Optimising carrier deliveries the next wave for the parcels and courier market

If the last wave of investment in parcels and courier information technology was about consignment tracking and information-gathering, the next will be about optimising, streamlining and squeezing more efficiency out of every stage in the delivery process.

This is the message behind the display by MapMechanics (stand 2220) at the Courier and Parcel Logistics Expo 08, which is running at the ExCeL, London from 30 September to 2 October 2008.

MapMechanics has extensive experience in logistics software, scheduling optimisation and map-related planning and analysis, supplying customers such as City Link and TNT. MapMechanics can help users with everything from depot network planning and territory management to strategic and day-to-day scheduling, and its solutions range from nationwide trunk operations to local van deliveries and walking routes.

At ExCeL the company will be showing a wide range of its optimisation solutions for the parcels, courier and pallet delivery market, as well as offering a foretaste of an exciting new call sequencing solution for couriers that is due for launch in the near future.

Among new developments on show will be an enhanced version of MapMechanics StreetServicer, which helps optimise deliveries at street segment level. StreetServicer reduces the complex problems posed by operations with many delivery points to much more manageable and faster street-based calculations, helping users avoid unnecessary repeat visits to the same sections of road.

The latest version refines the process of associating addresses with the correct road link avoiding problems often encountered where an address is assumed to be on a given stretch of road because of its grid reference, when in reality it may be some distance away.

Delivery companies using self-employed couriers who operate on a piece-work basis are expected to find considerable appeal in a brand new system developed by MapMechanics to sort local deliveries quickly and logically into optimum call sequence. Working on the basis of postcodes and street mapping, the system can reduce the call planning process from hours to minutes, freeing the courier for more productive delivery time, and allowing the delivery company to increase the number deliveries per shift. This system is already fully functional, and is due for a formal launch in a few months time.

Already available from MapMechanics are a range of solutions to help businesses with highly localised delivery operations. These include systems to optimise door-drop routes, which can generate full walking lists for delivery teams and individual maps for each person.

Territory management is a key to efficient delivery operations, and MapMechanics will be showing various approaches to balancing delivery locations between territories. At regional level, the companys network planning solutions can help carriers to allocate work load to the most suitable depots particularly useful when carriers merge, add new branches to their networks or take over rival companies.

For managing territories at local level, MapMechanics will be showing systems to help users to work out which streets belong logically to which territory, and to allocate drop points to the most appropriate territory.

In the increasingly competitive parcels and courier market, customers are pressing carriers to offer ever later pickup times for next-day delivery, and MapMechanics network modelling tools can help users to establish the latest viable pickup times for individual locations to dovetail with trunk delivery departures.

For pallet network operations, MapMechanics optimisation solutions can also address a perennial puzzle faced by individual member-companies: when should they deliver a load using their own resources, and when does it makes more economic or operational sense to commit it to the national network instead?

Many of these solutions draw on MapMechanics long experience with both strategic and day-to-day routing and scheduling solutions, which will also be on show at the Courier and Parcel Logistics Expo. They include TruckStops, the worlds most widely-deployed vehicle routing and scheduling system, whose latest version 3.1 has enhanced ability to take account of the EUs Working Time Directive requirements. It now automatically maintains a correct relationship between drive breaks and work breaks, and allocates the appropriate type and duration of break at the correct place in the route.

In recent years MapMechanics has incorporated several of its individual solutions into its MapMechanics Mobile suite, which enables users to transmit daily schedules to drivers in real time, and makes it faster and easier to amend the sequence of drops or add or omit a call from the schedule. Route instructions can also be transmitted to the drivers PDA or mobile device in correct call sequence, so that navigation instructions to the next call point can be presented automatically.

Commercial director Chris Greenwood sums up: Historically, carriers have always recognised the value of sound operating procedures that take the unpredictability out of the job. Whilst respecting this approach, our solutions can highlight previously unrecognised opportunities to achieve new efficiencies in territory management, routing, job management and resource allocation. And at the same time, we can help carriers maintain the human touch through detailed, practical guidance information for the people on the ground.

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