Mail-Sorting Machines Are Crucial for the U.S. Postal Service

Automated machines such as the ones being decommissioned greatly speed up the mail-sorting process for the USPS, which delivers what amounts to roughly half the world’s mail. Its equipment can postmark and sort up to tens of thousands of pieces of mail per hour, performing what is “essentially a mechanized and automated version of the same process that was done in the 19th century,” says Daniel Piazza, chief curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

Of course, this process goes much faster than it did when a sorter was “a person standing in front of an enormous wall of cubbyholes, reading the address and putting it in the right box for the right city,” he adds. Scientific American spoke with Piazza about how mail-sorting machines work and why they are so crucial to today’s postal service.


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