Measuring international letter service performance through UNEX™

To ensure high service performance, IPC measures the international service performance of non-registered letter mail travelling between 36 postal operators worldwide.

It allows postal operators to manage the international mail pipeline in accordance with their delivery commitments to customers, regulators and postal partners. Postal operators can identify where bottlenecks may occur and where corrective actions are necessary.

If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it

IPC’s UNEX™ system is used to measure international letter service performance between 36 postal operators with test mail sent from more than 50 countries on four continents. UNEX™ test letters posted in one country, pass through the world’s postal networks until delivered to the addressee in the destination country. Most of these letters contain a small Radio Frequency IDentification  (RFID) tag. At specific reading points in postal facilities, the RFID tag transmits its identity, anonymously, from the processing facility to IPC’s global RFID Network Centre in Brussels.

The UNEX™ System uses the transmitted data, with the date of posting and receipt, to calculate the transit time between specific points in the mail pipeline, allowing postal operators to manage the international mail pipeline in accordance with their delivery commitments to customers, regulators and postal partners. Postal operators can identify where bottlenecks may occur and where corrective actions are necessary.

UNEX™ began in 1994 with just 18 postal operators in 18 countries in Europe. In 2016 there are 36 postal operators worldwide participating in the UNEX™ system.

How it works

The UNEX™ system is based on a network of volunteer “panellists” – over 4,500 individuals, of which 4,000 in Europe – who send and receive test letters according to a weekly plan, and who enter the posting or delivery time on a central computer system. About 500,000 international first class/priority mail test letters are sent and tracked each year in the system, of which 260,000 in Europe. Test mail mirrors real mail geographical patterns and physical characteristics.

Once the RFID-transmitted data is sent to IPC’s global RFID Network Centre, the system identifies the progress or delays of the test letter from the sender in the origin country to the addressee in the destination country. UNEX™ provides measures on both end-to-end and domestic segments of the international mail pipeline, as shown in the figure below.

UNEX Mail Pipeline

Flexible Design Models

The UNEX™ measurement operates at three levels:

  • It measures performance between countries and cities in the IPC member countries for operational improvement purposes.
  • It measures inbound performance for terminal dues (payment for delivery by one postal operator to another) which are linked to quality of service dealing with the Universal Postal Union Target Terminal Dues System, with the European REIMS Terminal Dues Agreement  and with bilateral agreements.
  • It provides the performance on cross-border mail flows which is required for annual publication under the European Union Postal Directive

Reports and data are provided to UNEX™ participating postal operators throughout the year so that they can monitor progress toward the agreed annual targets.

Since UNEX™ is used to fix terminal dues payments, the accuracy of the UNEX™ results is all the more important. IPC ensures accuracy by using a solid statistical design that is regularly updated to reflect reality, by advanced data validation and by providing on-line ad-hoc analysis tools.

Independence of UNEX™ Results

All parties who use UNEX™ respect the integrity of the test measurements IPC provides. The validity and independence of the data is guaranteed by external panel recruitment and management contractors, which are TNS UK (United Kingdom) and Ipsos (Germany) since January 2013.

Service Performance in Europe

Postal operators have made significant improvements in international mail quality of service using using UNEX™ and a wide range of high-tech systems developed by IPC.