PFW Depots – Technology Roadmap – Improving Service, Restoring Trust

Branches and representatives will be aware of the consistent and persistent issues with the Vehicle Routing Technology used by Parcelforce, which have been causing significant problems in the field. The department has been seeking significant changes for some months and had embarked on a major consultation exercise involving a series of site visits, a number of which were joint visits with senior PFW and RMG managers including the CEO. In addition, a National Representative’s briefing was also held in Birmingham last month.

The Geoplan Route Excellence (REX) system, has been in use in various forms since 2015 and provides the basis for PFW to offer and sell the enhanced customer pre advice demanded at the premium end of the parcels market. Up until the advent of the Covid pandemic the agreed REX methodology included the provision that the driver could control or influence the route order through what is known as the “draw the line” process.

With the introduction of social distancing the “draw the line” process, that involved the use of shared IT equipment, became untenable and as a matter of expediency REX was switched to the auto setting. The introduction of Auto REX immediately highlighted what were viewed as illogical routing anomalies. Reports of drivers being directed up and down the same street were commonplace and have caused real frustration and loss of morale.

In the view of the business at that time the routing issues were as a result of the outdated Planning Values being used in the system and unsuitable support systems. As a result, discussions in line with the Pathway to Change commitments focused on the introduction of additional measures designed to address the issues with REX. This resulted in the Joint Statement on the Technology Roadmap and the SWW, contained in LTB 109/21.

Colleagues will recall that this introduced not only the revised Planning Values, which had been agreed in 2019 but also two additional technology updates in the form of Parcelforce Route Balancer (PRB) and Parcelforce Route Analytics (PRA) (LTB 110/21 refers).

PRA has proved to be extremely effective in identifying route problems and enabling resolutions and the aspirations for PRB were the right ones.

“PRB will remove the current frustration associated with legacy BSI “targets” and stop C&D drivers being scheduled beyond normal duty times. It will provide a standard non-optional National process for workload management, which is jointly owned by local CWU Representatives and PFW Managers.”

In reality though, the system has been shown to be incapable of delivering those aspirations and has created daily conflict over workload rather than remove it. In reality, experience has shown that the PRB system as purchased was a planning rather than dynamic tool and was incapable of performing the task that it had been set.

In the opinion of the department there has been a real change in attitude and a willingness to adopt fresh thinking from the PFW leadership in recent weeks in relation to the issues highlighted and a two-day session was arranged on the 21st and 22nd September 2021 at the request of the department. This session was attended by not only our respective senior teams but also the CWU PFW Regional Organisers (RO’s) and the PFW Regional Operations Managers (ROM’s). 

This session focussed on the feedback received through the joint and respective consultation exercises and has resulted in the agreement of the attached Joint Statement, which has been endorsed by the Postal Executive. A copy of the Joint Statement, which details immediate actions deigned to begin to improve performance and morale and restore trust, is attached for information.

The measures included in the Joint Statement have been the subject of Proof of Concept activity at a number of Depots where they have produced positive results.

In summary the Joint Statement outlines that the immediate actions are in four areas, all of which align entirely with the feedback received from our representatives and members:

Driver Autonomy

The immediate priority is to give drivers the freedom to use their local knowledge and experience to determine the best order to deliver their route, rather than technology being allowed to dictate their working day. Drivers will be able to choose from the following menu of manifest options on the Geoplan console to enable them to set the stop order on their routes prior to departure from the Depot:

  • Auto
  • Auto Modified
  • Historic
  • Driver Line – Daily
  • Driver Line – Historic

Effectively drivers will have the ability to decide how to structure their route. PFW is in the process of procuring 400 laptops to enable the restoration of “draw the line”.

Dynamic Live Report

PFW have agreed to remove PRB as a dynamic tool with immediate effect accepting the department’s view that it is not fit for purpose. It will be replaced by a new Dynamic Live Report (DLR) which has been developed for the task and is being jointly tested and amended. This tool will be utilised as a guide to support discussions rather than define the answer.

The “computer says yes” approach should be removed and replaced by meaningful, adult to adult conversations on workload involving the driver, the manager and the local representative to determine the workload on any given day, which is exactly the approach defined in the 2005 Depot Blueprint agreement.

Road Speeds

Based on consistent feedback that there is a problem with the road speeds included in the REX agreement has now been reached to reduce those. The approach will be two pronged:

 Interdrop speeds will be reduced by a defined level Nationally to provide significant additional time on route. 

 Stem times will be reduced on a depot by depot basis based on an analysis of the varying operational circumstances, i.e. Rural/Rural Urban/ City Centre. 

ETA Time Windows

Representatives and Drivers had consistently asked if the optimised ETA time set by the system could be moved forward in the hour. Currently REX sets the ETA at the middle of the hour window provided to the customer. However, as the day progresses almost all failures are due to late arrival. It has therefore been agreed to reset the time earlier in the window for delivery to enhance the ability of drivers to hit the ETA windows through the day.

In addition, and in light of the above changes in relation to Driver Autonomy it has been agreed to remove the gateway for the drivers Interim Bonus Scheme, which was previously based on the use of Auto REX. We have also agreed to rebalance the targetry from sequence to ETA to enhance the level of payment.

The Joint Statement also defines the onward programme of work that includes discussions on the optimum loading practice, Depot Revisions which had previously been rejected by the business and further discussions on a customer service target to replace sequence within the bonus scheme. A communications and review process has also been included.

In the view of the department the Joint Statement is a major breakthrough in discussions with the business. The elements of the agreement are in line with the feedback we have received and we believe will be welcomed by our Representatives and members.

This will not be the end of the journey but the department believes that it is a positive first step in addressing the issues and restoring morale.

Any enquiries in relation to this LTB should be addressed to Davie Robertson, Assistant Secretary, email: dwyatt@cwu.orgquoting reference: 054.06.

Yours sincerely

Davie Robertson

Assistant Secretary

LTB 410/21

Att: JS PFW CWU Focus on Improving Service – 27.09.21

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