With the ability to buy nearly anything with the click of a mouse, today’s consumers have swapped shopping bags from the mall for packages on their doorstep.
But this increase in deliveries has caused significant issues, particularly in urban areas where delivery trucks are causing traffic jams as they stop at each building to drop off parcels – sometimes multiple times per day, says Ajay Rane, VP of Business Development, Sigfox.
With this trend unlikely to reverse, the question is: how can we leverage technology to reduce traffic while still meeting customer delivery expectations?
The IoT may be the answer. From package tracking to delivery optimisation, IoT networks and devices can provide the data and insights required to streamline the myriad problems caused by the holiday shopping season.
Accurately track packages and reduce losses
The holiday season means more inventory coming and leaving retail warehouses. It also means an increased risk of shipments and containers being lost or damaged as they make their way from source to destination.
After a container leaves a warehouse, understanding where shipments may go awry is critical to addressing small issues before they turn into big problems. That said, this is easier said than done. A million different things can go wrong in transit and it’s extremely challenging to keep tabs on every shipment.
Retailers and manufacturers struggle to manually detect, for instance, whether a box with fragile items tips over, or if a container falls off a delivery truck at some point. And while these one-off instances are nearly impossible to manage, they could make or break consumer loyalty.
To help, IoT-enabled smart sensors attached to shipping containers can offer insight into container location and conditions – including temperature, humidity, shock and tilt of the shipment – throughout the journey.
Armed with these insights, stakeholders can more efficiently address the issue at hand – perhaps for instance, reordering damaged or lost items as soon as the problem arises to ensure customers still get their goods on time.
With the cost of single use IoT sensors and trackers approaching sub-$1 and eventually sub-10cents, we can expect individual package level tracking using IoT in the near future to help further optimise package delivery and provide even more insights to help optimise holiday package delivery.
Monitor traffic patterns to avoid delays
The IoT can also provide updates on another big source of package delays: traffic.
City streets are already clogged with traffic, and it’s likely that the upcoming holidays will only make this bad problem worse. In fact, a 2018 study said that holiday travel times in the most congested U.S. cities could be as much as four times longer than a normal trip.
The thousands of delivery trucks picking up and dropping off packages contribute to what will be nothing short of a congestion nightmare for drivers, as well as for retailers and consumers anxiously anticipating deliveries.
By placing IoT sensors around cities, such as on traffic lights, buildings or other fixtures, drivers can determine when streets are busiest and strategically plan to avoid times of high volume.
Traffic information can also help better plan routes according to where and when packages have to be delivered, if someone is receiving multiple packages in one day or if there is a central post office or e-commerce warehouse that can act as a central location for all surrounding package pickups. As a result, drivers can operate more efficiently, saving both time and money (as well as customer frustration).
IoT is already enabling large package delivery vendors track and optimise availability of their assets such as roll carts and crates used for package delivery (or handoff) to local post offices and last-mile delivery services to help improve asset availability to increase efficiencies during times of peak demand.
Deliveries don’t have to cause driver, customer or stakeholder headaches this holiday season. By utilising the data that tools like IoT devices can collect, members of the supply chain can get better insights that guarantee quick deliveries with minimal problems, both during the holiday season and beyond.
The author is Ajay Rane, VP of Business Development, Sigfox