A national postal operator needed our help. Although it had invested in automation, much of its mail was still being manually sorted. The post’s optical character recognition technology (OCR) was ageing too, so Prime Competence was asked to analyse the entire operation with particular emphasis on letters and flats.
Our approach was twofold. We first identified short-term, easy-to-accomplish, improvements that could be realized quickly without substantial investment. We then pinpointed the longer range projects carrying significant improvement potential that would change the organisation and the processes within it.
In order to understand the post’s methods and to obtain the best insight into its internal processes, Prime Competence spent four days at its most important sorting center. We interviewed employees on their daily work routines to get a good picture of what they did, how they did it and why.
We then used the information we gathered, as well as pictures and movie clips, to create a list of objectives with a choice of solutions. Each improvement point was evaluated against several criteria: implementation difficulty, technical requirements, financial impact, time frame for implementation and other specific issues.
A broad variety of potential improvements were identified. These ranged from the introduction of a bar-code on each mail piece to installing a new state-of-the-art automation program with advanced OCR. We also recommended the introduction of video coding facilities at local, de-centralized and web-based locations.
Additionally, Prime Competence conducted research to answer additional questions posed by the post’s management. For example, we were asked to propose the architecture for video coding, assess the impact of the process and to recommend an appropriate postal automation platform.
We also analysed the potential for improvements in intelligent character reading (ICR) and the areas in the organisation where SAP processes could be improved. As we work with posts around the world, we were able to factor into our proposals, global trends and experience.
One of the trends we explored was the increasing use, by postal companies, of Software-as-a-Server solutions (SaaS). With SaaS you buy software functionality instead of investing in the complete software suite. Charges are levied per click, per day, per month or per employee.
Although SaaS is still a relatively new service, several postal organisations with which we work, have introduced it. We were therefore able to feed back this first-hand experience to our client for its further consideration.