Look inside the Royal Mail's North East hub as it handles 4.1million items ahead of Christmas
An army of Royal Mail staff are entering the crunch period of the year as the Christmas rush sets in.
Over four million items were being handled on the busiest day at its North East nerve centre, with people hoping to get those last-minute letters and gifts to their recipients.
But what of the staff who are on the sorting office floor?
It is all in a day’s work for Paul Laidler, plant manager at Royal Mail’s Team Valley centre.
The facility, which is the size of six football pitches and is the hub for the North East, is working around the clock to get parcels, packages and other mail to their targets.
Paul said: “Today is our busiest day of the year and we will be handling 4.1million items over the course of the 24 hours.
“There are 600 staff on permanent contracts working alongside 300 temporary staff who started at the back end of November as days like Black Friday took place.”
Despite the rise of email and online shopping changing the nature of how many of us communicate as well as buy and sell items, Royal Mail remains as busy as ever during the festive season.
And the nature of technology has also meant that the traditional post-Christmas lull is no longer evident.
“Volumes historically finished on Christmas Day, but with Boxing Day being one of the biggest shopping days in the calendar, that has changed a lot so we see it carrying on into the new year,” added Paul.
“What we are moving to now is to a parcel company which integrates letters.
“The online shopping explosion has caused problems, but we have managed to negotiate through that.
“We bring in 20,000 Christmas workers and we’ve got 52 vans extra in our geographical area to help with the demand.”
Automated machines help with much of the sorting of items, with “magic eye” technology able to recognise handwritten postcodes and dispatch them accordingly.
“Automation helps to keep the cost of stamps down, which of course pleases the customer,” added Paul.
“The sorting machines themselves can process tens of thousands of items an hour, which is of course a huge help.”
And with just under two weeks left to the big day, what is the advice for bosses to those considering whether to try and get that late gift posted?
Get things posted early, wrapped up well if they are valuable and make sure they are clearly marked is the message.
“We want customers to post as early as they can and use the postcode,” said Paul.
“Our postal dates are very late this year, with the latest date for Second Class December 20, First Class December 21 and Special Delivery also December 21.
“There is also guaranteed special delivery available on December 22 and we will be opening all of our delivery offices on Christmas Eve for parcels to be picked up if people haven’t already had the chance to.”