Monday 26 November, 2012
We’ve made real progress in implementing our modernisation programme this year, but there is plenty more to do, says Mark Higson, managing director for Operations and Modernisation…
Q. Mark, remind us why modernising our business is so important?
Three reasons. We need to make our working environments better and safer for our people. We have already reduced the amount of time lost through accidents by 50% in the past four years.
We also want to offer an improved service for customers. We’re doing that through processing mail faster, tracking items to the door, and introducing new delivery methods to reflect the fact that people are receiving more parcels and fewer letters.
Delivering to neighbours is helping to improve our customers’ experience by delivering more items first time. But there are areas where we need to improve, particularly using our ‘Something for you’ cards correctly.
Thirdly, by improving efficiency across our operations we can offer competitive prices and maintain as many high-quality jobs as possible.
Q. What have we achieved over the past 12 months?
We completed our automation programme. Machines are now sorting the vast majority of mail. We achieved our target to sequence 75% of letters to exact walk order a year ahead of schedule.
This will have a major impact in deliveries where postmen and women will spend less time prepping mail and longer on delivery. This is important as we look to make efficiency savings and deliver the increase in parcels.
The majority of our mail centre consolidation programme is complete or under consultation as we look to reduce the number of centres we have because of the overall decline in mail.
I was at our new Medway facility recently. Unfortunately, we had to close four mail centres but we have built an outstanding facility to consolidate the work in this area. The people there have a much better working environment, with improved facilities. They are benefiting from using World Class Mail (WCM) techniques.
Q. A lot of people in mail centres will be familiar with WCM, but what is happening in deliveries?
We have reached agreement with the CWU to introduce WCM across the business. It gives people a really practical way to contribute to changing their working environment and improving business performance. The best examples are truly outstanding.
I can understand why some people who aren’t yet using WCM may be sceptical. People may have seen initiatives wither on the vine, but when they get involved with WCM they will see what a difference they can make. Its principles, like improving safety and finding the reasons to eliminate customer service failures, are as applicable in delivery as they are in mail centres.
Q. With the rise in parcels, what plans are there to process these items better?
In a nutshell, our parcels strategy is to deliver the mix of parcels in the most effective way. We are working very hard to ensure we are handling the right size parcels. That means concentrating on smaller parcels, with Parcelforce Worldwide handling bigger items and express time deliveries.
An exercise is under way to look at how and where to automate the processing of parcels in our core network.
Q. What do we need to achieve next year?
We need to focus on modernising the rest of our delivery offices and ensuring every revision is a success. We’ve fully modernised more than half our offices. They are now using trolleys and shared vans to deliver the new mix of parcels and fewer letters. They are also working safer and smarter by ensuring the mail flows in the most efficient way through the office.
The challenge is to make all revisions a success. In those that are working well, we are working far better and achieving the savings we need to make. A large number are working well, but there are places where the process has proved very difficult.
Q. Why is that?
Revisions involve changes that some people may find difficult. For example, later start and finish times because the mail is arriving walk sequenced, or they aren’t used to going out in a shared van.
We are continuously enhancing our communications to explain the changes we are making and the reasons for them. Where revisions are working is where there has been the right discussion between managers, colleagues and the union.
There are several elements to a good revision. Planning routes properly is key. It involves looking at the amount of mail, mail volume changes from day to day, and checking with postmen and women for issues on their routes, like traffic hotspots, which may impact on how long a delivery takes.
Q. Is there an end date in sight?
The aim is to complete the vast majority of delivery revisions by the end of the 2013/14 financial year. It is important to remember that modernisation is ongoing. We will always need to adapt to the changing mail market.