How blockchain technology can transform courier service industry

A Century ago, supply chains and logistics were easily manageable. The commerce was generally localized and were handled by a few number of legal boards. Today, population, businesses, commodities grew exponentially and commerce has grown incredibly complex. We are technologically advanced now and implemented them to facilitate the globalized economic exchange.

Today, we have all the key players required for smooth transition of courier industry:

  •       Transportation: Cargo planes, truck drivers, railways, container vessels
  •       Enterprise players: Retail, manufacturers and suppliers
  •       Middlemen: Brokers, freight forwarders and other third parties
  •       Ancillary players: Financiers, insurance, regulators

Yet, there are a multitude of issues when it comes to trust and time. If you’re moving commodities across borders, there are many countries operating electronically. But there are a number of countries that still relies on paper works and manual protocols. Many of them have isolated software. They all have their centralized solutions but not effectively communicating with each other. This creates a lack of trust as any bad player can potentially harm your business. With several entities involved, invoicing and payment processes consume a lot of time. These problems are quite prevalent in the supply chain.

It’s really important all the players interact with each other and achieve end to end exchange of information in a secure manner. And therefore, blockchain is the need of the hour.

Blockchain is a cloud-based distributed ledger that provides an immutable record of transactions. Its decentralized platform provides a single source of truth that everybody can trust. Though transaction of information is shared on public ledger, the information can only be accessed by players involved. The data flows in encrypted form that can only be unlocked with private key.

The goal is to facilitate transparent information flow and solve the biggest issues of courier service industry. One of the benefits is that it eliminates a significant amount of middlemen that take a big chunk from your pie. Not only SMEs, customers also have to pay unnecessary fees.

Blockchain technology features new governance and economic models. It combines smart contracts and IoT. Smart contract is a coded agreement that automates the actions on blockchain. That means, it executes payments only if certain condition is met, also called ‘if-then’ principle.

Secondly, it features Internet of Things solutions that connects blockchain to the real world. Technologies such as RFID tags, NFC chips and QR codes are used. RFID chips helps transmit information in the radio waves, for example, in contactless credit cards. NFC works similarly (in smartphones). During packaging at warehouse, QR code is generated which helps to record time of shipping. In case of perishable food items, IoT sensors help to monitor the temperature conditions around the package.

As blockchain network is immutable, fraud is easy to detect. This has immense potential for pharmaceuticals, clothing and luxury goods as they suffer a lot from counterfeits. So, blockchain can closely monitor their logistics activities and extend beyond the confines of e-commerce industry.

Although blockchain is nascent, many businesses have started implementing the technology. Blockchain holds a promising future for courier industry as it will enable us to closely follow the shipment lifecycle that never existed before.

How technology drives courier service industry

Just imagine, your mother turns 60 tomorrow and you want to make her feel special. However, you are thousands of miles away and looking for an effective way to send her treat. With your last minute purchase, you’re now going to trust a courier company. Its race against time, so you don’t expect any delay.

But thanks to the technological disruptions that brought the world a little closer to each other. Especially the boom of e-commerce sector is having a profound effect on the courier services. But the major challenges such as customer acquisition and partnerships led the implementation of robust technologies. This eventually made it possible to parcel across continents in less than 24 hours.

Not only stationary items, courier services can help you enjoy Italian dinner in Australia. Imported food items are nowadays getting more traction. Let’s dive a little deeper to understand how technology-driven courier service can make a dish tastier.

It all starts when a chef in Paris receives an order for his trademark dish, Atlantic lobsters but there are none in his refrigerator. Having a day in hand, the chef places an order somewhere in Canada where lobsters are in abundance. The seafood warehouse that farms thousands of freshly fished seafood receives the order for a couple of lobsters. After vet-checking, the handpicked lobsters are placed in a seafood package and ready to be shipped. However, the concern is, lobsters can survive only a couple of days without water and so high speed delivery is crucial. So the package is loaded in courier van and immediately transported to automated delivery/sorting center spread in the large area.

After unloading at cargo drop-off point, the package accompanies millions of others on the conveyor belts. The automated belts are capable of sorting thousands of packages every hour. To keep track of the packages, they are tagged with a barcode that encodes their respective addresses and are left to glide on the main belt. In case barcode gets damaged or unable to be scanned by RFID system, photographs are relayed to the team where they manually register and redirect the parcel.

