Manolo de la Fuente

Peaks in data entry: too expensive to handle yourself!

20 December 2011, by Manolo de la Fuente
It strikes us at PostNL just how many businesses have to tackle a Christmas peak in their data-entry work. We have just processed the bulk of the salary savings scheme requests, and next year we will take care of a vast number of payment slips. In doing so we help relieve banks of their heavy workload, something they certainly appreciate. Large companies dealing with major streams of incoming forms are noticing that managing peaks is a business in its own right. I couldn’t agree more.

A better idea…

I believe that banks and insurance companies would be better off outsourcing their data-entry processes. Why? Simply because it's too expensive to do it yourself, and human resources are limited. You have to recruit and train temporary staff, without being sure that they will deliver the goods. Why try to cope with the burden of peaks in salary savings scheme requests? Wouldn't it be a better idea to hire an experienced and professional organisation?


PostNL's peak

If there's one company able to deal with peaks, it's PostNL. The masses of Christmas greetings sent in December doubles mail volumes to almost 30 million items a day. PostNL starts preparing for this peak handling in January, a full-time job for some of my colleagues.


Video coding

A lot of the work we do involves video coding, i.e. data-entering postcodes on letters that sorting machines are unable to read. An image is made of the items and presented on screen to my colleagues, who then read the postcodes and input the information by hand.


In the past, we had to hire 300 extra people for video coding over Christmas, pulling out all the stops as we reached peaks of 500,000 images an hour. The temporary staff were recruited and trained well in advance, producing the following costs:


  • The hourly cost of temporary staff, including training;

  • The cost of employing 24 permanent staff to deal with training, supervision, communication with temping agencies, as well as assessing and sometimes replacing the temps;

  • The cost of creating 300 extra workstations on top of the 200 already in use.


Hello Philippines

PostNL moved its peak processing to the Philippines in 2010. Labour is of course much cheaper there and the quality has been outstanding so far. Right now there are 600 people video coding over there. One thing less to worry about.


In short, it is better to outsource peak data entry. If you think differently, let me know!


Manolo de la Fuente