An intelligent, data-driven operation is central to PostNL’s transformation into a logistics high-tech company. But ultimately, it is the people that make the difference. Personal attention, good communications and a pleasurable culture guarantee optimal cooperation within and between teams. Data scientist Ruud Visser talks about his first three months at PostNL.

Since this year, I’ve been part of an umbrella team within Technology & Innovation called Digital Chain Management (DKS). This team focuses on the total process, from the order of our customers - especially webshops - to delivery to the consumer. I’m one of the six data scientists. DKS also has data engineers, logistics designers, product owners and many other positions divided over seven smaller project teams.

Our goal is to further digitise the parcel chain and to organise it more efficiently. My project team is involved in tracking the roll containers that transport stacks of parcels and mail via Bluetooth beacons. Data analysis enables us to determine when empty roll containers remain unused, or when they have been standing still with parcels for too long. We can then take action and better manage the entire chain process. The biggest challenge is to make all the necessary data easily accessible. This requires continuous coordination between and within the teams.

Own initiative

Within Technology & Innovation, many of the responsibilities are assigned to the teams. The team members determine together what is needed to get things done and who is responsible for it. Team spirit with plenty of room for initiative.

We have an agile way of working in two-week sprints. We have a good overview of both the tasks that must be performed in the short term and the goals that are to be pursued in the longer term. The coordination within and outside DKS ensures that larger projects are also planned and executed with the right priority.

I have daily online discussions with my project team about current cases - a nice moment to catch up. I’m also in regular contact with the other data scientists at DKS. And within Technology & Innovation, we as a team meet informally twice a week.

Attention to people

What struck me most in the first months at PostNL is the realistic way in which the COVID-19 pandemic is dealt with. Most importantly, everyone stays physically and mentally healthy. Working remotely is obviously not ideal, but there is simply no other option.

During the onboarding, I had pleasant video conversations with new colleagues, managers and the product owners of the various teams I was going to work with. Everyone made time to get to know each other better as colleagues and as people. Two senior employees were involved in the more functional onboarding: viewing pieces of Python code and the databases and computing environment in AWS via a shared screen. After the explanation, I started working with the tools myself, to then evaluate them. So remote training worked fine.

PostNL pays a lot of personal attention to communication. For example, from higher management in response to the COVID-19 updates from the government or other current affairs. They explain the impact - both on PostNL and the employees. It’s a form of attention and support that keeps everyone involved.

Mission with added value

Another example is the online meetings with all of DKS and other departments at the beginning of each quarter to go over the plans for the next three months. Very important, because more and more people within the company - including outside of Technology & Innovation - are involved with IT in one way or another. Management is constantly explaining the added value of the direction to everyone, which increases support.

PostNL consciously works on an engineering culture, in which management emphasises the enormous importance of people and teams. After all, together we realise the ambition to manage the total logistics chain more intelligently and to further improve our socially highly relevant services. It’s great to be part of such a progressive and meaningful company.

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