The days of waiting at the mailbox for a package to arrive are effectively over. Thanks to today’s advanced logistics systems, it’s often possible to trace a parcel from its destination of origin, right to your doorstep, so you know when it’s coming and all of the stops it made along the way. M2M (machine-to-machine) technology is playing an increasingly important role in the logistics industry, thanks to connected devices and systems that can automate processes, making them more efficient and less error-prone.
UPS, www.ups.com, is one company that often comes to mind when thinking of logistics. Founded more than a century ago (in 1907), the company is now multibillion-dollar corporation, serving more than 220 countries and territories by managing the flow of packages, including freight, and helping to facilitate international trade. The company has achieved success in part because of its dedication to technology innovation.
Juan Perez, vice president of information services at UPS, says the company views technology as a key strategic priority. “UPS invests approximately $1 billion in technology each year and we constantly invest in technologies that improve our operational efficiencies, provide new services and capabilities to our customers, and help our customers improve their supply chains,” he says.
For instance, in 2000, UPS online tracking requests reached 6.5 million in a single day, a record high up to that point. That year, the company also added the ability to find transit times and calculate rates for shipments via digital wireless devices in the U.S.
Requests for tracking data now exceed 32 million on a daily basis, and the company continues to look for new ways to improve its operations—after all, its reputation is staked on the ability to deliver the right goods on time, every time. Today, to help it do just that, UPS unveiled an M2M solution powered by Motorola Solutions, www.motorolasolutions.com.
The logistics company has adopted Motorola Solutions’ RS507 Bluetooth ring imagers—“wearable” ring scanners that capture one or two-dimensional barcodes containing package information, then send the data via Bluetooth to an employee-worn terminal. From there, the terminal transmits the information via Wi-Fi to the UPS data center, where it is quickly processed and made available online to UPS customers.
Perez believes this realtime data is key: “Businesses and consumers today require realtime information regarding their shipments, so we are constantly evaluating new technologies and solutions that can improve our shipment visibility.”
The RS507 Bluetooth ring imagers can be worn like a ring on employees’ fingers. The terminal device is worn around an employee’s wrist or on his hip. The imager can even alert employees to mistakes in realtime. As the device reads the data embedded in each barcode, it verifies whether the package is being loaded into the proper trailer or air container. Audible and visible alerts identify potential errors.
UPS says the system is already in use at 480 facilities. The deployment is planned to reach completion by Q4 2013, covering 1,383 facilities. For customers, the connected tech will improve visibility throughout the delivery process. For UPS, the solution will help accelerate the loading of packages into vehicles, boosting worker productivity and efficiency. By adding delivery reliability and reducing errors, M2M technology is not only helping one company reach its goals, it’s helping to advance logistics across the globe.
Simply put, Perez says, technology powers logistics. In fact, moving forward, he believes technology will be imperative to meet today’s logistical demands: “I do not see how supply chains can be improved without the use of new, innovative, and more effective technologies.”