600 new jobs at mail centre

MORE than 600 jobs are being created in Plymouth with the official unveiling today of the country’s first state-of-the-art mail centre.

Royal Mail has opened the first Manual Data Entry Centre (MDEC) at its former offices in Pennycomequick to help speed up the nation’s post.

The centre is the first of two being set up in the UK and is part of a national initiative called Address Interpretation (AI).

The MDEC unit is officially launched today at Central Park Avenue in a site next to the train station, which was formerly Plymouth’s mail centre before the offices were moved to Plymstock two years ago.

The building has been transformed to house the latest in postal technology, and already employs 250 people.

Royal Mail bosses announced today they are planning to recruit a further 600 workers during the next few months as the centre takes on an increasing role in improving mail handling for the whole country.

The news follows an announcement earlier this year by Royal Mail that it was scrapping 32 jobs in Plymouth as part of national job cuts of 15,000 to save the cash-strapped organisation £1.2 billion.

The local jobs affected are all at the Plympton bulk mail distribution centre, which handles mail for businesses.

It is possible that some of those affected could be re-employed at the new centre.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “A key factor in mail being sorted efficiently and delivered to the right address is the correct interpretation of the address on that item of mail.

“Historically, this meant postal staff looking at the actual item of mail, but as technology and the use of the postcode developed, address interpretation has become automated, and virtually all mail is now mechanically sorted at some stage of its journey.”

The centre will house the sophisticated AI system to read addresses faster and more accurately.

The system learns by logging ‘problem addresses’ and develops its own database.

The AI system will eventually be introduced into all mail centres to improve efficiency and increase the amount of mail being processed automatically from 85 per cent to 98 per cent.

Plymouth’s MDEC facility spearheaded the pilot of the AI system in 2001, and will now operate 24 hours a day helping to serve about 35 of the UK’s 72 mail centres.

The workforce at Plymouth will check images of mail items using computer screens, and key in information to speed the item on to its current destination.

The centre is managed by Peter Fenton. He said: “My team of managers and I are dedicated to the twin goals of maximising performance and ensuring the centre is a really enjoyable place to work, where everyone feels appreciated.”

The second MDEC centre is now opening in Stockport, and a third is being developed in Stoke.

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