The Quality Journey
TNT UK Limited started trading in the United Kingdom in 1978 when TNT acquired Inter County Express Limited a reliable and successful carrier which provided at that time a profitable three day parcels delivery service.
Until 1980 when we launched our revolutionary TNT Overnite service none of the parcel carriers in this country had provided nationwide on demand next day delivery services and systems to communicate with drivers on the road were almost non-existent. We equipped our vehicles with radios which enabled us to immediately collect parcels upon receipt of telephone requests from customers and the company also progressively introduced various other key innovations to secure leadership of the highly competitive door to door express delivery market in the United Kingdom.
Our original next day delivery service was reinforced in 1982 by the introduction of TNT Sameday thus allowing the business to offer a full range of specialist nationwide door to door express delivery services including a new to the market on demand sameday delivery system. The new services enabled us to steal a march on our competitors who were slow to respond and as a result we achieved amazing results in the early 1980s.
Over the next few years the company also attained leadership in a number of transport sectors beyond the developing express parcels market. A key factor in our success was an ability to identify gaps in the market which we continued to fill throughout the mid 1980s with new services some examples of which are :
- TNT Newsfast - an exciting and innovative primary transport service by road for national newspapers and magazines.
- TNT Logistics - a high quality exclusive use supply chain management service for blue chip customers.
- TNT Fashion Group - a reliable shared user fashion logistics service.
The company achieved excellent awareness amongst potential users of the various services. As an example, the new TNT Newsfast service pioneered the use of road instead of rail for the distribution of national newspapers from Wapping and this approach generated considerable media exposure.
Our innovations continued to generate positive publicity and the company profile was further enhanced at the time of the 1988 national dispute by Post Office workers when TNT UK Limited offered a strike-free postal alternative.
An in depth appraisal of our existing operations was carried out in 1989 to identify opportunities for improvement which we could build upon to achieve demanding quality objectives. We were pleased to have confirmation at that time of our strengths which still include :
- experienced and capable managers in all depots
- an excellent and competitive service
- very strong financial controls with accurate depot profit and loss accounts prepared every week
- useful management information circulated often in the form of weekly league tables to report service performance, costs and other essential data
- regular management meetings to review costs and service.
Our requirement was quite simply to make the company more efficient by achieving a better service at lower unit costs. In communicating our aims to people employed in the company we placed great emphasis on rejecting from the very start the concept of a cost versus quality trade-off.
Financial savings were expected but these arose as a result of introducing improved working methods and not through quick fixes or by cutting corners. Our approach is that time wasted in current processes should be removed and experience shows that implementation of this philosophy produces better service quality as well as improved productivity.
We have instilled throughout the company a belief that cost reductions and service benefits are not incompatible but are both the result of improvements introduced by well managed quality driven teams.
Quality is not treated as a separate issue within our company and the continuous improvement philosophy has become an integral part of our business strategy. We want the quality ethic to be thoroughly assimilated into our culture and to this end the company has deliberately avoided the use of acronyms such as TQM, QlTs and QATs etc.
Our quality vision went beyond the requirements of the ISO 9000 standard which we achieved in 1990. The ISO 9000 standard gave us the framework upon which to base improved operating disciplines and we were the first express delivery company to obtain certification.
After obtaining ISO 9000 certification we joined the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and adopted the European/UK business excellence model. We also joined the newly formed British Quality Foundation (BQF) as a founder member which further reinforced our commitment to quality.
Our top team agreed upon a wide ranging programme of self assessment against the business excellence model which was very well received by all employees. The initial self assessment work started to help us identify gaps in our performance which were then addressed to produce real business improvements.
Focus on the goal initially of winning the UK Quality Award and after that the European Quality Award helped us create the present climate of improvement which exists throughout the company where all of our people continuously seek to beat previous best individual and team performances.
Feedback from our customers caused us to revise the attitude of the company to performance standards. Traditionally our key performance indicator was the level of TNT culpable service failures and success was measured by the extent to which errors were minimised.
