “Predictive Delivery” initiative, the data is used to determine actual delivery and collection point locations and enable delivery notifications to mailers and customers. Analysis of this breadcrumb data enables the USPS to understand where spending achieves the best results, make faster and more efficient strategic decisions, provide customers with more reliable service, and reduce costs by streamlining deliveries.

Real-Time Decision-making from Geospatial Data

Kinetica enables visualization of geospatial data (routes, delivery points, and collection point data) so dispatchers can efficiently plan and view employee territory assignments. Postal managers can make better use of routes and find inefficiencies such as overlapping coverage of assigned areas, uncovered areas, and distribution bottlenecks. They were also able to improve contingency planning if a carrier was unable to deliver to assigned routes and use their workforce more efficiency by aggregating point-to-point carrier performance data.

Route Optimization

Kinetica collects data the moment mail carriers depart a USPS facility. By tracking carrier movements in real time, Kinetica provides the USPS with immediate visibility into the status of deliveries anywhere in the country, creating opportunities to modify routes and reduce unnecessary transport costs. Route optimization improves on-time delivery, enables fewer trucks to handle a greater number of deliveries, and narrowing of delivery windows.

IDC Innovation Excellence Award Recipient

Due to the success of the project, USPS was named a 2016 recipient of International Data Corporation (IDC)’s HPC Innovation Excellence Award for its use of Kinetica to track the location of employees and individual pieces of mail in real time. “The HPC Innovation Excellence Awards recognize organizations that have excelled in applying advanced supercomputing technologies to accelerate innovation and generate ROI while benefiting science, engineering, and society at large,” said Kevin Monroe, senior research analyst at IDC. “USPS’ application of Kinetica enhances the quality of service that US citizens receive by giving them a better, more predictable experience sending and receiving mail.”

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Summary

The complexities and dynamics of USPS’ logistics have reached all-time highs, while consumers have greater demands and more alternative options than ever before. Improving end-to-end business process performance while reducing costs at the same time requires the ability to make fast business decisions based on live data. By implementing Kinetica’s GPU-accelerated database, the USPS is expected to save millions of dollars in the years to come, and help them deliver more sophisticated services, achieve more accurate tracking capabilities, ensure safer, on-time deliveries, and increase operational efficiencies.

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