The postal service is one of the world's most critical ecosystems. With the new business atmosphere brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, posts have a broader and more profound impact on industries as well as on the lives of individuals and societies. Thus, yesterday’s traditional postal network has become today's global supply chain indispensable to sustaining human life.
Furthermore, from a modern point of view, the post does not refer to something exclusively traditional anymore. Quite the contrary, as a living mechanism, it adapts and expands services to meet rapidly changing customer needs resulting from the evolution from letter post to electronic formats, parcel business, e-commerce, logistics and financial services.
The postal industry has experienced a rapid transformation that encouraged the global postal family to brainstorm on up-to-date services and products in line with business requirements. Istanbul, Turkey’s financial and cultural capital, was home to the 26th Universal Postal Union (UPU) Congress, where member states discussed the new roadmap focusing on changing the existing postal environment. The UPU's Integrated Product Plan (IPP) adopted at the Istanbul Congress is a turning point that marks a new period for postal items. Accordingly, consignments previously known as letters and parcels have been renamed and simplified. In other words, letter and parcel post terminologies have been adapted to international standards. With the recognition of the IPP, international consignments are now defined as documents, small goods (up to 2 kilograms or 4.4 pounds) and goods. In addition to that, plenipotentiaries of member states also agreed on the true definition of a postal authority. It was decided that “designated administration,” which remained unchanged for centuries, would be replaced by “designated operator” when expressing or referring to the postal authority.
Like some UPU members, Switzerland brought such spirit into the postal business even before the congress decision. However, some members have not been able to fully embrace this modern understanding even long after the related congress resolution. Naturally, while some of the members benefit from business expansion and postal wealth, others are struggling to catch up with the latest developments and redefine their structures and functions in conformity with international standards. To put it differently, some operators seek to use structural changes to gain competitive power while others pursue structural changes depending on their operational competence only.
In a similar vein, Innovating Digital Financial Services for Posts, a report published by the UPU, underlines the essential need for active involvement on the ground by national postal operators as follows: “In most member countries, the postal network is government-owned and operated, providing a rapid mechanism to achieve objectives for national social and development policies. Governments and policymakers recognize that Posts have a unique footprint in a country – they often possess the largest capillary network of physical outlets, connected by human resources and infrastructure.”
The strength to adequately undertake the renewal of postal business depends chiefly upon the organization culture, which has to be built on knowledge, experience, productivity, operational competence, attention to detail, readiness for innovation-based competitiveness and future challenges. Otherwise, “postal administrations” that have not correctly established such a culture will continue to fall behind in the industry.
I say all of this to point out that postal services will have to navigate and adapt to an increasingly globalized market. Swiss Post, named the world’s best postal service for the fifth time in a row last year, is an extraordinary example of postal maturity in this respect. Drawing its strength from its glorious past and service mentality, it is leaving its mark on the industry through a vision committed to keeping its supply chain healthy, active and sustainable.
In light of this, it is helpful to take a brief glance at the history of the most competitive postal operator in the world, which left aside sectoral habits and generally accepted practices from the very beginning.
As the Federal Mail, the Swiss Postal Service was founded in January 1849 with some fundamental responsibilities; passenger transport, letter, parcels and money consignments. Postal service became standardized, more secure and affordable with this huge step toward nationalization and institutionalization.
Countries with solid railway infrastructure made massive progress in the development of postal services, and Switzerland has been at the fore in this regard. As one of the first Swiss Railway customers, the Swiss Post thoroughly enjoyed this new and efficient mode of transport for postal operations with the first railway lines that came into service in the 1850s and '60s. This perfect harmony ensuring rapid and secure service delivery has been modeled by many countries.
Switzerland was quite famous for scientific research in the 19th century. In addition to various international assemblies, the first intergovernmental postal congress convened in Berne. After three weeks of negotiations, the UPU was established in 1874. Swiss bureaucrats with solid postal backgrounds took the helm of the UPU. Innovative services and structural changes continued between 1920-2022. It is possible to list them here, but we want to draw attention to the moves and investments based on postal logistics.
With the pure intention of securing transport flow and integrating Switzerland more effectively, dynamically and broadly to international goods trade, the Swiss Post has recently made tremendous investments in its logistics network and infrastructure. On Jan. 1, 2022, Swiss Post acquired three logistics companies "to expand the range of logistics and custom clearance services, including abroad." Such investments, which serve the entire country and aim for the perfection of nationwide service flow, are added values created by the resources and foresight of the Swiss Post. It is also a powerful reflection that a postal operator can make strategic progress and develop innovative solutions using its own resources.
Its history manifests that the Swiss Post is a pivotal contributor to Switzerland's economy, tourism and culture. It has taken a leading role in financial growth and social development. Every innovation and service resulted from a mindset of “how best to serve the community.”
A postal operator must prove its age first in the logistics business. Making investments in other business fields without correctly reading the basics of the industry is doomed to fail. Just a short while ago, Swiss Post decided to sell its international subsidiary Swiss Post Solution (SPS) for CHF 350 million ($375 million) to better focus on its parcel and logistics operations. That’s the vision and sense of management of Swiss Post that looks to the future and that sets Swiss Post apart from other postal operators.