Parcel delivery service Famac has rolled out a mobile logistics solution to its drivers. Running on Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs with built-in barcode scanners, the solution captures delivery data, which is transferred wirelessly into the companys central database. With its up-to-date and accurate information the solution greatly reduces paperwork, keeps customers happy and increases driver efficiency.
For parcel delivery companies, monitoring many thousands of parcels presents a constant challenge. But as demand for more reliable delivery services grows, staying ahead of the competition depends on customers being confident that their goods are safe and that their delivery can be tracked and confirmed.
No one knows this better than Northern Ireland delivery service company Famac Network Ltd. Established in 1976; Famac delivers 90 per cent of all mail order goods, from small packages to household furnishings, throughout Northern Ireland. Famac customers include Gus, Littlewoods, Next, Parcelnet and Avon.
Famac wanted to better manage the delivery workload and to ensure that items could be tracked once they left the depot for delivery. Gerald Simpson, Managing Director, Famac, says: We wanted to improve our ability to locate parcels in the field if the need arose. We wanted to be able to track and trace the parcels from the depot to delivery, minimising the chances of losing items or delays in delivery.
Famac approached mobile solutions provider RangeGate, a Microsoft partner focused in this field. Mr Simpson explains: We chose RangeGate because of its experience in mobile technology and understanding of our needs and expectations.
By June 2002, a project was underway that involved the rollout of RangeGates mobile solution LOGISTICS-Edge, on Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs, to Famacs 120 drivers. To cope with the wear and tear of a tough working environment, Symbol SPT 2846 devices were selected due to their rugged durability.
LOGISTICS-Edge delivers a flexible and accurate tracking system that manages all tasks in the delivery process. Andy Desmond, Software Consultant, RangeGate, explains: Drivers log on to their Pocket PCs, identify themselves and are immediately informed of the rounds theyve been allocated for that day.
The depot is equipped with a wireless local area network (WLAN). This means the drivers can connect wirelessly to the companys central information system within the depot and download their work for the day onto their Pocket PCs.
The devices are also equipped with built-in barcode scanners. Each parcel is scanned as it is loaded and the vehicle is scanned as well. Any items that should not be on the vehicle immediately show up on the device, says Mr Desmond. It eliminates loading errors and prevents drivers from doing unnecessary work later on.
The solution also enables recipients to sign electronically on the devices upon receipt of their delivery. Information recorded in the field uploads automatically into the central database when the driver re-enters the WLAN access zone within the depot.
The data captured is compiled in a central Microsoft SQL Server database and used for management reports. Batch updates of delivery and tracking information are transferred to the systems of Famacs customers.
The solution was built using the Microsoft Visual Studio .NET, ensuring a speedy and problem-free development and rollout, says Mr Desmond. We went live in September 2002, and since then we have had only six support calls, which is remarkable for a deployment of this scale.
Improved Tracking Without the Paperwork
With all drivers now fully equipped with user-friendly Pocket PCs, Famac can trace its deliveries throughout the country. Parcels are always loaded on the correct truck and authorised staff can quickly establish the location of individual parcels through up-to-date information on Famacs central system.
Mr Simpson explains some of the benefits: "LOGISTICS-Edge controls our delivery tasks and keeps information up to date. It tracks every parcel we move and we can manage delivery volumes and traffic a lot better than we ever did before. Famac expects this will lead to more accurate management reporting. We are now talking to RangeGate about all the different types of reports we can get out of the system, says Mr Simpson.
Famac has already seen a huge reduction in paper-based administration and manual data entry. Previously, our drivers were faced with a significant amount of paperwork, says Mr Simpson. When they realised the time the solution saves, and how easy it is to use, they accepted it quickly as part of their routine.
We expect to save money in the longer term through fewer claims for goods lost in transit and reduced paperwork. We have a much more accurate view of the business, enabling staff to work more productively, says Mr Simpson.
LOGISTICS-Edge also delivers added security processes and features, including a system that enables authorised supervisors to use the scanner to identify themselves and then check the items on vehicles. We can put restraints on the devices to vary the access rights for different people, says Mr Desmond.
Improved Customer Service
Famac can now offer a level of service its rivals will struggle to match. Not only are customers fully informed as to the status of their deliveries, but Famac also stands out as an organisation focused on delivering the best possible service.
Mr Desmond says: Using Pocket PCs gives Famac a competitive advantage because the company is now able to provide a better service to customers and ultimately reduce costs. Not only is Famac keeping one of its major customers Littlewoods happy, it is also able to provide a similar service for other customers. Using Microsoft technologies will ensure Famac can adapt to suit their different needs.
Mr Simpson confirms this point, The original business case for implementing LOGISITCS-Edge has proved to be well-founded. Our superior service ensures we are in a better position to enhance and grow our business relationships.
Established in 1976, Famac Network Ltd delivers 90 per cent of mail order goods from small packages to household furnishings, throughout Northern Ireland.
Famac wanted to enhance its service to customers by providing better management of its delivery workload and by the tracking of items once they leave the depot.
Microsoft Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs running LOGISTICS-Edge solution from RangeGate, WLAN installed in depot.
Enhances professional image and provides competitive advantage
Greater customer satisfaction and enhanced organisational efficiency due to ability to manage tasks, track deliveries and collect electronic proof of delivery
Improved reporting thanks to more accurate and up to date management data
Greater accuracy due to reduction in paper-based systems
Fewer claims for goods lost in transit
Improved staff productivity due to less time spent on paperwork
Microsoft Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC 2002
Microsoft SQL Server 2000
Microsoft Windows Server 2000
Microsoft Visual Studio .NET
Microsoft Embedded Visual C++
RangeGate Mobile Solutions
Symbol SPT 2846