Now the packages are shifted to singulators that assembles and direct the packages to their departure belts. Moreover, for irregular shaped or small sized parcels, there is a separate segment for sorting. Each package thus completes the roller-coaster ride in mere 5-10 minutes and are loaded in the cargo containers. Each weighing approximately 225 kg, containers are boarded on the respective flights.

Coordinating the flights carrying parcels worldwide is a huge challenge. Therefore, each flight is being monitored by air traffic control to make sure they are heading in the right direction and in time. Now in the designation country, the packages are unloaded and sent to the customs department. After clearing customs, the packages are being delivered to the respective addresses. Meanwhile in Paris, the chef receives lobsters in time and is ready to prepare his trademark cuisine.   

Currently, investments are pouring in heavily in courier sector. A number of startups are emerging and partnering with technology companies to provide value for customers. In a competent environment, this has become essential for the budding companies to adopt newer trends and bring new customer experience. One can notice the marginal differences in how companies today allow flexibility to customers to track, place or claim their orders. Also the mobility applications that allows drivers and dispatchers track shipments and deliverables. Looking into the prospect, courier service sector is all set to become the next trillion-dollar industry.

Machine learning to drastically change the way courier management software works

Back in the 90’s, robots, drones, artificial intelligence in computing sounded something like fantasy. We grew up hearing fictional stories about these unconventional technologies that we never knew would turn into a reality. Such technologies have transformed nearly every field they touched with courier industry being no exception.

By 2022, the global e-commerce industry is more likely to reach near a staggering $3 trillion economy. This astronomical number in fulfilling the market needs is becoming the norm. When e-commerce industry came into life, people were compromised with the high delivery fees. Many customers were satisfied with the products being delivered to them in a week or two and were accustomed to using their fingertips to buy items online.

But now, people are more instrumental about the quick and free delivery fulfillment. And so it’s a high time for the logistics to meet the demands of consumers. Therefore, courier companies are now investing in new technologies to support the parcel volume growth, to fulfill delivery targets in specific time slots and also to meet the changing customer demands for fast and free shipping.

Therefore, some forward-thinking courier industries envisioned about Smart Warehouse that became a global buzzword. Smart Warehouse promises to optimize the way of receiving, picking, packing, storing and shipping couriers. But this whole drama and action includes a number of big actors such as self-driving vehicles, Internet of things, cloud logistics, big data, low –cost sensor technology, digital identifiers, bionic enhancement, augmented reality and self-learning systems. And this action-packed plot is written by machine learning.

Out of your curiosity, machine learning is much more than just the definition here. But for the basic understanding, it is a sub-field of artificial intelligence where computers have the ability to comprehend the data in a critical manner without the need of explicitly providing instructions. For example, our smartphone cameras can scan and detect the handwritten texts, but it is not programmed to understand the words flawlessly. It can only detect the computerized fonts better. But what if we program them to teach itself. We can clearly identify a word handwritten by a professional and the same word by a kindergarten child. But the way letters are woven in both cases is unidentifiable to computers unless it is programmed to “do it yourself”.

What are the implications of Smart Warehouse?

  •   Human errors: More automated systems mean less room for mistakes.
  •   Cost and time saving: With reduced errors, productivity will improve significantly. The process of sorting, scanning and moving items will speed up. Automated machines will save electricity by stabilizing movement of machineries.
  •   Happier faces: With the lightning speed service and error-free delivery, more customers will approach the service. They will appreciate the low-cost delivery.  
  •   Outplay the competitors: Even though your competitors have been in the space for longer, implementing smart strategies would help your business to leapfrog them.
  •   Innovative environment: Use of robust technologies such as speech recognition software, RFID readers and augmented reality wearables would let you go hands free and encourage to work smarter.
  •   Flying calculator: Use of drones in warehouse would help to scan and count the items or bar codes on-the-fly.

Doesn’t this sound exciting how journey of a courier is going to be automated from storage to shipping. But what about shipping to delivery? Well, we have miles to go. Until now, don’t freak out when you see an exoskeleton robot waiting outside for you to receive.