Your Questions & Answers – IT and Supply Chain

We've spoken to Martin Godbold, Head of Retail IT, and put your Horizon/IT questions to him.

Are Post Office still intending on making the Horizon system simpler for staff to use? If so when do you expect us to see changes?
There have been lots of design changes made to transactions on Horizon. The changes are implemented based on postmaster feedback. These include prompts to key in amounts twice to prevent potential errors and colour coding to distinguish between different transactions. We will continue to share updates through Branch Focus.

We have 1 terminal. I am still on site processing the post till 5:30.  I have identified the need for a back office terminal so that I can get back to longer retail hours to increase the cash flow required. How do I get this?
If your transaction volumes are increasing and you have identified a need for an additional terminal, please contact your Area Manager who can process a business change request for you.

Is there any update on when we will can stop peeling the edges off the labels before entering them into the printer. This is very time consuming and if we don't do it our printers jam therefore slowing sales down. Will we be receiving new printers anytime soon?
Thanks for your feedback. We are not planning to issue new printers but we are aware of this issue with the labels and together with the Mails team at Post Office we are speaking to Royal Mail about the issues with labels. 

Why do engineers have to visit a site to deliver a cable (outreach offices need to have a spare set and access to ordering directly) £1,000's are wasted with failed engineer visits (I have first-hand experience) Between Verizon - Computer Centre – technical call centre and branch availability team, my breakdowns are never resolved effectively.
This is a very good point and a great challenge to us, thank you. We have to manage this carefully and whilst it would be great to have spares available for branches, we have to be mindful but we are considering other options which don’t always involve an engineer. We have some work to do on this and will share further updates on this.

We run 10 outreaches through 2 Post offices. The equipment is simply far too heavy and bulky for me to carry and lift. Surely with technology, ipads, laptops it must be easier to remove some of this bulk. And the reliability of the equipment hasn't improved; our down time is still unacceptable.
This kit was purchased over four years ago, and I understand the issues you have explained here. It is big and bulky and if this is starting to impact you and your business then please do contact your Area Manager who can put you in touch with the IT team to review your situation and see what else we can do to make things better.

If there is caps lock on then the system scans any random barcodes or starts to perform any random transaction, if you try to use the horizon help then the whole system freezes, when printing despatch report on back office printer, it only prints one page and have to keep trying few times before it prints properly.
Thanks for raising these concerns. With regarding to the caps lock button or the printing despatch issue, this hasn’t been raised via the IT service desk so please do raise it so it can be investigated properly. We were aware of some Horizon screen freeze issues and the last Horizon release earlier this year improved that but if you or any branches are still having this issue, we cannot stress how important it is so please report it. By reporting you help us identify where there are problems and patterns and help us prioritise the issues. We have focused on making reporting issues like this easier, so you can call the IT helpdesk but also remember, you can report via Branch Hub now and chat to the IT team too.  

We received the following Horizon development suggestions. We have shared these with our Operations and Product teams who will review these suggestions and include them as part of the wider developments.  

  • Can we look at a customer advised button on horizon so that if they decided they don’t want the correct service it print onto the receipt which service they were advised.
  • Can we also look at putting onto horizon a tracking facility search when customer come into branch asking where there parcel is. This would help branches to be able to check status for them. This helps us for customers who do not have access to a computer even some that do.
  • Can we put a question and suggestion section onto horizon or branch hub or both.
  • Can we look at making the search facility work better on horizon. As you can spend ages trying to find out information. As well as make the search find information quicker sometimes it takes a long time just to show the page.
  • There are the number of different ways to enter address details or date formats. This shows a complete lack of or, non-adherence to programming standards. When will Horizon be replaced or upgraded?
  • Could it be possible to have proof of postings printed as one receipt, instead of individual receipts? It would also be more environmentally friendly.
  • Can you update system so we can accept apple pay / watch to pay for parcel force when giving discount for posting?
  • With 12000 branches, the amount of paper receipts we generate is humongous! In wales, it is bilingual and doubles the length. As a responsible organisation, can we not have options to maybe not print receipts if customers don’t want it or have only receipts in English if welsh is not required. Also, while cutting off special deliveries, it often prints on 2 separate pages but can easily be squeezed into one.
  • Will there be the possibility of adding stationary to Horizon? I have to do a separate transaction for a stamp and then an envelope on my Epos till.
  • Can you have a quick launch button for say the last 10 transactions. Rather than going through the transaction log process.


