We recently hit another milestone in our automation journey, when for the first time, more than 18 million parcels were successfully sorted across our parcel sorting machines (PSMs) in a week, while there were more than 3.2 million in a single day.
Our 19th and 20th PSMs also went into operation at South Midlands Mail Centre and Jubilee Mail Centre. This gives us 20 machines in 16 of our mail centres, with four mail centres having two machines to handle the volumes of parcels they receive, including South Midlands and Jubilee.
South Midlands plant manager Steve James says the new machine came into action at the right time: ‘It’s been useful to help with the increased volumes we’ve been experiencing. We’re around 20 per cent up on our usual daily volumes, and about 30 per cent up on Tracked items.
‘Everyone was really keen to be trained on the new machine. People understand the business strategy and the need to remain competitive, and they want to be a part of it.’
Operator and workplace coach, Tina Dos Santos (pictured), agreed: ‘If we didn’t have the second PSM, we would have really struggled with all the extra parcels, but this way we’re keeping our numbers up and getting our customers’ shopping to them.’
The PSM went into operation four weeks earlier than planned to help the team with the high volume.
The site’s engineering manager, Michael Ivory, said: ‘It did put a lot of added pressure on us and we had the added problem of people not being able to travel into the site.
‘We really had to put our trust in the local engineers and contractors. But it’s turned out really well and the team has been excellent. I can’t praise them enough.’
The need for social distancing, coupled with the high volumes, has meant the engineering team has had to adapt to new ways of working.
Early shift engineering team coach, Darren Taplin, said: ‘We had to make sure we didn’t have too many people working on any one part of the machine at the same time, so we planned each day very carefully to decide who would be on each part at different times.
‘The PSMs are running constantly at the moment to cope with the extra volume of parcels, so our engineers have had to be very flexible and be prepared to work on a PSM at a moment’s notice.’
Jubilee plant manager, Eric Ashiagbor, said: ‘On average, we have about 450,000 parcels available to go through. We put through up to 9,000 an hour. When you compare that to what you do manually, it just makes sense. We had around a 50 per cent uplift in parcels, so the PSM coming when it did was a godsend.
‘We were having issues with workplan clearance shift to shift,’ said early shift manager, Diana Faro-Rodriguez. ‘But since the machine arrived, we’ve been getting back to normal.'