In line with a corporate strategy to bridge the physical and digital worlds, deploy a robust solution for large data-file transfers from business customers, including print payloads for digital or physical document output
- Greater agility and process optimization, enabling Swiss Post to respond swiftly to demands from its business customers and to a changing consumer landscape
- High capacity and enhanced scalability essential for the massive scale of document-output operations at Swiss Post
- System reliability and stability vital to meet SLAs and comply with government regulatory requirements
- Data integrity and security to ensure confidentiality of data and compliance with data-protection guidelines
Delivering cutting-edge digital and physical services
Swiss Post, the national postal operator of Switzerland, has a broad range of business activities in addition to its traditional role of mail delivery and post office management. With expertise in communication, logistics, public passenger transport, and financial services, Swiss Post is developing solutions and services at the interface between the physical and digital worlds. In 2014, Swiss Post had 62,000 employees, delivered over 2,200 million addressed letters and approximately 112 million parcels, transported 141 million passengers, managed CHF 117 billion of customer assets, and had an operating income of CHF 8,457 million.
Transferring data for high-volume printing
A key part of Swiss Post’s business activity is the digitalization of document flows for a growing number of companies, for which it handles an ever-increasing volume of documents. Initially, Swiss Post Solutions AG1, Document Output division (referred to hereafter as Swiss Post), used a homegrown solution to transfer files from its customers to its applications. These files contained print jobs that Swiss Post would print and mail to recipients.
Eventually it became clear that the homegrown solution had to be replaced, as it was not equipped to handle the new challenges of digital businesses. Moreover, Swiss Post is bound by service level agreements (SLAs) with its corporate customers, and by government regulations for data integrity and security. With increasing demands for availability, monitoring, and reporting, Swiss Post knew it needed a highly stable, enterprise-level file-transfer solution.
1“Swiss Post Solutions AG” is a “Swiss Post Company”
A powerful proof of concept seals the deal
The new file-transfer solution had to be able to handle the transmission and processing of print requests and payloads for Swiss Post’s wide range of clients in banking and finance, telecoms, healthcare, insurance, and government. The new solution would need to handle:
- Transmission of the file via SFTP
- Preprocessing, including decompression and decryption of the file
- Routing of the print request to the correct print-processing server, depending on file name
From there, the print-processing server at Swiss Post would generate each letter or invoice, insert personalized information, then send the document to be printed and mailed, or formatted as a PDF and sent electronically to the recipient.
To find the best solution for their needs, Swiss Post carried out extensive market research. As a result, they determined that an Axway Managed File Transfer solution — including Axway SecureTransport and Axway Sentinel — stood out as the preferred option, and they invited Axway to demonstrate a proof of concept.
“Axway’s team came on site, worked for a week and demonstrated 15 different use cases,” said Alfred Weber, IT Systems Manager for Swiss Post. “We saw the product at work, and saw that Axway’s people knew what they were doing. We were impressed.”
Transmitting payloads for high-capacity printing centers
In November 2013, upon selection of the Axway solution, the installation, configuration, and scripting process began at three Swiss Post facilities (Härkingen and Mülligen, in Switzerland, and Dettingen in Germany), and was followed by intensive testing. In spring 2014, Swiss Post began to migrate data flows from the existing homegrown solution to Axway SecureTransport at the three different locations. The data migration process was completed in January 2015.
As of February 2015, the Axway solution has been transporting over 125,000 files per month, representing more than 250 GB of data. Each file can contain the payload for hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of letters, which Swiss Post either prints on paper and sends as postal mail, or publishes in PDF format and sends via email. Currently, over 99 percent of these documents is printed, while one percent is sent electronically.
The content of these documents differs from client to client and is often highly confidential. Typical payloads include:
- Bank account statements
- Health insurance invoices
- Tax information from government authorities
Each year, 1.2 billion pages, or 1,200 truckloads, of documents are produced by Swiss Post document-output centers in Switzerland, Germany, and the UK. The Härkingen and Mülligen sites, for example, have a combined printing capacity of 10 million pages per day.
Letting the consumer decide
With Axway SecureTransport up and running, Swiss Post set itself a new challenge: create an Electronic Post Office that would enable Swiss consumers to decide whether documents from a particular sender would be delivered by postal mail or email.
With the new service, individual consumers would register for the E-Post Office online, through a website or via a mobile app. The consumer could then specify the type of delivery he or she wanted for mail from each sender. For example, the consumer might request bank account statements on paper and health insurance invoices by email. Consumers could also choose to receive electronic letters as encrypted emails, for particularly sensitive documents.
To implement the new service, Axway SecureTransport was deployed to transport the large data files containing print payloads from Swiss Post’s business customers. Consumer-facing websites and mobile apps were set up to obtain consumer preferences.
In addition, a high-speed internal file-transfer facility was needed to dispatch the mail internally to the proper delivery channel. Again, Swiss Post turned to Axway for the right solution, and selected Axway Transfer CFT to handle large-volume, high-speed, point-to-point transfers within Swiss Post.
The E-Post Office solution was first installed in April 2014 and went into production in September 2014. Currently, there are eight instances of Axway Transfer CFT transferring over 100,000 files per day, and up to 500,000 files per day at peak periods, such as end of month.
Meeting security standards and SLAs
Given the sensitivity and confidentiality of the data it handles, Swiss Post is subject to stringent controls and audits by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and other regulatory bodies. Security standards in force include those for:
- Data. Encrypted data transfer; banking and postal confidentiality
- Systems. Multi-client-capable systems and full back-up capacity
- Processes. ISO-certified processes and central monitoring
- Premises. Full access monitoring
Swiss Post must also comply with its SLAs in order to avoid paying penalties. In many cases, incoming print payloads must be preprocessed and dispatched to the proper printing center, and the documents printed, put in envelopes, franked, and loaded onto trucks — all within just six hours.
Axway SecureTransport and Axway Transfer CFT are now integral to the reliability and security of the document flow at Swiss Post. “Our file transfers are handled automatically; there is no manual intervention,” said Weber. “In our experience, SecureTransport and Axway Transfer CFT are highly reliable and stable.”
Axway Sentinel is playing a key role as well, sending notification emails at key checkpoints in the process. As the rollout continues, Sentinel will also likely be deployed to implement dashboards, data analytics, and systems monitoring.
Mailbox or inbox, it’s up to the customer
Even in the short time since the deployment of the Axway solutions, there have been clear business benefits, including:
- Greater agility. Enables Swiss Post to respond swiftly to demands from its business customers and to a changing consumer landscape in which customer choice is key
- Process optimization. Automates the transfer of print payloads and enables a zero-touch business process
In parallel, the technical benefits for Swiss Post have included:
- High capacity and enhanced scalability. Essential features, given the massive scale of Swiss Post’s document-output operations
- System reliability and stability. Vital to meet SLAs and comply with government regulatory requirements
- Data integrity. Ensures that when a transfer is done, the entire file is received
- Security. Ensures the confidentiality of data and compliance with data-protection guidelines
“We are very satisfied with the Axway solution, because it is efficient, stable and reliable,” said Weber. “On a daily basis, there’s not much we need to do, because the system works seamlessly.”
“Our file transfers are handled automatically; there is no manual intervention. In our experience, Axway SecureTransport and Axway Transfer CFT are highly reliable and stable.”
Alfred Weber, IT Systems Manager, Swiss Post