Our customers told us the question of fault or blame was not an issue and their concern is that the service promised and paid for should always be delivered in full.
As a result we made deliveries on time our new prime standard of performance. Weekly reports for each location showing actual results for all of the following outcomes were introduced and this ongoing measurement discipline continues to help us refine our quality of service :
- deliveries on time
- misrouted and missorted consignments
- copy consignment notes raised and not matched with original documents
- late linehaul services arriving at our hubs
- failures to deliver on time analysed by reason
Gradually we introduced and developed further performance targets for key support processes to encompass our administration and selling functions. We now gather and feedback every week hard information on customer query handling, credit notes, client contacts, complaints received and other key outcomes which provide measures of our ability to satisfy customers.
We realised that customers in our urgent delivery markets are often more impressed by an ability to save time rather than cost. Emphasis upon pure cost reduction therefore decreased and we now concentrate on removing time from processes.
Our frequent and unrelenting reporting disciplines continue to help us quickly introduce improvements whenever standards are not achieved. A named individual at each depot is responsible for each key performance outcome and our staff are empowered to call on additional resources to achieve required results.
We have developed company wide poster campaigns to emphasise the need for quality and to underline the fact that everybody is involved in our improvement activities. Customer visible frontline improvement activities were clearly the ones to go for first and these include :
- vehicle loading
- telephone manner
- correct routing and labelling
- drivers delivering on time
In conjunction with the posters a "Driving For Quality" campaign has been introduced. New uniforms were designed not only to project the corporate image of the company but also to make a further statement to employees that each and every person has an important role to play in our commitment to quality.
Communication has always been one of our highest priorities. We take pride in a successful open door policy which really works and this has been supplemented by regular employee surveys since 1992 to ensure the company can always be in touch with current perceptions.
All employee survey responses are reviewed in one on one meetings with the individuals concerned and also collectively for each location to ensure opportunities for improvement are actioned.
Information is disseminated through videos, house magazines and frequent meetings all of which is supported by constructive briefings and conferences. Channels have been set up to receive employee feedback and we ensure the views of our people are reflected in decisions affecting company goals, policy and strategy.
Central to the provision of time sensitive services offered by the company are our leading edge information technology and communications support systems.
In the early 1990s we therefore reviewed and still keep under ongoing review our use of technology which even today has enormous further potential to provide the company with strengthened competitive advantages.
A prime example of our use of technology to increase efficiency and service quality is the exciting TNT Universe System which provides improved customer service and better communications for all staff employed within the company.
We decided to implement the TNT Universe system in 1993 and the benefits from this decision are still being progressively achieved. Distributed computer systems were installed in every depot in 1994 to replace a mainframe system which had become somewhat inflexible.
More recently the installation of data terminals in TNT express delivery vehicles helps the company to provide up to the minute information for customers about the status of urgent consignments entrusted to our care. In addition the in-cab data terminals are enabling us to respond immediately to on demand collection requests placed by customers.
Everyone employed in the company now has a computer screen which provides access to reliable real time data thus enabling our people to instantly address external and internal customer requests.
State of the art information technology and communications systems are being continuously developed throughout the business to ensure we maintain and improve upon our unique competitive positions in the various time sensitive distribution markets served by the company.
Our investments in information technology and advanced communication systems are growing. We know that our people and customers who use the systems are the best sources of ideas for improvement and every ongoing effort is being made to tap into these valuable sources of knowledge.
We recognised at an early stage the paramount need to continuously improve the performance and skills of our staff. As a result in 1989 the company developed an integrated plan for training all employees with the goal of developing the most effective workforce within our industry.
Our aim was and still is to provide a work environment that is conducive to multi-skilling thus enabling people throughout the business to use practical techniques and skills acquired through company training schemes.
We implemented and have since updated a number of successful programmes of evaluation, appraisal and career development for all employees. Opportunities are now provided for everyone to work within quality teams which improve company and individual performances.
