Holiday season 2020 saw an almost unprecedented parcel delivery capacity crunch. After an already challenging year, last mile delivery businesses faced a huge surge in peak season demand that put operations under serious pressure. The right last mile technology plays an essential role in mitigating the peaks.
The perfect storm driving up delivery volumes
The ongoing shift towards eCommerce amongst consumers is gaining pace. Sudden shutdowns, quarantines and even bad weather drove even more last minute shoppers online and ramped up delivery volume.
Source: ShipMatrix, 2021
It was called ‘Ship-ageddon’ by some. In the UK, Royal Mail estimated there were 200 million more parcels in the postal and courier system in 2020 than the same period in 2019. In the US, shipping firms delivered more than 3 billion packages throughout the full peak holiday period, post Thanksgiving (source: ShipMatrix).
With exhaustive planning and requiring significant investment in extra resources, on-time delivery rates held up better than many feared. But still more than 2 million parcels didn’t arrive before Christmas day in the US alone, while other countries also saw longer delivery timescales than usual. Because of the large volumes of packages in the networks, even those small percentages of delayed deliveries can affect millions of packages, and, crucially, delivery time and experience for customers.
The next peak is never far away
In the immediate aftermath, it’s a good time to reflect on what worked and plan for the next rapidly approaching peak. One thing we do know – volumes are only going to grow higher. And learning the lessons from the unplanned peaks of 2020, it’s clear that building in the highest levels of flexibility, resilience and efficiency into delivery operations is critical to cope with the unexpected.
One proven technology that is available, affordable and scalable to help tackle peaks is leveraging scanning-enabled smart devices in the last mile.
In this guide, learn three ways that smartphones powered by high performance barcode scanning and augmented reality software can help you to:
- Rapidly, cost effectively scale delivery capacity up (and down) with peak needs – no need to purchase hardware based on preliminary forecasts
- Get more from your existing capacity – boost speed, efficiency and drive down costs
- Innovate last mile processes with a flexible, future-proof technology platform.
1. Why smartphones are key to scaling the last mile
Scaling last mile technology without incurring massive operational costs is a huge challenge. In fact, in 2020 operating costs nearly doubled due to:
- Adapting to new safety requirements (contactless delivery)
- Surging parcel volumes
- Lack of cargo capacity
With scalability and savings more critical than ever when preparing for peak, equipping last mile drivers with a smartphone scanning solution provides a more flexible, cost-efficient alternative to dedicated hardware scanning devices.
Time to Replace Handheld Barcode Scanners
Scandit software turns any camera-enabled smart device into a powerful barcode, text and image scanner. Frontline workers use scanning-enabled mobile apps on a single, familiar smart device to speed through their day-to-day delivery tasks with minimal training needed. This can either be a smart device provided by the enterprise or a personal smartphone owned by the employee.
Why smartphones are built for the last mile
Combining powerful smart devices with Scandit’s enterprise-grade barcode scanning and computing vision software is a proven combination. With Scandit, scanning performance using smart devices matches or exceeds that of traditional scanners in even challenging real-world conditions – while the total cost of ownership (TCO) is typically x3 lower cost than providing dedicated scanners.
That’s why over 3.5 million Delivery drivers around the world use Scandit every day, scanning over 5 billion parcels per year.
So how can smartphones specifically help tackle seasonal and unexpected peaks?
2. Scale and flex to solve the capacity crunch
Delivery businesses are challenged with scaling last mile resources, both in terms of people and technology, in order to:
- Meet the ever growing delivery volume of traditional seasonal peaks (Black Friday, Christmas, etc)
- Be able to react rapidly to the unexpected – such as the pandemic-created peak in March 2020 or even staff shortages due to sickness/self-isolation
This typically means the need to source temporary workers and temporary tools to enable them to work. In March 2020 alone, Amazon hired 100,000 delivery drivers to cope with a surge in demand. Getting them equipped and on the road where speed is of the essence is no small task.
Sourcing dedicated scanners to equip temporary workers, despite their ruggedness and good scan performance, is a high cost, high maintenance, low flexibility investment with limited potential for future innovation.
It also means you are potentially left with a stock of expensive devices that may sit unused when you aren’t running at peak capacity. Far from ideal when tapping into the gig economy.
This is where scanning-enabled smartphones provide an answer.
Scale at speed with the performance you need
Temporary, holiday, contract or permanent employees may come from a range of backgrounds, but most of them have used smart devices, which makes any training for workflows on smart devices faster and easier. With Scandit-powered mobile apps, you can enable top notch scanning performance on over 20,000 smart device models.
There are a few ways enterprises can capitalize on smartphones in the last mile at or ahead of peak season:
- Adopt a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy: You can enable seasonal workers or contractors with scanning-enabled mobile apps on their personal smartphones, scaling with more speed and less cost with no need to procure devices. And Scandit brings enterprise-grade scanning performance to your apps, no matter the make or model of the drivers’ device.
- Lower costs by switching from scanners to smartphones: It is quick and simple to deploy lower-cost, easily sourced corporate-owned smart devices with scanning-enabled apps for last mile drivers, without decreasing scan performance or investing in more, inflexible hardware scanners.
