Strategic Challenges

DEFENDING THE CORE

The first job of any business in a rapidly changing market is to position themselves to be agile, able to respond effectively to change.  The postal industry, after a couple hundred years of little change, is suddenly one of the most dynamic markets to operate in!  A good paradigm here is a good old Dutch windmill; it responds with ease to changes in wind direction, however it can only do that with a firm foundation and overall stability – this is why the core business of the post is so crucial.  Prime Vision as a postal operations and technical expert assists posts defend their core business. Prime Vision can help.

INCREASE OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY

Efficiency in your operation is essential for a profitable business, whatever your mail volumes may be.  With considerable margin pressures, especially with trends in decreasing letter volumes, it makes sense to routinely audit whether your operational strategy is best-fit for volumes handled.  Sometimes the answer is more automation, however sometimes the most efficient solution is a manual process augmented with technology to ensure speed and quality control.  Prime Vision has assisted posts gain operational efficiency with solutions such as voice-assisted hand sorting, mail registration and image lifting, advanced video-coding solutions, read-rate improvement programs and database optimization and improvement.  Prime Vision can help

LOWER OPERATIONAL COSTS

A focus on operational costs is essential for a profitable business, whatever your mail volumes may be.  With considerable margin pressures, especially with trends in decreasing letter volumes, it makes sense to routinely audit whether your operational strategy is best-fit for volumes handled.  In many cases lowering costs is part of a larger strategy to deliver competitive advantage, especially for USO posts that have a public commitment to service compared to other operators.  Sometimes the answer is more automation, however sometimes the most cost-efficient solution is a manual process augmented with technology to ensure speed and quality control.  Prime Vision has assisted posts gain operational efficiency with solutions such as voice-assisted hand sorting, mail registration and image lifting, advanced video-coding solutions, read-rate improvement programs and database optimization and improvement.  Prime Vision can help.

CONSOLIDATING MAIL OFFICES

Many posts are reviewing their portfolio of local and regional mail offices and looking for the optimum network operationally and commercially.  Prime Vision has assisted many posts in this process by providing process and technological solutions to challenges raised by consolidation.  For example, many posts do a final hand sort and sequencing process in local mail offices, often by the postman or delivery driver themselves.  This final sort relies on a great deal of local knowledge of delivery routes.  When consolidating mail offices, why not prepare the mail (at your sorting centers) such that it is sequenced correctly for the route, whether by foot or in a van?  This may require deeper level reading from your OCR platforms, changes to sorting processes, capturing local knowledge into the IT systems and much more.  Prime Vision can help.

INCREASE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

First time right!   Customer satisfaction drives loyalty and retention in an increasingly competitive environment, so crucial for your future success!  When something goes wrong you need to provide traceability to find out what happened, plus build in quality assurance measures to ensure error-reduction and quality of service.   Prime Vision has assisted posts in their efforts by providing more timely information, improving the quality of databases, reducing errors in reading systems and eliminating human error in keying systems. Prime Vision can help.

CAPTURING (BIG) DATA OPPORTUNITY

Big data is a mega-trend in the IT market, and presents many opportunities in the postal sector too that shouldn’t be ignored.  What’s your strategy regarding big data?  The big data opportunity for posts is really about seeing the big picture, across the organization, how can data from one process help you in other processes. The primary drivers, increasing customer experience, cost-efficiency, developing new revenue streams. Prime Vision can help.

SAVING COSTS IN THE LAST MILE

For the last mile many postal operators are relying on an additional sorting process when the item is shipped from central distribution to the local sorting center; often a hand sorting process that’s done by the post men before their round. That takes time and you need to tie up your manpower in every local sorting office for every round. Why not automatically sort to the cage level, position in the van or sequence in the mail man’s bag? Why not do this at the central sortation? Prime Vision can take care of distribution-ready sorting, for all those levels. We’ve done it for many posts like PostNL and PostNord on programs that have delivered significant cost savings, time savings and increasing efficiency.

Prime Vision offers more than just sortation. Another example for saving costs in the last mile is our Digital Mailman initiative. The scope of Digital Mailman is huge. It can be used for reporting a misrouted mail item, a mail box too small to receive the delivery or a road accident that puts the postman behind schedule. Photographs can be taken, of a damaged mail bag or mail piece for example, that are then forwarded to the relevant department. Prime Vision can help.