Our management team decided to make a public commitment to the Investor In People standard in 1993 and we were delighted to achieve formal company wide recognition as an Investor in People company in 1994. In the process we adopted the following cornerstones of best practice people management :
- Commitment - to train and develop everyone in the company
- Planning - to provide a framework for identifying and addressing skill gaps
- Action - to equip our people with the skills needed to satisfy customers through high quality training
- Evaluation - to continuously improve our training programmes, appraisal systems and all other people management processes employed within the business
Our company has always retained a family atmosphere and there is a genuine commitment to develop employees. In addition over the years we have consistently followed a successful home grown timber policy of promotion from within which rewards good results with increased responsibility.
Our aim in working towards the Investor In People standard has therefore been to preserve and develop the excellent feel good factor in the company. In addition we have become more professional by improving our systems for identifying and promoting talented people as a result of adopting the Investor In People model.
The award winning TNT Expressing Excellence customer care training initiative arose from a comprehensive review in 1992 of company wide customer service performance.
Our Expressing Excellence customer care objectives agreed at that time and still in force today are to :
- improve service quality and provide outstanding customer satisfaction
- operate clear customer care policies soundly based on market research
- continuously communicate and implement improved customer care techniques.
Expressing Excellence programmes were therefore rolled out to all staff during 1993 and 1994 to help us achieve the customer care objectives. The Expressing Excellence initiative is ongoing and has reinforced the strands of our total quality policies which encompass absolute customer focus, individual involvement in making processes more effective, practical relevant training, high performance leadership and continuous improvement activities.
The effectiveness of our Expressing Excellence training initiatives is measured by the degree to which we meet the following customer satisfaction outcomes :
- retain clients and increase the number of customers trading every week
- improve the percentage of deliveries made on time
- reduce the number of linehaul vehicles arriving after scheduled arrival times at our hub depots
- decrease the value and number of credit notes issued
- reduce customer claims in number and as a percentage of revenue
- decrease the number of outstanding invoice queries at the end of each week
- increase the frequency of contacts with existing and prospective customers
- improve telephone response times and our success in this area was reported by the Which consumer magazine where the following comment appeared : "If you want to know how to answer the telephone ring TNT"
The success of the Expressing Excellence initiative first introduced in 1994 by TNT Express Delivery Services stimulated all of our major trading business units to produce their own tailored customer care training packages.
In 1996 TNT Logistics cascaded a successful training programme entitled Delivering the Goods to all of the two thousand five hundred people employed within this high performance division. Our ongoing Delivering the Goods training programme has unique key performance outcomes for each site where bespoke tailored supply chain management services are provided for customers.
By the end of 1996 TNT Newsfast had also rolled out its own custom made training programme called Delivering Good News to everyone in our highly regarded time sensitive newspaper and magazine distribution division. Delivering Good News has been developed to address the make it happen never fail requirements of our impressive market leading TNT Newsfast business.
In 1996 feedback from a TNT UK Limited people survey identified a desire for greater cross-divisional knowledge throughout the whole organisation. As a result we introduced Expressionism which is a video based training programme that covers for all employees the complete development of the company.
Our Expressionism training courses have been a huge success and are now also regularly delivered via line management facilitators to every person in the company together with a large number of suppliers.
Quest 2000 quality improvement teams also now exist in every TNT UK Limited location and are helping us to further improve our results across the board. In addition a Make It Happen training programme has been introduced in 1999 to help all people working in the company to provide outstanding levels of customer satisfaction.
We place great store by the improved motivation which can result from simply recognising good performances.
The results for all outcomes key to our performance are now published every week in league tables and are displayed on result boards at all sites operated by the company.
Our Celebrate magazine was introduced several years ago and this publication which is distributed at regular intervals to all staff gives details of the excellent performances regularly achieved by TNT UK Limited people.
The Celebrate magazine also has a feedback feature entitled Talkback which gives everyone an opportunity to complete a brief questionnaire and provides the chance for TNT UK Limited staff to make personal comments or suggestions for improvement.
