Electronic mail may have diverted valuable business from traditional 'snail mail' but Jersey's postal service is bucking the trend. Cathy Hayward discovers how FM is helping to get things sorted
by Cathy Hayward
FM World magazine: 25 September 2008
The humble post box is a means to an end for most facilities managers. But for Matt Bougourd, head of facilities at Jersey Post, the maintenance of the island's 187 roadside post boxes, which includes regular cleaning, painting , updating of the collection plates and ensuring the boxes are in safe working order is a key part of his role.
It's the integration with the core business that appeals to Bougourd and his nine-man in-house FM team. Fortunately that doesn't usually extend to the 5.30am starts to meet the first post plane flying the 60 miles from the mainland, but it does mean being involved in business-critical activities such as managing the fleet of vehicles which deliver the mail and stocking the right level of business critical parts for the sorting machines and plant - many emergency materials and components are not as readily available on Jersey as the mainland.
"Our automated sorting machine sorts 30,000 letters an hour with three people operating it enabling us to deliver the mail the same morning it arrives from the mainland. But if this breaks down because we don't have a spare part, or the electricity goes down, then it takes 45 man hours to sort," explains Bougourd.
Like IT, good FM is a key business enabler agrees Ian Carr, Jersey Post's operations director, who is responsible for the FM function and has been with the organisation in a variety of roles for 33 years. "Facilities is at the heart of the organisation. If it doesn't tick there is no electricity or light and we can't run our business."
Signed, sealed, delivered
Jersey Post employs 450 people operating from four main locations across the nine-by-five-mile island including a retail business, data management site, bulk logistics operation and the main 20,000 sq ft HQ in St Saviour where the organisation has been since 1996. This is the base for the 50 support staff including HR, finance, customer service and the directorate but it is also the heart of the main delivery operation. The sorting floor, which the offices surround, resembles a beehive with around 180 postal workers scurrying around the postal sorting units in the morning - all with an immense sense of purpose and deadline. This can rise by 50 per cent around Christmas.
And despite a general decline in the traditional postal market, business at Jersey Post is booming as the organisation has diversified into two key new areas.
First, a data management business which receives data from as far afield as Australia, prints it out and posts it to the UK and Europe.
Second, Jersey Post, taking advantage of the Channel Islands' VAT loophole, allowing large retailers to sell and import goods worth less than £18 (typically DVDs and CDs) into the UK mainland VAT-free, is experiencing significant volume growth in its bulk mail business as a result of the growing market in online retailing on the island.
Jersey Post expects to export nearly 50 million packages to the UK and Europe, through its bulk postal operation this year. "We're bucking the declining trend of the postal industry by generating volume growth," explains Carr.
Pushing the envelope
But Jersey Post still has a universal service obligation which is proving ever more challenging as volume decreases but the posties have more calls to make - there has been a 1 per cent year-on-year increase in addresses on the island for the last few years.
The organisation is also heavily involved in distributing direct mail (considered junk mail by the public) which Carr describes as part of its "lifeblood" and critical to the future of the postal industry. This naturally goes against Jersey Post's sustainability policies, which are in their early stages, and include a reduction in energy and water use, the switch to bio-diesel and environmental purchasing of stationery supplies and cleaning products.
Because of the nature of operating on a small island, much of the facilities work is done in-house. The main site is home to the 240-strong fleet, the biggest on the island, which includes cars, vans, forklifts and posties' trolleys plus 100 bikes. "Our postal workers use bicycles to deliver the mail where possible," explains Bougourd who, together with his on-site fleet manager and mechanic, is rolling out the use of eco-diesel. The garage is involved in everything from routine servicing and flat tyres on the vehicles to wheels falling off trolleys or accidents when trolleys roll across roads or down pavements.
Jersey Post also employs two full-time technicians on the site to maintain and service the automated sorting machine. And Bougourd is in the process of replacing the low temperature refrigerant R22 used in Jersey Post's air-conditioning system - the first on the island to make the change.
The FM team also includes an all-round handyman who completes minor tasks such as fixing door handles or putting up notice boards. "We outsource anything which requires a professional qualification," says Bougourd.
An island of 90,000 people makes for a relatively small pool of talent but this also makes for loyal, and often highly skilled, staff. Facilities support co-ordinator Jason Gow, for example, is a retained fire-fighter, and has helped to improve the organisation's fire policies. Staff all have to be security screened because of the sensitive nature of the business. "Although the crime rate on Jersey is low, privacy of mail is of paramount importance," says Bougourd. This also affects contractors which again means careful planning in the event of critical parts having to be fitted by an external contractor.
In addition to the four main sites, Bougourd supports the postmasters at each of the 24 sub Post Offices, which are based in locations from small newsagents to major supermarkets. This involves everything from ordering new stationery, such as priority delivery slips, to dealing with broken furniture and planned preventative maintenance. Cleaning is organised by the individual landlords.
Bougourd, an islander by birth, was brought up on FM. His father is the facilities manager for Deloitte for Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man and Bougourd trained as an electrician before moving into FM working for a major blue chip client of Amalgamated FM on Jersey. The newly- created role at Jersey Post, where he has been for nine months, was an ideal opportunity to create a professional FM team from scratch and become deeply embedded in the core business.
The next few months will see Bougourd and his team firm up the fledgling environmental policy, renew the redundant fleet and update the business continuity plan in addition to major refurbishment works.
"As a diverse facilities department our aim is to be ready for any eventuality that can occur. And the logistics of being on an island make it easier said than done."
Delivering the goods
Jersey Post has four main sites on the island in addition to 21 sub Post Offices, run on an agency basis:
- 60,000 sq ft Crown Post Office site in St Helier which has 14 counter positions. Jersey Post occupies the ground floor as a retail operation. There are also 1,000 PO boxes.
- 20,000 sq ft HQ in St Peter where the organisation has been since 1996. This is the centre for the admin function including HR, finance, customer service and the directorate where a core of 50 admin staff is based in addition to the main delivery operation with around 180 postal workers in the morning. This can rise to 480 people around Christmas.
- 15,000 sq ft data management site in the west of Jersey which Jersey Post has operated for eight years. It receives data from countries such as Australia and mails it to the UK and Europe generating growth in a declining market.
- 10,000 sq ft logistics site near the docks which was set up six years ago and is used for bulk exports such as Amazon and Play.com. 50 million units go through this site every year bucking the downward trend in the postal industry
Going postal: a typical day
0530 - Post plane arrives from UK mainland. Sorting begins
0830 - Mail sorted. Deliveries start
1300 - Deliveries completed. Local collection is then sorted and delivered
1800 - Post plane leaves for UK mainland to connect with Royal Mail next day deliveries in the UK
FM quick facts
- The island is home to the most southerly sub post office in the British Isles and was the first place in the British Isles to have post boxes
- Jersey Post delivers around 160,000 items a day to 38,809 postal addresses on the island
- The organisation employs 450 people
- Delivery postal clerks walk an average 31.8 miles a week