CAPITALIZE ON THE E-COMMERCE BOOM

It’s all about the capability to handle huge peaks in volumes (triggered by holiday seasons and the recent phenomena of sales events such as Black Friday, Singles Day, Cyber Monday etc.) and meet expectations for increased smarter services such as tracking, status and redirection. Automation and lowest-cost handling is key to being profitable at high-volumes. The Chinese singles day event has the highest e-commerce volume in the world and also during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are much higher than on other days of the year. The challenge here is to operate those big volumes just for 1 or 2 days and in the most cost efficient way as the customer is not willing to pay extra for it. One day can ruin your reputation for the whole year when customers don’t get the service they expect. Flexible automation is the solution; the capability to scale up by hundreds of percent in a short period of time of a short shopping window and scale back down to normal shipping volumes for the rest of the year and to flexibly sort small and large items. Prime Vision can help.

COST-EFFICIENT WAYS OF HANDLING CROSS-BORDER E-COMMERCE MAIL FLOWS

You only survive if you are fully automated! But how do you find an automation strategy that works for cross-border e-commerce which can present many challenges, from poor addressing, foreign languages on labelling and (last but not least) low terminal dues?    Prime Vision have many proven strategies that can help.   Is automation the only answer? Well when you factor in the cost element combined with low income from foreign posts (i.e. e-commerce flows originating in China), there is limited scope for funding the significant overhead of manual operations. We have smart ways of reducing any human interaction and clever ways of distributing this mail stream. PostNL for example eliminated the last mile for this category of mail, replacing it with a recipient collection service. We provide the process behind that. We can identify this category in the mail stream, give it Track & Tracing and help with the automation for ways of telling the customer there’s something for them to collect. Prime Vision can help.

Tactical Challenges

ADAPTING AUTOMATION TO LETTER DECLINE

As well as reducing the number of some sorters, it may be cost-efficient to adapt existing automation to meet new needs.  Prime Vision has a great deal of experience in helping clients reconfigure their hardware and software systems, even opening proprietary interfaces to systems in order to integrate them in new ways.  Our experts have a wide range of experience with all the leading sorting systems on the market. Performance may be further enhanced and additional capabilities added by integrating recognition software in parallel to existing software or as a complete replacement. Prime Vision can help.

INCREASING AUTOMATION RATES

Adding new recognition software to meet specific needs, either enhancing existing software with additional read-rate, reducing error-rates or adding new capabilities (such as indicia recognition).  Reading systems are a crucial element in achieving a high automation rate, however not the only element.  Prime Vision has a great deal of expertise in automation and can take a broad view across a process to see the root cause reasons that items fail automation and then make recommendations across the process to address those issues.  This could be handling, human interaction, data failures (i.e. EDI), address databases or reading systems.  Prime Vision can help.

INTELLIGENT SORTING

Data sources to come to a sorting decision, compared to traditional sorting systems.   Predictive patterns.

Reliance on taking intelligence out of the machine – open systems.

Modern interfaces, making sort decisions on-machine, or external system.   Dynamic sorting and sequencing.  Variation in mail volumes (changing markets, unexpected volumes), more dynamic approach than say a fixed sort process and relying on limited intelligence on the machine.  Posts don’t like sorting “thin air”, so efficiencies in distribution so trays and cages are fully loaded.  Matching delivery patterns to the network.

REDUCE MAIL PROCESSING TIME

Reducing labor hours.   OCR retry, reducing key strokes on vcs, reducing errors.  Item remains on the machine, no re-feeding or requiring offline processing.

What do we mean here?  It could be about eliminating automation failures, no-reads….or speeding-up manual processes (i.e. Assisted sorting, like cabinets).

Optimise automation to eliminate repeated passes

Identifying an item that is not resolvable on automation, so send to an offline process.

