Three years ago, the postage giant found itself falling short of the mark when it came to Christmas e-commerce deliveries, caught out by a rapid uptake in Australians purchasing Christmas gifts online.
This week’s official opening of Australia Post and Startrack’s expanded parcel handling facilities in both Chullora, Sydney and Sunshine West, Melbourne, have more than doubled its parcel processing capacity.
The new and improved state of the art facilities are the culmination of a $2 billion, 18 month project kick started by Australia Post’s GM parcels infrastructure and engineering, Gary Stubbs, spurred on by the fateful 2011 Christmas period where Australia Post recognised it needed to do more to cash in on the rapidly growing e-commerce market.
“The impetus of the investment we made here in Chullora, quite frankly was an experience three years ago in the lead up to Christmas 2011,” Fahour said.
“That Christmas was incredible, not all positive. Christmas 2011 grew by 20 per cent across Australia compared to the previous average of the decade, which was single digit growth.
“The reality is we were caught out by the deluge of parcels coming in and we were shocked at how many ULDs (unit load devices) went missing, which were later found in many of our customers’ warehouses who were prepared.
“We simply did not have the processing capacity to cope, and our on time delivery performance failed for the first time in a long time,” he said.
Of the $2 billion allocated to Australia Post’s Future Ready project, half has been invested in improving parcel delivery services.
Work began on the expansion of the Chullora parcel facility in July 2013, and has seen the site expanded by 65 per cent to 38,000sqm – more than twice the size of ANZ Stadium.
The new improved operation is able to process 30,000 packages an hour – up from the original 13,500.
Overall processing capacity has been increased from 300,000 items a day to 744,000, while manual handling of packages has been reduced by 50 per cent.
State of the art scanning and recognition software now installed is able to automatically match and validate addresses, with six sided scanners and electronic scales capable of scanning up to 19 barcode simultaneously.
This aspect is particularly important, as knowing where each parcel is increases visibility and tracking across the network and also allows for customers to redirect parcels mid-route.
At Melbourne’s Sunshine West facility, the site has doubled in size to 30,000sqm, with parcel processing capacity increased from 9000 parcels an hour to 23,000.
In tandem with the Chullora and Sunshine West facilities, two other sites at Sydney Airport and Alexandra Business Hub in NSW, have also been upgraded.
“To anyone who doesn’t work in logistics, they might think this is a very simple transformation for Australia Post to have made,” said Fahour.
“On face value, we’re still in the business of moving things from point A to point B, but this transformation is far more complex than that.
“It involves really focusing on a completely different type of customer and customer experience. It involves us servicing the specific needs of retailers who are sending parcels, as well as the experience of their customers who are receiving them.
“Obviously there has been a massive network investment as we shift from processing small, thin letters to much larger parcels.
“It has also involved investing heavily in our systems, people, processes, and training to support the transformation, and most importantly, has involved building the information systems and apps that support the conveniences that allow control for our customers as they expect today,” he said.
Beyond the expansion and upgrade of parcel processing facilities, Australia Post has also extended delivery options for customers.
This month the company has launched My Post deliveries, enabling customers to choose to have parcels delivered to a home or business address, a free 24/7 Australia Post parcel locker, or to an Australia Post store of their selection.
“Consumers can collect day or night at 180 parcel locker sites we’ve installed, or if they are not home and don’t want the parcel locker, they can nominate to collect their parcels at any one of our 3500 post offices across the country,” Fahour said.
“For many who are pure e-tailers and don’t have the bricks and mortar distribution network, you have just inherited 3500 post offices, creating a shopfront so parcels are never missed.
“Christmas 2011 will not happen again.”