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Freight provider uses new technology to speed up business processes

Supplier: Intermec
20 September, 2012

Star Track Express is one of Australia's premier express freight and logistics providers with over 1500 drivers in the field, handling over a million scans per day.

As part of a large infrastructure upgrade, the company sought to improve on their already industry leading reputation in a variety of areas including electronic proof of delivery and capturing manual processes on their handheld computers.

Star Track Express has always been innovative in their use of mobile technology, having already implemented a first generation supply chain solution. It was a natural progression that their next rollout should build on the processes they already had in place and minimise integration time – ensuring that their reputation as a reliable carrier was not compromised.

Being a company with such a high level of customer satisfaction and reputation to uphold, Star Track Express recognised that future-proofing their solution meant removing the manually driven processes. According to Star Track Express IT Director, Max Robson, in order to ensure "continued growth, we needed to replace the remaining manual, handwritten elements of our operating procedures with a fully integrated mobility solution".

The challenge

Star Track Express had a need to reduce the use of paper through the full delivery cycle and reduce the time that it took for their customers to view their payment on deliveries online. This was coupled with a desire to allow back-office procedures to be more integrated with the day-to-day processes of the business – giving way to increased efficiency among their 1,500 drivers and significant levels of IT support staff.

Until recently, Star Track express had been battling with inefficiencies in a variety of areas, primarily due to their paper-based system. This led to data loss between on-road staff and back-end personnel, as well as a serious lack of quality control in some of the business rules which were inconsistently applied. This had on-flow affects to customers who employ express freight and logistics providers, who are becoming increasingly involved within the shipping process and expecting more from their carrier.

Star Track Express also sought a way to capture manual processes on their handheld to better account for drivers' time and be able to dynamically update their workload dependent on the tasks they were doing and where they were located.

The inefficiencies of a paper-based are known within the logistics sector. These include the obvious risks of lost or misplaced paperwork, inaccurately inputted information by back-end staff and a delay in the issuing of invoices to clients. However due to the urgency of many express post parcels, the labour intensive filling-in of these forms often wasted precious time of drivers – leading to a reduction of customer satisfaction as well.

Improving customer satisfaction by maximising efficiency

Star Track Express required a solution which was capable of providing the ability for Star Track Express drivers on the road to manifest consignments and labels on-board for delivery; to obtain a signature via sign-on glass as payment on delivery; to accept and complete pick-up jobs; and to guarantee delivery of messages from the device are made available to the Star Track Express network.

To ensure that their solution had the backing of all operational personnel, Star Track Express made a point of involving all relevant stakeholders in the researching and implementation project – this included thousands of opinions ranging from drivers, IT departments, operations and even customers.

By involving all levels of the corporate structure, Star Track Express had an increase in the speed of uptake in the new systems as all of their stakeholders could see how the new processes directly affected their jobs and had the features they had requested from top tier management. This process came as part of the company's overall improvement and modernisation of their systems including terminals and sorting hubs.

Star Track Express employed Blackbay Ltd to find effective solutions using Intermec's industry leading CN4 handheld computer, focusing on maximising efficiency and emphasising solutions which would give a range of benefits to their customers.

Star Track Expresses implemented a complete mobility solution which allowed them to automate their entire delivery and collection process in real time. This was achieved by enabling their drivers to scan all items within and outside the depot, electronically manifest consignments, collect proof of delivery via ‘sign on glass' and to accept and complete pickups in the field.

The use of Blackbay's Delivery Connect system allowed the transfer of this information from the CN4 directly to the Star Track Express back office systems providing instant visibility on the whereabouts of drivers and their consignments to the organisation and its customers. This in turn led to increased functionality for staff and on-flow effects to customers. This came as information was updated dynamically – covering scheduled and ad hoc collections and deliveries, third party collections, in-depot operations, and return-to-depot operations.

Significant ROI benefits were gained by Star Track Express from the handheld technology deployed. Specifically, cost savings were delivered through ongoing maintenance and the infrastructure required to process enquiries relating to deliveries. This included a reduction in the "rate of return" from 12 per cent to less than five per cent and a 50 per cent decrease in the cost of scanner repairs.

Star Track Express also saw tangible efficiency gains through utilising Intermec's CN4 mobile computers. Staff and customers benefited from a 25 per cent reduction in the time it takes to manifest deliveries, which meant that staff were more efficient and the customers receive their deliveries quicker and with less mistakes, also meaning less phone calls to call centres with enquiries about PODs.

Using SOTI MobiControl's advanced Helpdesk tools and Remote Control functionality in conjunction with Intermec's CN4 also allowed for an increased ‘up time' of devices. Using the advanced systems in conjunction with the CN4 gives support staff the ability to remotely access any device and see exactly what the courier sees on the screen – taking control if needed. The solution also allows Star Track Express to oversee all of their remote mobile hardware and software assets from a central console, as well as to wipe lost or stolen devices of sensitive customer information or corporate data.

Intermec's GPRS/3G and GPS enabled CN4 rugged mobile computers also provide real-time visibility of Star Track Express drivers and their consignments. This means customers will have a more accurate view of where their package is and when it will reach its destination and ensuring quality control measures are kept in place.

"As our business continues to grow it is important that we are able to meet the increasing demands of our customers to track their pickups and deliveries online," Robson said.

In addition, since the introduction of the Intermec handheld devices, Star Track Express has seen their invoicing procedures go from hours, to minutes, as well as a significant reduction in the time employees need to manually process the Proof of Delivery paperwork.

A market-leading partnership

Star Track Express has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the changes from both their customers and their staff. As a result of their rigorous screening process, Star Track Express is seeing tangible benefits which will only help to build their already market-leading reputation.

They put this down to a variety of factors, not least of which is the sheer number of people who were involved in the project – there were over 2,000 staff and 7,500 customers who played an active role in the project.

"The solutions are very good, there's less paper and we're operating more efficiently, and the customers have responded well to them too – the support from those involved has been great," Robson said.

There are also benefits in other areas – Robson says that feedback from IT staff has been that they now have a much greater understanding of the issues drivers face when delivering: "IT people have gone out to the business, it's really helped us better understand the processes in the field by gaining an operational perspective."

Customers have been positive about the results as well, stating that the amount of time that has been cut down on receiving goods has been a huge leap forward. Where some customers were signing 30-40 consignment notes per delivery, now they are signing only a couple – some customers stating that the new processes are saving over an hour a week just in receiving goods. When you multiply that by the number of customers who employ Star Track Express' service, it becomes apparent that there are huge productivity gains to be gained across the board for both supplier and customer.

By partnering with Intermec and Blackbay, Star Track Express will continue to lead the industry with the lowest loss and damage rates; increased transparency and visibility of service; along with real-time exception management alerting.

And it's only the beginning, says Star Track Express IT Director, Max Robson: "There's plenty more to come, these are only the first steps to doing better what we do today, and have done yesterday."