The Passport Office – A Personal Supply Chain Experience

My UK passport was getting close to expiry (June), and as I may well be needing it in March, April and May, I thought the 6-week window of opportunity from early February was the best chance to renew. But I was slightly worried, remembering the days of lengthy lead-times and passport office failings back in 1999, when “by June, the Passport Agency had around 565,000 applications awaiting processing”. Problems in 2014 weren’t that bad but hit the press again.

So, I went online, as you do, and found not only a very well-designed and easy-to-use form (a series of simple screens really), but also a video showing me how I could take a picture on my smartphone, meeting the passport requirements (watch out for shadows of the picture – so stand a foot away from the wall), and supposedly upload it directly as part of the application.

That’s impressive, I thought, but I bet it doesn’t work.

It did. First time. Took the picture, filled in the form, gave my email and phone number (for texts), and got an instant message back saying the picture looked OK, although they reserved the right to check it in more detail.

Anyway, I submitted my online application to the Passport Office on Saturday 3rd Feb. On the 4th I had a text reminding me that I needed to post my old passport to them. My wife did that on Monday – at a post box that claimed she’d missed the last collection. But I then got a text the next morning saying the old passport had arrived! (So well done Royal Mail, as well as the Passport Office.)

To my increasing astonishment, I got a text on Friday 9th saying that my application was successful, and my new passport was on the way. Yeah, I thought, no doubt in two or three weeks if I’m lucky.

On Monday morning (Feb 12th) at 11am, it was delivered to my door.

That makes it 5.5 working days from initial application to receiving a new passport. I call that incredible and an amazing example of how “digital government” can really work, and it is even more impressive as obviously it is not a totally digital process – it still involves a physical passport, printing, and delivery to the home. But compared to the old days, where we were looking at weeks or even months, I thought it was an excellent process from start to finish.

I don’t know how many elements of the passport “supply chain” are outsourced these days – delivery was by DX but I’m sure other third parties are involved too. So, it is also likely to demonstrate an example of excellent supply chain integration, in the sense of different suppliers as well as in-house operations needing to work in harmony.

So, very well done to HM Passport Office and thanks for one of the best experiences I have ever had form a public service.

Voices (5)

  1. Michael Thornton:

    Surely the Home Office are considering electronic passports on phones now?

  2. Alan:

    That really is remarkable and impressive. And a great tool for convincing family members to embrace some of the digital options that are available for ‘old paper stuff’.

    One quick question though, does the process require a government gateway log in?

    1. Peter Smith:

      Alan
      I don’t think it did. I think as it was renewal it was based on entering current passport information. Peter

    2. B:

      A government gateway login isn’t needed.

  3. John Jones:

    The incumbent supplier of the physical passport ((book) De La Rue should be part of the celebration too, given the very high service levels ( I suspect) they have to meet as part of their contract with HMPO .

    Great experience, thank you for sharing.

    Ps: I went for the one day fast track a couple of years ago – supplied the old passport at 8am, the new passport was ready by 12.45 – again, a very pleasing experience:)

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