Thursday 31 December 2020

New Self-Service machines cominng to Post Offices sometime.

There are often reports of Post and Go (P&G) or Self-Service Kiosks (SSK) in Post Office branches being out of order and we know that these are second generation, the NCR machines taking over from Wincor-Nixdorf from 2014 onwards.

Earlier this year Post Office Ltd started the process for replacing those NCR machines.  A paper was published in the summer with details of the requirement and what the new machines would be required to do - which is more than they do now.  This is a 12-page document (plus more pages explaining the Crown Commercial Service Spark framework system).  Here are a few:

From this you will see that the system will still be required (of course) to link to the "Horizon back end". In some ways it would make sense for Fujitsu to be involved - at least then there would be no blaming the other contractor when things went wrong.  But given Futjitsu's record on the previous problems with Horizon it would seem to be unlikely that they would be involved even if they offered the best price.

Meanwhile Better Retailing suggests that there could be SSKs in non-Post Office stores.

The ‘family’ of devices would include ‘full service kiosks’ providing a wide range of basic post office services and other devices focused on areas such as parcel drop-off and returns.

The advert read: “All devices must have the potential to increase revenue by reducing queues, transaction times & cost to serve and to enhance the customer experience by improving access to particular products.”

While it said many of these would be made available to PO and its retailers on a purchase or lease basis, the document also included plans to deploy the devices “in new stand-alone non-PO locations”.  [My emphasis]

Although the article also says 

When asked to comment, PO said it has since abandoned the plans. A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “The ‘self-service devices’ notice was an early market engagement exercise that started in 2019, then stopped and was not taken any further."

the fact that they considered it means that the option is always there to be considered.

Implications for collectors

When new machines are introduced I think it is most likely that there will be off-site trials, followed by live installations in a few test areas so that the public can do the 'test to destruction' and find the bugs that the contractor has not thought of.  This will be folllowed by a more general roll-out.

It is inconceivable that the overprinting on the new stamps produced from these machines will be identical to existing NCR or RM machines, so we will have a repeat of the situation when NCR were replacing Wincor.  The saving grace for those with limited budgets, or the sad thing for those who like a great deal of variety, is that there will be few different stamp designs available.  

The only stamps which should be available (barring any unexpected new issues) would be Machin 1st & 2nd, Union Flag, and - at the appropriate time - Robin and winter (probably Winter Greenery).  If the people who have managed to create multiple varieties from the last set of changes (using old stock which should not exist) haven't used all that on the September changes, then they might be expected to use it up on tomorrow's changes and thus have nothing left to feed the new machines.

Certainly I would hope that nobody would try to suggest that, for instance, Birds, Farm Animals, and British flowers would be legally available from the new machines.


  1. The self serve machines used in most major supermarkets are broadly similar, (and in the supermarket where my wife works are numbered in a similar sequence to NCR machines in the PO (which may of course be entirely coincidental). So that's probably the next logical step to add some sort of basic print 1st & 2nd Std & Large stamps only facility , but I think that's pretty much all you could add without it becoming a mini sub PO with all the variations that would entail. What do others think?

  2. Are you sure they are still not issuing them from PO central stpres?

  3. It’s quite likely that POL is still installing NCR machines in new locations but they have also withdrawn them from some locations so the new installations may not be new machines.

    In any case, the first suggestions of NCR machines being replaced were three years ago.

  4. A 1st class (or other value) printed on Royal Mail stock of any type for which Royal Mail have received a payment is a valid postage stamp even if by favour or by pecuniary advantage . Royal Mail can't deal with counterfeits or the re-use of stamps they are hardly likely to try and deal with current and former employees we all know and deal with.

    1. I seem to remember seeing an article very recently in the press suggesting that RM had cracked the detection of reuse........presume it should have come with a little blue bag of salt!!!

  5. I don't think that there is any suggestion that what you describe would not be valid for postage.

    Collectors who 'go by the catalogue' are unlikely to find the ones I referenced in the last paragraph in the catalogue, and they would certainly not be 'freely' available.

    But let's wait for that bridge to arrive before we cross it; there isn;t even a new supplier yet.

  6. Really interesting document,
    The image (centre) on page 7 is interesting, is it a real post office or a mock up showing NCR SSKs and what looks like a IAR Unit..

    1. On seeing the image my first thought was this is Windsor post office.
      It is indeed an IAR unit I have a photo of this on my phone taken on the 4th August (I can send to Ian on request) out of use as the staff there told me the trial there was finished.
      It did not have its beacon light affixed but this may have been already removed for transport.

  7. I have been informed by staff at Knightsbridge PO that new machines have been installed at Great Portland Street PO. Due to Covid restrictions I have not been able to confirm this.

    1. I know of no details of Great Portland Street but am reliably informed they are not IAR kiosks.
      I will visit when it is legal to do so to check situation.

    2. A friend of mine visited Great Portland Street (legally) on Saturday morning and I can report that kiosks are still 7 NCR versions.
      All kiosks were out of service though.


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