A day in the life of…Digital Products Supply Centre

When many people think of Ordnance Survey, they think of the lovely OS Explorer and OS Landranger maps. However, the vast majority of mapping, or data, that we send out to customers is actually on CD, DVD or hard drive. Last year we shipped 38 terabytes of data – or approximately 39,874,560 MB. These were produced on six robots and give our customers access to our OS MasterMap products and many more. The team responsible for producing the customer digital data orders and sending them out are the DPSC team and I caught up with Kelly Callawayto find out about a typical day in the life…

00.01 – OK, so we don’t start just after midnight but, on the first of every month, at this time our SAP system will start to create update orders for our robots. In fact, both our fulfilment systems run 24/7 and our robot, the Microtech XL Express with an 800 disk capacity, means that we can support unattended running even over the longest holiday.

Some of our robots in the DPSC

Some of our robots in the DPSC

08.00 this is when we start and our first job of the day is to check the fulfilment systems are running and then troubleshoot any output or processing issues. We have a monitor that shows us the status of all the orders that are processing and the team are fed-up of the catchphrase ‘constant vigilance’, but we do need to keep a sharp lookout for anything that might result in a delayed order.

08.00 plus caffeine – it’s time to log and pack up the orders that have output overnight. We prioritise this process to ensure that urgent and initial orders are done first. At times this part of the job can keep the team busy for most of the day. Not all our digital data orders are fulfilled automatically and sat on the robots ready to pack up. A large proportion are still replicated ‘off-line’ and supplied as national datasets. We manage significant peaks and troughs in output. The troughs give us the opportunity to replicate the ‘off-line’ datasets, so we’re always busy.

12.00 – no lunch for us, the SAS have ‘Who Dares Wins’, DPSC have ‘Supply or Die’.

A robot in action!

A robot in action!

13.00 – although orders continue to process throughout the day we are also responsible for mastering the new releases of ‘off-line’ products including OS OpenData products. Some products have a huge number of masters to produce, more than 70 disks. We also retain a copy of every release of every product in our data archive safes.

Although initial customer orders are normally our highest priority because they have the shortest turnaround, by far the biggest volume of orders are updates. Every customer’s supply of data is updated in line with their contract which is either linked to their anniversary of first supply or a new version of the dataset being released. The update orders need to be staggered throughout the month to ensure that the fulfilment systems aren’t overwhelmed but at the same time output is maximised to ensure they all complete in time.

17.30 – before we leave for the day we check that all initial orders that have  completed are passed to Despatch in time for courier collection. We’ll also set up any large replication jobs to run overnight and set-up update jobs to run through the night maximising use of a quiet network and systems and to avoid clashes with initial orders.

Our last job of the day is to check the robots before we go home. Stock up their media, check their printer ribbons and clear out their drives. It’s bit like being a zoo keeper really!

Quick, go home before the cleaner catches you talking to them again. Goodnight robot one…

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