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Transforming mail into ‘Information logistics’

10 September 2009

Mail volumes are declining but the role of the mailroom is, coversely, growing. As Markus Becker of Swiss Post Solutions explained to FM Report’s editor, the integration of information management and application of leading edge technology promises an exciting digital future.

Swiss Post is the state owned Swiss postal service, the second largest employer in that country with a bank and transport operation in its portfolio of businesses. With liberalisation of the postal business in Switzerland looming in 2013 and postal volumes falling generally, Swiss Post sees its future growth coming in large part from its Swiss Post Solutions business. Despite being one of the most efficient postal services in the world, it has no aspirations to bid of postal licences in the UK.

According to Markus Becker, Chief Executive Officer of Swiss Post Global Document Solutions, "The global turnover of Swiss Post Solutions is £400m currently and planned to grow to £1.5bn by 2015. The UK turnover is about £55m currently, and is planned to grow to £300m by the same time."

The strategy of bringing all Swiss Post’s operations outside its home base under the common Swiss Post Solutions brand, has been ongoing since 2007. "Our market share in the UK and Switzerland is significant but in other countries we have a more ‘classical’ business. SPS has about 20 percent market share of traditional in-house and outsourced mailroom management business in the UK."

Swiss Post Solutions first contract win announcement following its name change is clearly in the more ‘traditional’ end of mailroom activites. Under a new five-year contract, Swiss Post Solutions its to provide integrated mailroom and courier management service to Telegraph Media Group (TMG), taking on the distribution of huge volumes of reference material delivered daily to all Telegraph departments, and the management of the courier room including the handling sorting and delivery of TMG’s mail and tenants mail in its HQ in Buckingham Palace Road, London.

However, Becker clearly sees the future in the integration of information management and in digitisation. "The mailroom per see is dead," he claimed. "In future you will not be pushing lots of letters around and between organisations directly. There is a real shift in the mailroom sector. Our organisation clearly understands this and our plans increasingly show the benefits to our clients of the new ways of doing things not just to cut costs, but also to be more productive and efficient."

Swiss Post Solutions is the new corporate brand for Swiss Post’s subsidiary company, Mailsource UK, which in1992 entered the UK market as MMS – Mailroom Management Systems. Launched earlier this summer at the sumptuous home of the Swiss Ambassador in London, Swiss Post Solutions operates in 13 countries in Europe, Asia and the USA.
It is the contract win earlier this year for Zurich Financial Services Group that more closely matches Becker’s aspirations for the Swiss Post Solutions business. The contract is to deliver and manage Zurich’s document processing services for some of its European operations, being responsible for Zurich’s incoming and outgoing post, international intra-company mail and the scanning, processing and archiving of around 400,000 documents daily. It is one of the largest transformation projects of its kind in terms of scale and solution, and was a major win for the organisation putting it among the market leaders for physical and digital mailroom and document processing services in the European market.

Swiss Post Solutions will initially take over responsibility for Zurich’s document services in the UK and Switzerland in the first quarter of 2009. Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria will follow in subsequent phases. Zurich employees working in the document management area will transfer to Swiss Post. Under the agreement Swiss Post will be processing around 240,000 items of post and scanning 150,000 documents daily on behalf of the General, Life and Corporate business segments of Zurich.

Swiss Post Solutions will be also harnessing this contract’s volumes by creating a new hub at Zurich Financial Services base in Wootton Bassett for an ‘industrial scale’ scanning operation in addition to its offsite centres in Southend, Manchester and new Heathrow.

Commenting on the contract, Claudia Dill, Chief Operating Officer, Zurich Europe General Insurance, said: "The initiative is part of our operational transformation efforts to make Zurich an even leaner organization. Applying consistent state-of-the-art technologies across borders will streamline and speed up our internal processes which will help us to better serve our customers."

Becker’s vision for the next five years is to show organisations how they can move on from the physical letter to the management of digital information. "Our business is about information logistics – placing the right information at the right time at the right place to make it available to the decision maker. However, we have an important legacy in the mailroom – about two-thirds of our business is currently running corporate mailrooms either offsite or onsite."

Becker expects to open more executive’s doors with some of the latest technologicial advances from Swiss Post including the Swiss Post Box which enables clients to handle physical mail correspondence as easily as email. Letters and documents can be transferred securely or archived legally with the click of a mouse. Digitising the mail is an ideal solution for multi-site operations, or for mobile workforces working in different offices or offsite. The mail envelope is scanned first to decide if you want to receive it, then it can be opened and scanned as a PDF to be read online, or sent unopened, shredded or archived.

Becker sees potential new markets through the use of another Swiss Post innovation – the Swiss Stick. This provides a secure digital signature on a USB stick. As Becker explained, "You can use it to sign a scanned document completely securely without having to print it out."

Likely to appeal to senior executives signing legal and contract documents, Becker explained that the Swiss Stick has made digital signatures simple and completely secure. "Swiss Post guarantees the users identity and signature on application for the Swiss Stick. The signature is secure and will hold up in court. The Swiss Stick also has a built in web browser that creates a secure environment that enables travelling executive to go to an internet café, plug it in to access his or her files. It becomes a mobile office for those travelling light. One client has ordered 100 Swiss Sticks for use by its staff should the the swine flu pandemic prevent them coming to the office."

He continued, "As mail volumes are declinging and business becoming more complex, we want to be the ones shaping the industry and showing client how it can be in the future."

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