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Accelerate the transformation

17 March 2021

In the wake of plans to build a major new automated hub, Royal Mail’s Achim Dunnwald offers insight on its transformation strategy.

ROYAL MAIL will construct a major, new parcel hub in the Midlands to help accelerate its transformation to an international parcels-led business.

Scheduled for launch in 2023, the hub at Daventry International Rail Freight Interchange (DIRFT) will be fitted with state-of-the-art parcel automation machinery. It is being built by Prologis UK and Beumer Group is responsible for the construction of the fully-automated parcel sorting system (APSS). The new hub will be the size of more than ten football pitches and have the capacity to process over 1 million mail items per day, making it the largest Royal Mail parcel hub in the UK. 

Royal Mail has seen parcel volumes grow strongly in the first half of the year, driven by online shopping which has been further accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and its associated restrictions. Domestic account volumes grew 51% while Royal Mail Tracked 24/28 and tracked returns saw 72% growth year on year.

As well as featuring a state-of-the-art automated parcel sorting system, the hub will offer a Vehicle Operating Centre, a Fleet Workshop facility, brand-new staff facilities as well as a rail terminal.

With Royal Mail’s other parcel hub in Warrington coming into operation in 2022 both sites will create a parcel powerhouse capable of processing well over 1.5 million parcels per day with options to scale to over 2.5 million in the future.


Achim Dunnwald, chief operation officer, transformation and strategy, Royal Mail says: “During the past 4 years we’ve ramped our investment to automate parcel sorting in the light of changing customer needs. In our Mail Centres, we have successfully deployed 20 Parcel Sorting Machines so far, and 4 more larger Parcel Sorting Machines are underway.  

“The parcel automation technology enables us to process more parcels at faster speeds. Royal Mail is becoming more of a parcel-focused business reflecting the changing needs of our customers. The trends in the market have accelerated significantly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic underscoring the importance of automating the processing of the growing number of parcels we handle. Our two new parcel hubs, along with the parcel automation in mail centres, sit at the heart of this strategy, offering greater processing efficiency. They also enable us to satisfy our customers’ growing demand for next day delivery by introducing later parcel acceptance times into our network.

Royal Mail’s Parcel Sorting Machines, which operate within its Mail Centres are able to process parcels and prepare them for dispatch in a single pass, at a rate of c10K per hour. 

Achim continues: “This does away with the need to manually sort parcels into containers. The sortation systems in the North West and East Midlands will be able to sort 40K and 60K parcels per hour respectively. Not only will they be able to sort parcels in a highly efficient way, but the hubs will be set up in a way that enables us to despatch parcels direct to our Delivery Offices removing the need for sortation at an ‘inward’ mail centre prior to arrival at the Delivery Office.

Royal Mail is continually adjusting how it operates due to the growth of customer demand.

“Once the hubs are built, we will focus on training and developing our people to use the new automation machinery, building on their existing skill sets,” says Achim. “Further changes will include modifications to how we handle parcels in the network and how we track and report on the execution of parcel processing. All of these changes will complement our existing ways of working while enabling a more agile customer-centric parcel management process.”

For more information, visit www.royalmail.com