HANDLING MIXED MAIL STREAMS

Posts are discovering the value and flexibility of combining previously distinct mail streams with new sorting solutions now coming to market.  Prime Vision has expertise in this area and was part of a landmark project with a major post on integrating one of the first XMS sorters (Solystic) in Europe.  It’s not just about blurring the lines between letters and flats though….it could also be flats to parcels, and ultimately handling anything from a letter to a parcel.  Those capabilities exist today.   Why would you combine processes?  Well, the market demands for different mail categories is shifting massively, with letters generally suffering a 5-20% reduction in volumes each year, combined with huge increases in e-commerce driven small packets and parcels.  Dedicated sorting processes for specific mail streams enable you to specialize processing equipment and software to the task; in the mixed-mail world, you need to combine those specializations into a single solution.  Whilst many of our competitors are specialized in just letters automation or parcels automation, Prime Vision, with its decades of experience in letters, flats and parcels sorting solutions, is well-placed to build such mixed-mail solutions.  Prime Vision can help.

REVENUE PROTECTION / RECOVERY MEASURES

There are different ways of protecting your revenues:

  • DWS (Dimension Weigh Scan): a check on the physical characteristics of the mail piece, dimensions, volume, weight and any indicia or labels.  Most operators charging bands are based on a combination of these characteristics and hence are directly proportionate to revenues, so whether its domestic, international or third-party mail, seamless 100% verification of mail characteristics can eliminate fraud, build trust and importantly protect revenues due.   Prime Vision has deployed many solutions related to revenue protection for posts which cater for a broad range of scenarios, from 100% automated DWS systems for sorting systems to semi-automated handling stations.  Once parcel characteristics have been recorded, our central management platform (PremierMMS) provides seamless integration with related systems at the post, from finance (for re-billing) to EDI pre-advice to customer services. We have the technology to measure 100% of the mail stream whether its letters, parcels or flats and ways of collecting that revenue;
  • Check for under-stamped mail, i.e. mail with insufficient stamps or indicia.   New techniques in high-performance indicia recognition from Prime Vision is providing posts with a means of detecting under-stamped mail and triggering steps to process accordingly. Prime Vision can help.
  • Flexibility of new business rules – user-defined business rules, configurable now and in the future for new initiatives.  Use the business rules to detect if the price/weight and other attributes for specific streams.  Flexible rules engine.

LEVERAGE AVAILABILITY OF DATA SOURCES

As a high volume, transactional business, data is collected for individual processes from the first mile to the last mile, however individual systems often are not connected or designed to talk to each other.  Prime Vision systems can now reach out across the operation to integrate additional data useful to sorting tasks, or feed data to a central platform for many new applications.  Examples include improving decision-making systems for sorting operations dynamically based on a range of factors, such as weather and incidents across the network, traffic issues, operational capacity at facilities, staffing and much more.  Another example is collecting low-level status information from automation systems in order to establish a predictive maintenance system for your mission-critical systems, spotting at the earliest stage where a fault may impact operations and taking timely action or mitigating the impact by diverting workflows.  Improving databases and address learning techniques from a wide range of data sources is another example of how data across the organization can be processed and applied.  Prime Vision can help.

DEVELOP BIG DATA PLATFORM

How is the tactical description different to the strategic in this case?

Data analytics – why are we different from all the other players.

Selecting the right technology for the platform

Its not just about storing the data in a platform. Understanding the data and putting in context.  Thinking of the application

REDUCING MANUAL LABOR COSTS

Manual handling can get very costly and be inconvenient operationally, adding cost and also time delays, especially frustrating when you have automated a process.  Prime Vision helps by identifying the root-cause of items failing automation, whether that is items that are unsuitable for automated handling, no-reads or database errors.  Once we understand the drivers behind manual handling, we can suggest strategies to eliminate them.  It’s not just software!  We have operational expertise across the whole process from door-to-door.  Solutions may involve adaptation of automation systems, ways to increase first-time read-rates, eliminating errors or, in cases where automation has failed, the means to process the item whilst it is still on the sorter such that no physical handling is necessary. Prime Vision can help.

REPURPOSING EXISTING INVESTMENTS IN AUTOMATION

As well as reducing the number of some sorters, it may be cost-efficient to adapt existing automation to meet new needs.  Prime Vision has a great deal of experience in helping clients reconfigure their hardware and software systems, even opening proprietary interfaces to systems in order to integrate them in new ways.  Our experts have a wide range of experience with all the leading sorting systems on the market. Performance may be further enhanced and additional capabilities added by integrating recognition software in parallel to existing software or as a complete replacement. Prime Vision can help.

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