Post Danmark: Pioneer in 100% Parcel Automation
ParcelMatch from Prime Vision is their platform of choice
Post Danmark was one of the first organisations to embrace the Prime Vision approach to parcel automation. Indeed it remains highly committed to investing in new technology to optimise its resource management and customer service. Its latest phase of automation provides a great example of the benefits of Prime Vision methodology.
Adoption of the latest ParcelMatch has enabled Post Danmark to adjust to changing business needs easily and effectively by providing a platform that is truly future-proof. It has also brought immediate efficiency gains through a 16% decrease in no-reads and an instant payback on the initial investment.
Sweden’s Posten and Post Danmark are combining forces to become Post Norden and evaluating the best way forward to achieve the goal of becoming the prime postal company in the Scandinavian countries. The needs of their respective home markets however are distinctly different and therefore their organisational structures and production platforms mirror this dissimilarity.
A key differentiator is letter post. Post Danmark’s IT Co-ordinator Bo Marott Hansen explains: “Sweden and Germany haven’t witnessed the same level of decline in this stream as Denmark and the rest of the world. So, how much the two operations can be unified remains subject to a lengthy consultation period.” Indeed it won’t be until December 2012 that Post Norden reveals its ultimate plan.
In the meantime however Post Danmark has taken decisive steps to address the clear change in its marketplace, the main strand of which is to process all letters, flats and parcels together in single production units. “Transporting the different products to dedicated sorting centres is a costly and time consuming business,” Bo Marott Hansen continues. “We needed to rationalise the way we handle the mail and the efficiency with which we distribute it to give ourselves competitive advantage.”
He continues: “Letter volume is certainly down and not a self-supporting process but as a result of Internet activity, the market for flats and parcels is really developing for us. Not just books but new products such as medication, contact lenses and small kitchen appliances. As a result of our latest automation investment we now have the ability to process all streams concurrently. Our production flow can accommodate everything under one roof.”
In terms of required software development, Prime Vision was a clear front-runner following its successful work at the company’s Brøndbysorting hub. It had also significantly improved the OCR performance of flats and letters at Post Danmark’s Copenhagen site.
Additionally, Prime Vision was asked to recommend a course of action for systems integration, a proposal that included Crisplant sorting machines and Vitronic cameras and OCR that both a proven track record for Post Danmark. “The project is an important part of our growth strategy and it represented a lot of work,” Bo Marott Hansen adds. “We have a very small IT department so we rely on outside experts with whom we work well and that we trust. On that basis we were happy to proceed with Prime Vision as the main contractor.”
Several factors were central to meeting Post Danmark’s aim to rationalise its method of distribution and introduce the necessary flexibility to increase productivity, whenever and wherever it’s needed. The first was the installation of the latest generation Prime Vision ParcelMatch recognition system and Key-IT video coding system to replace forerunners.
This also required Prime Vision to develop a deeper level of coding, not just to a delivery route via post code but to an AIN; an address information number that is unique to each house or unit door. In fact the level goes deeper than that in some cases to an IPN; a unique number of a person on Post Danmark’s receiver database. As well as placing the parcel at the door, or even in the hands of the receiver, Prime Vision OCR can also distinguish between private and business mail so that the service can be designed to protect revenue.
This data collected from OCR and EDI allows items to be allocated to a route at the sorting hub, effectively removing the need for further sorting when the mail – letters, flats and parcels – reaches the distribution centres. This information is then transferred to the driver’s smart phone so that items can be put into the optimal order in the van, ready for quick and efficient distribution.
Prime Vision has also installed its latest Key-IT video coding to complement this enhanced capability in line with Post Danmark’s commitment to increase in-house skills in this area.
Bo Marrot Hansen explains: “If a mistake is made in this process you lose cost costs savings. We are seeking maximum data capture so that mail is placed in the correct order to optimise distribution. A single coding error will result in a domino effect and it therefore essential that our on-site pools are staffed by well trained video coders.”
Another Prime Vision development that is proving immensely useful is its label identification tool that allows a solution to be created for a specific label to reduce EDI failure rate.
Post Danmark’s ParcelMatch platform also integrates four OCR/ICR engines from different vendors. To facilitate this, Prime Vision created the necessary logic that maximises the read rate. And it is a process with which the company has considerable experience. For many years it has emphasised the benefits of having secondary OCR. Whilst all systems may have similar net read rates, they do read a different mix of mail items. Their integration delivers a much higher read- and lower error rates for Post Danmark.
In addition, Prime Vision created the data capture interface for Vitronic’s hand-held cameras that have proved to be a major contributor to the application flexibility of the overall system. They allow a specific distribution solution to be set up anywhere and very quickly.
Bo Marott Hansen praises Prime Vision’s involvement. He explains: “The Vitronic camera uses a completely different resolution and logic. Whilst the process time on a big parcel sorting machine may be up to 10 seconds, the hand-held camera needs a result in 2 – 4 seconds. But Prime Vision met this challenge well and had the interface up and running in three days.”
It has taken just six months to design and prove the new system and naturally it has been subject to a lot of fine-tuning on the way. This provides Post Danmark with a blueprint for future automation development.
Bo Marott Hansen continues: “Using this formula we can easily shut down a production line and create a new one at speed. We can also take on any product, even milk and other foodstuffs. We already have the necessary logistics and distribution skills, we’d just need the refrigerated vans in which to deliver the products. This flexibility really opens up potential for Post Danmark.”
Bo Marott Hansen also sees the prospect of considerable growth in the flats market for which the new system is also perfectly suited. “New machines would need to be purchased of course,” he concludes. “But unlike other postal organisations we now have the automation strategy in place to react quickly to changing market needs.”
Post Danmark implemented ParcelMatch on a nationwide basis, including sites with sorting systems and even manual sites with our Process-IT Semi-Automated Workstation solution, all linked to ParcelMatch. The system is now installed across more than seven locations, all interlinked across the country as one platform! Every parcel is imaged and archived centrally so that customer services and operations have a complete record, including actual pictures of the parcel during processing, improving both customer services, reducing claims and improving trouble-shooting activities. Not to mention one of the worlds most advanced OCR and Video-Coding systems in use today!