With economic, regulatory and competitive pressures driving traditional postal and delivery companies, only those adapting to new market conditions by streamlining processes and utilising new technologies will grow.
A decade ago, when e-mail first emerged as a real threat to the postal service, Royal Mail worked with the Microsoft Network (MSN) in an innovative attempt to offer a service that allowed people to e-mail someone without an e-mail account. It translated e-mail to paper and delivered the letter as standard post. Although this was not a successful service, it did demonstrate the industry’s willingness to embrace technology in order to co-exist with it.
Recently, companies within the industry have also innovated using technology, including the use of mobile computers and barcode scanners to compete. Increasingly, technologies such as RFID and GPS will enable advanced services to be offered to both private and enterprise customers, including real-time local traffic advice and allowing customers to track and trace their post in real-time on a map.
While technological challenges and innovations differ between enterprise and consumer, requirements remain the same: provision of a speedy, reliable service that delivers items on time, in good condition, and to anywhere in the world.
With the uptake of RFID and barcode tools, post can now be tracked throughout the entire logistics chain. This means any problems in the chain can be identified and rectified quickly. Postal service operators are even using cameras to give high quality proof of delivery and condition, along with GPS to improve accountability, while enabling route-optimisation and location, and time-specific collection and delivery data.
As technology evolves, delivery vehicle drivers might also be capable of using mobile computers to take payments, record customer data, and print and issue documents on the doorstep. This will dramatically extend their traditional roles while improving the customer experience.
In the coming years, customers who regularly receive goods from websites could also have an enhanced experience through better security. They might be able to opt into a service where the delivery company securely stores biometric data, such as fingerprints, enabling the safe delivery of their products to only them or a named other. These extended offerings will help to ensure that postal and delivery organisations remain profitable and necessary in the modern business ecosystem.
It is clear that the postal and delivery industry has faced, and will continue to face, real challenges from the wide use of technology by businesses and consumers. However, utilising technology will allow the industry to thrive through adaptation and extension of its operations, offering a bigger and better service to its customers than has ever been possible before.
David Picton, Director of the Industry Solutions Group at Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility business, EMEA