Factors why BYOD makes sense
For rapidly scaling delivery staff and technology up and down, especially when facing an unexpected surge in volume or high staff sickness levels where hiring speed is key, BYOD makes a lot of sense.
Cost saving versus hardware solutions: Using a software smart device scanning solution, rather than dedicated scanners, can typically lower the TCO. And with a BYOD strategy, even allowing for any employee reimbursement scheme, it means no need to own, stock, or maintain company devices, creating further cost savings.
Also, replacing just one dedicated scanner is the equivalent to reimbursing the cost of replacing an average of three to four mobile devices. Accessories such as straps and protective cases can also be factored into any employee reimbursement scheme, while still offering a savings against dedicated scanning hardware.
Speedy onboarding with their own phone: With their own familiar, easy-to-use smart devices, employees can be trained faster and are able to become proficient very quickly.
User satisfaction: Employees don’t need to carry around and use multiple devices for work and their personal life during shifts. And employees are more likely to look after and not lose/break their personal device!
The flexibility to choose
There is no one-fits-all solution and the decision to deploy BYOD or enterprise-owned smart devices can be tailored to your specific company needs and profile.
BYOD or COPE?Checkout our Infographic to see the advantages of each approach and help define your ideal strategy for Mobilizing the Last Mile.
Adopting a hybrid approach is common when it comes to mobile deployment and ownership strategies, even across different divisions, employee groups or even processes. Smartphones with the right software and approach provide even more flexibility when it comes to addressing planned or unplanned peaks.
Yodel & BYOD: Rapid deployment and a transformed courier experience
Delivery company Yodel replaced parcel delivery scanners with a mobile app that delivery drivers use on their smartphones or on company-provided devices. Productivity is up, as couriers confirm proof of delivery in real-time with a quick barcode scan.
“The app has transformed our on-the-road courier experience. It was deployed rapidly to users, on time, with no issues. We are delighted in our partnership with Scandit in terms of product quality, technical support and their roadmap for future innovation – factors critical to the success of our transformation program.”Helen Marshall, Chief Information Officer, Yodel
3. Maximise existing capacity, don’t compromise on performance
Last mile workflows are at the core of the enterprise value chain. Any delay, error or downtime within these workflows easily becomes a cost center, while negatively impacting on your customers’ satisfaction.
Integrating Scandit scanning into delivery apps operating on smartphones is a simple way to help existing employees become more efficient to tackle ever growing volumes. So when you are looking for ways to get more from your current resources and drivers, switching to software scanning is a smart solution.
Perform on any device, in any conditions
Smartphones not only don’t disrupt traditional workflows, they can actually add speed, efficiency and innovation to last mile processes – but only when performance is up to scratch.
Crucially, Scandit’s enterprise-grade scanning performance is outstanding on almost any device model and in any conditions a driver might face.
Scandit enabled super reliable performance in the challenging environments of last mile deliveries – scanning packages at range in the van, in bad or too bright light, at any angle for ease and speed, when barcodes are ripped or damaged and in adverse weather conditions – whether on a high-end or low-end smartphone.
Hermes UK lowers last mile costs with smartphone scanning
Scandit’s robust and reliable scanning on mobile devices transformed the last mile delivery and verification process for 4,000 Hermes UK couriers. The plan to replace dedicated devices for 15,000 couriers with the lower-cost Scandit smartphone solution is integral to providing a flexible platform to manage consumer demand.
“Scandit technology allows our couriers to do everything from a smartphone quickly and easily. From scanning a barcode to recording an electronic signature, verifying an ID and taking a picture of where a package has been left.”Chris Ashworth, CIO, Hermes UK
4. Enable innovation to unlock new efficiencies
With high-performance scanning-enabled apps, last mile enterprises can simplify workflows and essential tasks for drivers on the road, including:
- Loading the van
- Identifying special packages
- Driver searching and find
- Proof of Delivery
Take this typical example of loading the van. Traditionally, drivers would need to point at and scan the barcode on each package with the handheld scanner. Familiar but tedious and repetitive.
By using a smartphone with Scandit SDK, drivers can scan in one sequence using continuous scan mode for fast, efficient, high volume scanning. Less fatigue compared to hardware scanners, select different symbologies when multiple present and minimal training is required. Watch how it works:
Or by leveraging innovative but accessible augmented reality (AR) technology with MatrixScan AR, you can support employees with real-time feedback on screen. This enables high efficiency batch scanning by visualizing workflows and errors with the AR overlays providing instant feedback of task completion or other essential information. Watch it in action:
These are just a few of the examples of how you can digitally transform your driver operations with barcode scanning and AR. Check out more last mile innovations.
It’s never too early to prepare for peaks – you never know when they will hit
These are some of the things smartphones give you the capability to do to get ahead of the next peak. Scandit technology offers you flexibility, choices, and advantages to help you make future-proof choices to expand your delivery operations scalably, without major disruption or breaking the bank.
Contact us today to get a demo of Scandit’s full solution in action.