Postbox

Santa-like efficiency: delivering online Xmas shopping with GIS

By: Simon Weaver, Analytics Programme Manager at Esri UK
Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 - 10:20 GMT Jump to Comments

This year it is estimated that online Christmas shopping will grow by some 14 per cent, eclipsing last year’s high.

In 2014, UK shoppers spent an incredible £21.6 billion on gifts over the festive period. This year it won’t just be excited children twitching at their curtains to catch sight of Santa, and checking his progress via Nasa’s famous Santa tracker. Time-sapped parents relying on those last minute deliveries will be be praying that weather conditions and unforeseen disruptions don’t stop the last available Tracy Island toy arriving in time to put under the tree.

Last year, the media was littered with online shoppers extolling their fury after it was revealed that stretched couriers were struggling to deal with a massive backlog of presents. Tens of thousands of people are thought to have gone without on Christmas morning. The annual online scramble is part of a dramatic change in the way people shop. By the end of the year, UK retailers are expected to send more than 860 million parcels to British homes, up almost a half from the 600 million sent in 2012.

To help with the surge, online retail giant Amazon is in the process of recruiting an additional 19,000 seasonal workers. The Royal Mail is recruiting the same number of staff to help distribute the post over the festive period.

There are now more delivery vehicles on the road than ever before to help facilitate the trend. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that van registrations have increased by almost 17 per cent this year. There are now two-thirds more commercial vehicles than there were just ten years ago, and the SMMT estimates that there are now around 40,000 delivery drivers.

At Christmas, fleet managers need to make sure daily fleet movements and maintenance schedules run efficiently without compromising quality customer service. Through Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping and analytical capabilities, transport and logistics companies can unlock big data to improve shipping times and track dynamic assets, weather systems and other real-time environmental data.

Modern day GIS can help plan and manage the fleet by increasing the number of deliveries per route while decreasing excess capacity. Optimised routing is much more than just considering the quickest way to get from A to B, though. Dispatchers need to consider every element that affects daily operations. GIS helps companies maximise the use of assets to create optimum routes based on specific variables including vehicle capabilities, driver specialties, changing street network restrictions, and customer time windows. 

Some GIS solutions now enable customised real-time feeds, giving company executives, dispatchers and customer representatives a 360 degree view of the most up-to-date information in a user-friendly format.

As much as highlighting what works well, such solutions also highlight potential issues. Large courier companies like FedEx use real time location information for vehicles and geo-fences to provide an early warning when a vehicle falls behind time and might miss a delivery window. This is important, as missing a delivery window can lead to penalty charges. If you can identify that the window will be missed early enough, then you can give notice and negotiate a new delivery window that it is more realistic.

By implementing GIS solutions, customers typically make savings of up to 30 per cent in operational expenses through a reduction in mileage, overtime, and routing planning time to improve efficiency. The mileage savings have the added advantage of reducing the company’s carbon footprint, thus advancing green credentials and ensuring they meet increasingly stringent government regulations.

With customer expectations soaring, logistics companies are under increased pressure in the run up to Christmas to deliver millions of online shopping orders with Santa-like efficiency. By integrating data from existing workforce, fleet, and customer management systems, GIS can help overcome many of the traditional hurdles and reduce the time from click to tree.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

Comments

Latest

Outdated infrastructure and an increasingly fragmented market threaten the future of technology-enabled integrated care.

County Durham voters back devolution in the North-East, Sir Digby Jones considers run for West Midlands mayor…

The recent launch of The Mayoral Tech Manifesto 2016 on London’s digital future, sets out a clear agenda…

The manufacturing industry is currently facing scrutiny from parties concerned for its survival. Far from facing…

Almost a year ago, I made some predictions for what would take place in government and public sector customer…

Sheffield, Warrington and Doncaster announce cuts, Lincolnshire is held to data ransom, fight begins for West…

Working for an education charity delivering numeracy and literacy programmes in primary schools, I’m only…

Northamptonshire County Council recently received the maximum four star rating from Better connected after putting…

Historically, the entrance of new generations into the workplace has caused varying levels of disruption. The…

Following another commendation for digital services, Surrey County Council's Web and Digital Services Manager,…

We cannot carry on spinning the roulette wheel that is cyber security, knowing that the “castle and moat”…

This week David Cameron wades into row over £69m of cuts planned by Oxfordshire CC; Stoke on Trent plans…