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The rise in Internet-based sales has led to major expansion in the logistics needed to support the resultant home delivery sector. The continuous requirement for companies to provide a fast, efficient and cost-effective delivery service to business and consumers alike is more important than ever. However, tracking down home addresses can be time consuming.

To help solve that problem Microlise, the Nottingham-based supplier of end-to-end technology solutions for the supply chain, has developed a low cost in-cab satellite navigation system which provides visual and audio directions for the driver.

The Satellite Navigation module integrates with the company’s existing Opus Fleet and Distribution Real-time Proof of Delivery (POD) and Proof of Collection (POC) solutions. The driver uses a handheld Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) or lower cost Pocket Digital Assistant (PDA) style terminal, to download delivery manifest and schedule details for a route and accurately confirm the delivery or collection of goods, capturing any clauses or exceptions, as well as the recipient’s signature and often printing a delivery receipt in the process.

These Mobile-data systems are linked to the traffic office or customer service centre, predominantly using GPS data networks and enable real-time visibility of the delivery or collection process.

Adding last mile satellite navigation, offering both visual and audible turn-by-turn navigation, enhances the value of using such terminals in the cab for very little additional cost, underpinning an already rapid payback through increased driver efficiency, reduced mileage and delays, lower fuel costs, and increased customer service.

While the supply chain systems used in controlling distribution centres are well established, equivalent products used in the management of delivery fleets are still in their comparative infancy. To address this, Microlise has developed a product portfolio to control and manage the mobile distribution process through its Opus Fleet and Distribution solutions. These incorporate Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) using GPS satellite tracking in the vehicle so that the traffic office has complete central visibility of the fleet together with an in-vehicle electronic Proof of Delivery (POD) solution. This usually consists of a rugged Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) or a lower cost PDA-style terminal. The POD system provides manifest details and the ability to confirm accurate delivery of the goods to the address, including recipient signature capture. The data and the vehicle location information are transmitted to the traffic office via mobile communications – predominantly using GPRS.

Direction demand

In the context of “last mile navigation”, we all know how to get to a larger location, like Birmingham, but to deliver to a particular street address in a suburb is more difficult. This is particularly relevant to delivery drivers where the addresses change from day-to-day. In these circumstances delivery drivers usually resort to A-Z indexes. However these are slow to use and are not available for the whole of the country. Consequently Microlise has received significant interest from home delivery, couriers, parcels and 3PLs for a more efficient method of directing their delivery drivers.

Where an existing POD terminal is accompanied by GPS tracking through an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) Black box installed in the vehicle, then “last mile navigation” is provided though a simple software add-on on the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). Where no Black box solution has been installed, GPS satellite data can be presented to the MDT through the addition of a small GPS receiver. That receiver can also provide terminal based Automatic Vehicle Location, to allow tracking of the vehicle by the central Traffic Office.

The Satellite Navigation module is fully integrated with Microlise’s POD applications, which feed the next address directly to the guidance software, eliminating the driver from entering any details. This applies to all drops on the journey. Once the driver leaves the depot, the navigation software takes over and can give turn-by-turn details including moving map displays and audible instructions. Maps show the current location and simple icons showing the distance to the next navigation point, (junction, round-about, for instance). Audible instructions back this up, giving plenty of notice (typically 200m to 500m in advance) of the next turn and re-enforcing it again nearer the turn itself.

Concerns about the drivers’ attention being focused on the map rather than the road, is allayed via two options. A speed limit can be set which when exceeded, turns the map into a simple display of the next turn instruction and distance to it. If this is still too much, the display can be completely disabled over a defined speed – audible instructions will still be given.

We have all taken a wrong turning at some time or other. Here the system will automatically re-calculate a new route within seconds, issuing updated instructions to the driver. This is also of use where the driver ‘knows best’ and has a reason to take a particular route. The system will automatically re-calculate a new route as required.

The software can also provide an estimated time of arrival (ETA) which can also be made available to the host software via the GPRS link. This ETA time can be used to enhance CRM performance, informing the customer by phone, email, SMS or Web of the expected delivery time.

The mapping includes all the UK street-level detail, including one-way systems. European maps are also supported. The POD application can also overlay icons on the map to represent customer sites, depots etc.

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