USPS taps Lockheed for $700M scanner buy

The U.S. Postal Service last week awarded Lockheed Martin Federal Systems a contract potentially worth $700 million to purchase handheld scanners for tracking packages a technology Postal officials hope will help the agency compete with private delivery companies.

The six-year Mobile Data Collection Devices (MDCD) contract award will deliver about 300 000 data collection devices and provide communication cradles in-office computer systems and system maintenance. The devices will scan bar codes on packages and store information on the date and time a package entered the system and the date and time the package was delivered. That information will then be downloaded to a host system.

MDCD is a long-awaited contract that will give the agency technology currently used by Federal Express and United Parcel Service. USPS pre-qualified bidders last year but conducted another pre-qualification round earlier this year after the agency decided not to include a customized wireless capability. USPS originally had included a capability that would have provided two-way messaging and emergency alerts. USPS at the time said it wanted an off-the-shelf product.

The MDCD program is "representative of the agency's philosophy" to remain current with the latest technology and stay competitive said Sam Graber a market research analyst at Federal Sources Inc. who tracks USPS.

"MDCD is a $700 million piece of that pie. MDCD not only furnishes Postal employees with advanced communications tracking and storage devices but demonstrates USPS is striving to re-engineer the state-of-the-art services for customer support " Graber said.

USPS estimated the contract to be worth $218 million but the Board of Governors approved about $700 million for the program.

Judy Marks the MDCD program director at Lockheed Martin said MDCD will allow "the Postal Service to grow its market in expedited products because it allows it to provide timely data on delivery confirmation."

John Kelly vice president of USPS said the agency wants to "send a strong message" to its old and new customers through MDCD that USPS is "aggressively seeking to keep their business by supplying the services they want."

USPS relies on information technology more than ever to do its work. "From an operations perspective it is a central part of our direction in the future " said Robert Earlewine Jr. manager of logistics systems at USPS.

MDCD will be deployed in more than 32 000 Postal facilities by the end of next year and will be used by 300 000 letter carriers to collect information on Express Mail Priority Mail parcels international shipments and certified and registered-mail delivery. Symbol Technologies will manufacture the 300 000 MDCD devices as a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin.

Each MDCD laser scanner which weighs less than 12 ounces confirms the date and time a package was delivered into the mail system and the date and time it was delivered. At the end of each day the scanner will be returned to a docking station that will send the data files either via modem or across the internal USPS network to the agency's data center in San Mateo Calif.

Although USPS pre-qualified 10 vendors to bid on MDCD only four other teams submitted bids: Northrop Grumman IBM Corp. Tracor Information Systems Inc. (Cordant) and Intermec Corp.

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