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Thursday, 11 November 1971
Page: 3442

Mr Morrison asked the Postmaster-

General, upon notice:

(1)   What was the initial cost of the letter coding system installed at the Redfern Mail Exchange.

(2)   When were tenders called for the supply and installation of the system.

(3)   What company, was awarded the contract and under what conditions.

(4)   Which companies were unsuccessful and for what reasons.

(5)   What is the annual (a) operating and (b) maintenance cost of the letter coding system.

(6)   Is the maintenance . contracted out to the supplying company; if not, what arrangements (a) are made for maintenance now and (b) were made in the past

(7)   What volume of mail was the system designed to handle.

(8)   What volume of mail is the system currently handling.

Sir Alan Hulme - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The cost of the letter coding system was $3.58m.

(2)   Public tenders under Schedule C.8754 were called on 21st July 1961 and closed on 3rd October 1961.

(3)   (a) Telephone and Electrical Industries Pty Ltd, Faraday Park, Meadowbank, New South Wales (Now - Plessey Telecommunications Pty Ltd). (b) Conditions - Supply, and installation of a total mechanised mail handling system. Contract 26145 was issued on 19th June 1962 and provided for completion of the entire project by May 1965. The letter coding and decoding system formed a major part of the overall system.

(4)   Eight other companies tendered letter coding equipment, generally to overseas designs. It is not Post Office practice to make public the names of unsuccessful tenderers. Under Item 1 of the Schedule, for which there were six offers, tenders were called for the supply and installation of a complete mechanised mail handling system to cater for letters, newspapers and packets, parcels and inward and outward bag handling. The lowest tender was rejected because the equipment offered would not have had the capacity to meet the specified loads. The additional equipment necessary to meet those loads would have carried the total price above that of the next lowest tenderer, Telephone and Electrical Industries. The other tenders under this item were unsuccessful because of higher prices. Item 3 of the Schedule, for which there were eight offers called for the supply and installation of a letter coding and decoding system complete with automatic letter transfer between stages. After close analysis of the offers for letter coding equipment, the offer by Telephone and Electrical Industries was chosen because the letter handling systems offered by other tenderers did not meet the Australian Post Office requirement for a completely integrated letter coding system. In addition Telephone and Electrical Industries tendered proven equipment for the rest of the project and it was judged advantageous for all mail exchange equipment to be supplied and installed by the one contractor.

(5)   (a) The total operating cost for the letter coding system during 1970-71 was $2,067,000. (b) The total maintenance cost for the letter coding system during 1970-71 was $1,142,000.

(6)   (a) All mail handling plant, including the letter coding system, is maintained by departmental staff, (b) After the equipment was installed, a contract was placed with Telephone and Electrical Industries for specialist advice in the care and maintenance of the system, but departmental staff were already carrying out most of the actual maintenance work. The contract was for the period 1st December 1966 to 29th June 1968 and involved a total cost of $134,343. It was not renewed in 1968 as specialist support was no longer necessary.

(7)   Mail traffic, like vehicular traffic or telephone traffic, fluctuates in intensity throughout the day, with the heaviest surge occurring in the late afternoon and early evening. Mail is also subject to seasonal peaks, the most intense of which predictably occur in November/December and at Easter time. In designing equipment to handle mail traffic, the seasonal peak hour load is the criterion the designer must use in dimensioning the system.

For Redfern a figure of 300,000 letters per hour was quoted as the maximum theoretical throughput, to enable tenderers to determine the required number of coding positions and decoding machines, and the carrying capacity for the letter distribution network. This figure was derived from a projection of actual traffic counts, and provided for reasonable traffic growth and the fact that 100 per cent machine utilisation cannot be achieved in practice, because:

(a)   tea and health breaks for the operators account for 10 minutes non coding time in each hour per position;

(b)   there are always some rostered coding operators absent, e.g. because of illness. The average absentee rate during week days is 8 per cent;

(c)   operators cannot sustain maximum performance for long periods of time;

(d)   some of the positions are out of service for maintenance purposes;

(e)   mail to be coded is not always available.

Taking all technical human factors into account, the practically, achievable peak hour throughput currently is around 180,000 letters per hour.

(8)   During a normal day the number of positions staffed varies up to a maximum of about 120, and the number of letters coded per hour varies up to a maximum of about 120,000. During the peak season all the available positions are staffed for lengthy periods during the day and the load coded during the day and the load coded during a peak hour approaches 160,000 letters. During a normal day, a load of around 1.5 million is coded and during a peak period this has been increased to a maximum of 2.4 million.

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