On 24.10.12 we visited the BFPO at RAF Northolt at the invitation of ITC member Lt Col Colin Code. The facility, which is custom built, provides physical and electronic mail services for military personnel and their families in theatres of operation around the globe, as well as ultra-secure courier services for both government and military agencies. Its operations can be traced back to 1892.
The seamless fusion of mechanical, electronic, IT and manual elements to create a cohesive and efficient operation, within an environment with many special challenges arising from diverse areas, was extremely impressive. These include elevated physical security requirements, a wide variety of destinations (often with restricted facilities), and the need for tracking capabilities not normally available from general commercial postal services. The electronically controlled packet sorting machine shown in the photo was particularly interesting for both the computer buff and the small boy in everyone as it infallibly spaced and sorted the items.
Innovation was in much in evidence with such developments as a 'post office in a box' for overseas locations, and the award winning e-bluey' hybrid physical / electronic mail service, which now replaces the traditional blue aerogram in many areas.
The operation was also notable not only for the level of tracking and control applied to all items, but the management reporting related to this, and furthermore to the monitoring the overall performance of BFPO against a well-defined set of goals.
Finally, everyone spent a few minutes examining some of the several paintings by Terence Cuneo, looking for the small mouse he often hid.
We are all very grateful to Lt Col Code for a most interesting and intriguing visit.