Post Office automation project complete
The Post Office today announced that its Horizon automation project is now complete. The £1 billion system connects the Post Office's network of some 18,000 branches, providing greater efficiency and security for customers.
The Horizon system also provides a platform upon which the Post Office can develop new products and services. These include expanded banking facilities, access to government information, bill payments, recharging smartcards and online verification.
Stuart Sweetman, Consignia's Group Managing Director, Customer and Banking Services, said: "Horizon is one of the largest automation projects in Europe and it is the vital first step in building a sustainable Post Office network with a commercial focus.
"No organisation can afford to ignore the benefits new technology can bring to its business. The successful roll-out of Horizon means that the 18,000 Post Office branches around the country - most of them small businesses in their own right - are benefiting from up-to-date equipment and networks. We are now developing a new range of services, particularly in the banking and government information sectors, that will provide our customers with what they want," he added.
ICL, the service provider to the Post Office, has developed and installed the system. At its peak, Horizon was being installed in over 330 Post Office branches per week. All but a few Post Office branches have now received a touch-screen terminal, barcode reader, keyboard and a small printer for issuing receipts, with the last few outlets to receive Horizon before the end of the year. The on-going service is also being provided by ICL, which is now working with the Post Office in the development of new services.
Liam Foley, Director, Business Development, ICL Pathway, stated: "This has been a fantastic achievement for both the Post Office and ICL. Being one of the largest automation projects in Europe, we were always ahead of timeframe and within budget. There are around 170 products and services available through the Post Office. I support the view that the Post Office is in a unique position to deliver banking services and joined-up government information services, and I look forward to working to achieve this."
As a key part of the Horizon installation project, more than 63,000 Post Office employees were trained to use the kit by KnowledgePool, ICL's training subsidiary.
Paul Butler, KnowledgePool's Chief Executive Officer, added: "Delivering this training was quite a feat in itself - this was a logistically complex programme. We inspected and sourced over 12,000 training venues across the UK and on an average day, 125 trainers were delivering courses for Post Office staff - some of whom had never used a computer before. I am delighted that the training deployment was a key factor in the success of this programme."
Notes to Editors
- Pictures of the Horizon automation system are available, via ISDN, by calling 020 7250 2468.
- The Post Office offers around 170 different products and services - including postage and distribution, personal and business banking, savings and investments, stakeholder pensions, money transfers, bill payments, passport applications, travel insurance, bureau de change, car tax, driving licence applications, pre-paid telephone cards, lottery tickets and benefit payments. These services can be accessed through the Post Office's network of branches, its website and by telephone.
HORIZON - Facts & Figures
- One of the biggest IT projects ever implemented in Europe and the largest secure non-military ISDN network in Europe.
- A total investment of £1 billion for the installation of touch-screen technology in some 18,000 Post Office branches.
- Project delivered on time, to specification and to budget.
- By June 2001 - most of the Post Office network will be operating an automated trading environment, with just a few outlets still to migrate to Horizon.
- Horizon brings greater efficiency to customer service - cutting paperwork and making transactions simpler.
- It provides a platform from which new products/services can be developed (expanded banking facilities, bill payments, on-line verification, recharging facility for smartcards)
- At its peak, 450 Post Office employees and hundreds of contractors were employed on the project, with Horizon being installed in over 330 outlets per week - on average a terminal was installed every 5 minutes and an outlet every 12 minutes of each working day!
- The Horizon system has over 3.5 million lines of software code.
- Each year Horizon will carry out 200 million APS transactions (Automated Payments Service), 800 million OBCS transactions (Order Book Control System for benefit payments), and 1.4 billion EPOSS transactions (Electronic Point of Sale Service) - up to 9 million EPOSS transactions per day. This totals at an enormous 2.4 billion transactions every year.
- At its peak rate of operation, the system manages 3,500 transactions per second.
- Around 25,000 calls a week are now being received by the Network Business Support Centre in Dearne Valley and they received their 1,000,000th call at the end of April 2001.
- Trainers KnowledgePool have trained over 63,000 Post Office employees to operate the Horizon system. The youngest person trained was 17 and the oldest was 87.
- Over 450 employees in the KnowledgePool centre dealt with the logistics of training scheduling.
- 12,000 training venues from the Scilly Isles to the Shetland Islands were used for training Post Office staff.
- KnowledgePool trainers visited all 18,000 Post Office branches twice to assess staff training needs.
- 210 KnowledgePool trainers were involved in the delivery of training with more than half in action each day.
- The distance covered by the trainers was equivalent to two trips to the moon.
- Stacked on top of each other, the crates used for transporting materials from site to site would build 10 Blackpool Towers!
- If the Horizon delivery boxes were placed end to end, they would stretch 63 miles - the equivalent of 11 Mount Everests.
- The boxes laid flat would cover 7 football pitches.
- The distance travelled during deliveries was 2.8 million kilometres, the same as one person circumnavigating the world 67 times.
- A mobile counter terminal was designed for Post Office branches which open just a few hours each week in village halls and to serve smaller communities. The terminal works as a stand-alone counter - after close of business, the subpostmaster connects to the ISDN network so that details of the day's transactions are transferred to the main datacentre.
- A trolley-based terminal was designed for subpostmasters who work from their own homes but only open for business at certain times of the day or week. When not in use, the equipment is moved into a cupboard or storage space, out of sight. Like the mobile terminal, the trolley terminal is stand-alone and is connected to the datacentre at close of business.
- A satellite connection is used for Post Office outlets in locations where there is no ISDN service. The Post Office branch uses the standard Horizon counter terminal with a dial-up connection, via satellite, to the datacentre.
SOURCE The Post Office
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