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A Decade of Transformation: An Insight into An Post’s Lean Journey

By October 25, 2023 No Comments

The event

In an enlightening session held on the 5th of October, we had the privilege of hosting Brian Clancy, Business Process Improvement Manager for An Post Commerce, as a guest speaker at the Dublin Lean Network. Brian’s extensive experience in An Post spans 38 years covering mails operations, retail customer service, strategy, operations management and more recently in the area of Lean and Six Sigma. During the last 10 years, he has witnessed and actively contributed to the remarkable transformation of An Post, the national postal service of Ireland.

Watch the video recording of this presentation here

An Post: A Pillar of Irish Postal Services

An Post is no small player in the Irish postal landscape. Each day, it delivers mail to around 2.3 million addresses, tends to the needs of 900 post offices with 950,000 customer visits weekly, collects parcels from 5,000 post boxes daily, and ensures the safe delivery of approximately 54 million packets and parcels.

An Post’s commitment to excellence and sustainability is underscored by its noteworthy achievements. In 2022, it was honoured as Ireland’s most reputable organisation. This recognition is more than a mere accolade; it stands as evidence of the organisation’s steadfast commitment to serving the community.

An Post has achieved sustainability milestones by maintaining a zero gender pay gap for two consecutive years, actively reducing carbon emissions, and setting ambitious targets for a greener future.

Embracing the Digital Age

An Post has changed a lot over the years. With a focus on digitisation and improving the quality of life in Ireland, An Post is transitioning from traditional mail services to the digital age.

An Post’s Three-Fold Structure

An Post is structured into three principal areas: An Post Commerce, which oversees mail and parcels; An Post Money, responsible for counters and banking services; and An Post Corporate, which supports the other areas delivery quality customer service. Each arm of the organisation plays a unique role in the smooth functioning of the Irish postal system.

The Heart of Operations: The Dublin Mail Centre Campus

The Dublin Mail Centre Campus is at the core of An Post’s operations. Comprising two fully automated buildings, it handles the sorting of parcels, packets, and letters. Notably, the rise of online shopping, especially during the Covid 19 lockdowns has led to significant and rapid growth in parcel handling.

An Impressive Fleet for Efficient Delivery

To ensure the timely and efficient delivery of mail and parcels, An Post operates an extensive fleet of over 200 HGVs, 1100 electric and 2800 diesel vans. This commitment to an eco-friendly approach has earned An Post the distinction of possessing the largest electric fleet in the country.

The Lean Six Sigma Journey: A Decade of Transformation

An Post’s remarkable journey in Lean and Six Sigma began with a pivotal focus on improving the quality of service. This transformative journey was initiated by a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and has evolved through several leaders with their own styles and objectives. It has brought about the upskilling of over 1000 people, delivery of 250+ Green Belt Projects realising over €31m in savings. It is currently led by Brian and Teresa Kavanagh who transitioned from various roles in the organisation to spearheading this strategic shift.

The introduction of Lean culture was a turning point for An Post’s mails operations. Lean culture promotes a shift from a traditional, directive management style to a more collaborative and empowering approach. This transition was not without its challenges but has been pivotal in An Post’s journey.

An external company played a significant role in guiding An Post through the implementation of Lean strategies and the benchmarking against world class operations. Site organisation improvements, the introduction of visual management boards, and the establishment of key performance indicators (KPIs) marked the initial phases of this transformation.

To reinforce their Lean journey, An Post recruited Lean co-ordinators internally who were tasked with driving change across various sites. This team focused on continuous improvement through staff engagement, the implementation of standardised work processes, and the adoption of 5S programs to enhance workplace organisation.

Brian acknowledged that one of the key challenges they faced in their Lean journey was the need to shift management practices from a traditional, directive approach to a more collaborative and empowering style. This transformation takes time and requires the utmost dedication and resilience of the entire team and respective Leaders.

An Post’s operational excellence model revolves around five core pillars: capability, training, tools, measurements, and governance. These pillars provide the foundation for the organisation’s continuous improvement journey. Key performance indicators (KPIs) now encompass aspects like safety, quality, processing efficiency, costs, and employee well-being. The standardisation of work instructions across the organisation further reinforces An Post’s commitment to excellence.

To measure progress more frequently and accurately, An Post introduced hourly performance plans and monitoring. These performance indicators are reviewed daily to ensure that the organisation remains on track and process variation is reduced.

Daily briefings keep people informed on performance and up to speed on all other company policies and initiatives.

A Future of Promise

The journey of Lean and Six Sigma at An Post has been nothing short of extraordinary. The organisation’s unwavering commitment to continuous improvement, sustainability, and operational excellence has paved the way for a promising future. By embracing change and meeting the challenges head-on, An Post has solidified its position as a beacon of transformation in the Irish postal landscape.

We are very grateful to Brian Clancy in sharing their Lean experience at An Post. Their journey serves as an inspiration to us all in the Dublin Lean Network and beyond. It is a reminder that change, when embraced with dedication and perseverance, can lead to remarkable achievements and a brighter future.

This blog post was written by Trish Ferguson, Member of the Steering Committee, Dublin Lean Network.
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