Supply Chain

We asked the Supply Chain Management team Led by Russell Hancock, Supply Chain Director your questions.

What’s happening with regard to cash – why is it so difficult to organise?
Your planned cash is based on a branches actual cash usage and cash declarations. Cash declarations are used for both the forecasting of daily cash usage of a branch and for determining the value to be delivered and collected. Branch planned order accuracy will improve, if cash declarations are completed daily and accurately. You should not have to beg for cash but if an accurate cash declaration has not been made, the team can more easily determine the correct cash levels, and understand changes to your trading pattern and adjust cash supply if necessary.

The more cash declarations that are missing the longer this takes to determine the correct level of cash a branch requires. The Inventory team need to make sure that branches have the optimal level of cash to operate at and also make sure that there is no excess cash being held by branches. Holding too much cash is inefficient for you, but also presents a security risk that could impact your personal safety and that of your staff and customers. If branches have a known increase in cash demand for a particular event then they need to advise of this when phoning to amend the planned value. Cash is an expensive product for the Post Office to supply and control of where the Post Offices cash is being held is an important part of the business operational costs.

The criteria for cash declarations are often not possible running along a retail business, would it a declaration once a day be enough as long as it is accurate.
Cash declarations only need to be completed once per day. This should be done as close to closing or as close to (but before) 7pm as possible each day, whichever time is the earliest. This will then best reflect the cash on hand at close of business for that day. Whatever time the declaration is complete for each day, must be before 7pm. It has to accurately reflect the value of cash in your branch as at 7pm, irrespective of when your branch closes.

Please can we have supplies of smaller denominations of stamps it is a bit embarrassing when you refuse or have to over compensate the postage paid.
Stamp denominations are available to order, we have supplies of 1p, 2p, 5p and 10p.

I would like to know procedure for cash rem out when polythene bag will go away, as we working with lots of different staff.
Each year we use 20 tonnes of Plastic Bank Note Envelopes (PBNE) or polythene bags. As part of our commitment to reduce our environmental impact, we’ll no longer use PBNEs to bundle banknotes. We are looking at options to replace the PBNE's with multi-use rubber bands or paper bands are also an option to use.

Could a postmaster supply a customer with a one trip pouch, they could band their own notes and seal ready to rem out with attached slip?
Branches are responsible for checking the deposits and making sure that the value is correct and that there are not any counterfeit notes within the deposit. The number of Grey One trip pouches also needs to be kept to a minimum so pouches should be filled to the full £26k. If multiple grey pouches are being returned with only one pouch containing a value of less than £26k. This reduces the service time at a branch and makes the inward processing at the Cash Centre more efficient as well.

We order stock it doesn't arrive!!! Post masters are now sending stock to each other so they can continue to trade. Why is stock so difficult to obtain? Where is our support from post office?
There have been some issues with delivery over the last few months, carriers have only been attempting delivery once before returning parcels, and this has often clashed with branches' reduced opening hours. In general there should be no issues in getting hold of stock, we are still dispatching stock orders and have been throughout the recent disruptions. Any missing orders should be queried with your Branch Support Centre who can help to resolve the issue. Some items have recently had their allowable quantities raised in response to rising popularity - e.g. POST2 labels. This should help branches to be self-sufficient and avoid sending items between each other.

Why is stock supply taking so long to issue?
Each ordering window for transaction stock supplies (non-value stock) is 2 weeks long. After the window closes for each branch the orders are transferred to the Stock IT systems and then picked and packed for dispatch. Orders are dispatched within 48 hours of being received by the Stock Centre and take 24-72 hours to be delivered depending on the carrier. There is increased visibility of your stock ordering and cut-off dates on the new Branch Hub stock ordering system. You should aim to hold 3 weeks’ worth of supplies to avoid any shortages. The costs involved in getting stock orders to branches are quite high - mostly because of the cost of mailing boxes, for this reason we try to get everything you need into as few deliveries as possible. This service is provided free of charge to branches in order to get you what you need to operate. If we were to change to a shorter, more frequent ordering pattern then the costs would increase significantly. The current levels of stock that can be ordered are based on a 2 week pattern, and are reviewed to keep them realistic, for example the POST2 labels have just been increased as we are seeing a higher demand for this product.