A Day in the Life of a Parcel – Part Three

A Day in the Life of a Parcel – Part Three

Editor’s note: This blog post is part of a three-part series on A Day in the Life of a Parcel. The first segment discussed new innovations in the economics of supply chain and logistics. Part two discussed innovations in package labeling and efficiency gains for a carrier. This segment covers game-changing innovations in the last mile and return logistics.​

Most packages are delivered by a carrier to a residence or retail location. However, today’s busy consumer is often unavailable to pick up the package during normal retail hours or to sign for it at their home. And, in some areas, packages delivered without signature can disappear at the hands of a modern “porch pirate.” Finally, the packages delivered to university and corporate campuses are overwhelming the mailrooms, many of which are unequipped to deal with today’s high volumes.

Interestingly, a new delivery-point solution developed in Europe is beginning to gain traction in the U.S. and Canada.

Smart lockers, or intelligent parcel terminals, are Internet-enabled freestanding kiosk systems that can notify the recipient by a simple text message that their package is waiting for pickup at a specific locker location. Once there, the consumer merely scans the provided barcode or QR code from a text message to retrieve their package. This solution addresses inconvenient delivery challenges and package theft.

The latest game-changing innovation in the smart locker space – PackRobot – combines sophisticated robotics and a dynamic shelving system into a climate-controlled outdoor enclosure with capacity for up to 500 packages, bringing dramatic efficiency gains to this already convenient solution.

Watch the PackRobot in action.

It’s Not Over, ‘til It’s Over

Finally, one area we are discovering that has a lot of issues and is predominantly manual in nature is returns and reverse logistics. As we were exploring application of our mailing technologies in the parcel world we stumbled into one application I think is fascinating: mobile phone returns.

Our high-performance vision systems are generally used for very high-speed image capture, recognition, decoding and high integrity assurance in transactional mail applications.

Here, the reverse logistics processor uses our precision vision system to reduce the process of capturing the IMEI number from smartphones from five minutes down to 20 seconds – even in what remains a fairly manual process. I expect automated transport will soon bring that down further. So this one application is itself a 15x improvement over the current manual process.

Recapping the Journey

We have followed the parcel from its point of origin at the warehouse and distribution facility, through high-speed packaging and labeling, through automated sorting and transport by a carrier network, and finally to the last mile where it can be deposited and retrieved safely and securely. Imagine all of this happening within the course of one day.

Cascading the improvements from all these innovations into one workflow is game-changing and adding new value in the economics of supply chain and logistics.

Watch highlights of Ramesh Ratan’s presentation on A Day in the Life of a Parcel at MAILCOM 2016.


Ramesh Ratan
Chief Executive Officer at Bell and Howell. Connect with Ramesh on Linkedin.