We work hard to identify and praise exceptional results which may for example take the form of an employee going the extra mile to provide extraordinary customer satisfaction or perhaps a depot team producing a chart topping performance.
Halls of Fame which celebrate the achievements of our most outstanding people have been introduced at all major locations and annual TNT UK Limited excellence awards continue to motivate our people.
Recognition of outstanding performances where TNT people have beaten their previous best records is also provided in weekly newsletters and quarterly awards are made to successful teams and individuals.
I Made it Happen awards and many other recognition schemes are now operated to ensure TNT people are thanked for the exceptional efforts which are made every day and every night in our extremely competitive business.
In the period since the advent of Project 2000 we have :
- strengthened our leadership of the time sensitive express parcels market
- expanded the number of customers trading with the company by 300%
- gained nearly 80% of the national newspaper primary transport market
- become the market leader in nationwide shared user garment distribution
- continuously improved service quality which has resulted in failures being reduced to almost negligible levels
- lowered unit costs per consignment by more than 20%
- decreased lost time accidents by 30%
- improved employee satisfaction levels from 58% to 85% of all staff employed in the company
- secured excellent community satisfaction levels which in our local areas of highest employment show 99% positive outcomes
The impact on our financial results has been dramatic :
- turnover has increased and we have outperformed the market year after year
- profits have increased every year since 1988 and margins have been dramatically improved
Our company is seen as an exemplar of excellence and we will continue to strive for even better performance in the future.
Winning with TNT Quality Journey
Numerous awards have been won by the company during our quality journey. As an example fifteen Motor Transport Industry Awards have been won in the last thirteen years and this track record beats all other performances in the transport industry.
In November 1994 The Prime Minister The Rt Hon John Major MP presented the UK Quality Award to our company and said "TNT Express is a success story of the very first order... and provides a clear example for other companies to emulate".
We obtained great benefit from the experience of entering for the UK Quality Award and immediately followed up on this success by winning European Quality Prizes in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998.
Other recent achievements include winning of the 1996 Management Today/Unisys Business to Business Award and the 1997 BT Award for Best Use of Telemarketing to Provide Customer Care.
In 1997 TNT won the Overall Best Service Company Award and is again the winner of the Business to Business category of the Management Today/Unisys Awards.
In 1997 our company was recognised by the Benchmarking Consortium of the European Foundation for Quality Management and the American Productivity and Quality Centre as a best practice company for advanced corporate performance management.
We are also delighted that TNT UK Limited was highly commended in 1997 for best practice in people development by the Investors in People organisation. This outstanding achievement was followed in 1998 by our success in winning the 1998 Investor in People Key Champions Award and more recently we have won the 1999 Investors In People Outstanding Practice Award.
The company won a further National Training Award in 1997 which provides additional evidence of our commitment to design and apply best practice people management policies.
Other recent successes include winning the Institute of Transport Management 1998 Express Parcels Carrier of the Year Award and the 1998 Premises & Facilities Management Public Sector Partnership Award.
However our most prestigious accolade is the 1998 European Quality Award for business excellence which was presented to the company at the 1998 European Quality Convention in Paris.
Our adoption of the European Foundation for Quality Management business excellence model as a way of working throughout the company has provided a framework for every employee to achieve continuous improvement. Our people are always working hard to beat their previous best performances and the aggregate of all these efforts is a strong market leading position for the company.
Self assessment against the business excellence model and our entries for European and National Quality Awards every year since 1993 have certainly helped us improve the business. We continue to address all opportunities for improvement and the company has been able to build upon the strengths identified through our self assessment processes.
Consistent application of the business excellence model has become a way of life within the company and our organisation has stayed ahead of all other opposition carriers as a result of widespread commitment to the concept of continuous improvement.
We have out performed the transport industry in an extremely competitive market and our lead over other carriers has widened as a result of all these quality initiatives.
TNT UK Limited is now a centre of excellence within TNT N.V. and everyone in the company is working hard to further strengthen our leading market position in the period up to and beyond the millennium.