It is not just Santa who is overloaded during the festive period – staff at Sheffield’s Royal Mail centre are handling millions of cards and parcels a day to ensure they reach their destination in time for Christmas.
This week is the mail centre’s busiest period of the year as its processing staff, drivers and posties battle bulging festive mailbags ahead of final posting days for guaranteed Christmas delivery.
As one of the largest collection hubs in the UK, the Sheffield centre usually processes 18 million items per week, from more than 7,200 collection points each day. However, at this time of year that amount doubles as an average of four million items a day pass through the building on Brightside Lane, Newhall.
Jon Adams, parcel operations manager, said: “Planning for Christmas is a massive job.
“As one Christmas ends we review our performance and it’s straight onto planning for the next one.”
In order to deal with the Christmas mail boom about 180 temporary workers are taken on at the centre, which operates around the clock.
The service begins when mail is collected from a postbox and delivered to the centre.
Letters and cards are sorted by machines, which read addresses and check the size and weight of the items before issuing them to their destination area.
Post that is too small, too big, features bad handwriting or does not include a postcode is rejected, to be manually sorted.
Mr Adams said: “The majority of post does arrive marked correctly, but at this time of year we do get the odd item simply addressed to the likes of Santa, Grandma or The North Pole.
“We try our best to get every item to its destination though.”
Parcels are sorted by hand, as technology has not yet been developed for machines to do it.
Once post is sorted into distribution areas, lorries are loaded with mail for delivery offices across the UK and overseas – at this time of year lorries arrive at the centre every 12 minutes to deliver and collect post.
Finally, posties sort the mail for their rounds and deliver items to their marked addresses.
Mr Adams said: “I don’t think many people, apart from those that work for Royal Mail, realise all that’s involved in the process – not a bad service for the cost of a stamp.”
The last posting date for Christmas for second-class mail is today. The deadline for first-class post is Saturday and the deadline for special delivery items is Tuesday.
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