Whistl Case Study

The Client

Whistl (formerly TNT Post UK Ltd.) is the Royal Mail’s number one challenger for business mail of all kinds. It is recognized as one of the most efficient postal operators in the world. They provide a high quality, full service concept for all business mail and distribution needs. In a short period of 8 years, WHISTL has scaled its operations to delivers over four billion post and packets items per year in the UK.

The Challenge

The rapid growth of business has resulted in an unstructured growth of business processes and IT systems. In realising its highly ambitious growth plan of becoming number 1 postal delivery company in UK, WHISTL faced a number of key issues:

  • Lack of reliable operational information
  • New systems needed to support  introduction of  End to End (E2E) postal service
  • Shortage of high end analytical and technology skills
  • Cost and time pressures

The Solutions

ION IT was engaged to deliver two enterprise level solutions.

Bi Data Warehouse

The first step was to understand the information requirements of the senior operational managers, how these were being served at present, issues with current information and the sources from which data was being compiled.

Operations required consolidated information on all aspects of the business – customers, collections, deliveries, performance, billings, complaints, delivery partners.

A pilot was delivered in 4 months creating 12 critical operational reports focused on collections and deliveries.

Resulting from the success of the pilot, approval was given for a full BI solution for the operational management. The original solution was based on SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise with SSAS, SSIS, SSRS; Windows 2008 R2 Server, and SharePoint 2010 technology. Upgrades to the server platforms have been undertaken where these fit within the Whistl technical infrastructure roadmap and deliver additional technical benefi.

Operational information is drawn from 25 operational systems including Routesmart, Dynamics CRM and Mailnet.

This has resulted in establishing ‘single version of truth’ for operation information. It has also made information ‘actionable’ by making it available to key decision makers quickly and easily in a secure manner.

This also helps in tracking items from ‘cradle to grave’ for WHISTL’s last mile delivery operations, End to End business.

Key hurdles during the journey were:

  • Getting different stakeholders to accept this new ‘single version of truth’
  • Integrating data from various legacy systems including mail machines
  • Creating solution architecture to deal with ‘low quality’ data and very rapidly changing business processes.

End to End (E2E)

This is a web-based application with both upstream and downstream integrations with multiple systems. This application has following major modules:

  • Employee engagement: Recruitment of postmen. Includes all information required by HR systems. Automatically uploads employee information to the Northgate HR system
  • Employee Information: Includes static information e.g. personal data and dynamic details such as holidays, performance, training records, leavers etc.
  • Forecast: Predicts the number of mailing items to be delivered from a delivery unit on a particular day
  • Manpower Planning: Planning the manpower to deliver the mailing items
  • Delivery Tracking: Tracking each mailing item from beginning to the end of supply chain including GPS location
  • Payroll Processing: Processing of payroll for each employee based on the work time and delivery productivity

Though business planning started early in 2011, IT systems development started in October 2011 and the fully functional system was in place by April 2012 for business rollout.

It has been designed as a highly scalable system currently dealing with over a million items a week. It incorporates a number of innovative approaches to deal with real life issues.

  • Item delivery tracking can be supported both in offline and online mode
  • Improving the battery life of handhelds as delivery operative does not have access to any charging facility. An adaptive polling mechanism was used to turn off various components until they are needed without impact to functional performance
  • Dealing with low quality barcodes on mail pieces which do not scan properly

The Benefits

  • ION IT was able to exceed WHISTL’s expectations by providing:
  • Operational effectiveness
  • Reliable information
  • A scalable solution to address WHISTL’s expansion objectives
  • An innovative contribution to address issues outside application development
  • An innovative methodology for fast and effective solution delivery
  • Attractive economicsFuture flexibility –  resources and support