The Parcel and Postal Technology International Awards recognize and reward the latest developments in the postal sector. Categories include: Sorting and Fulfilment Technology of the Year; Last Mile Delivery Innovation of the Year (The Journey); Final Mile Innovation of the year (The Final Delivery); Retail/Customer Service Innovation of the Year; New Business Diversification of the Year; Environmental Achievement of the Year; Supplier of the Year; and Service Provider of the Year. The judging panel for the awards is made up of major decision makers in the world’s postal, courier and e-commerce firms.
The awards are coordinated by Parcel and Postal Technology International magazine, which is published by UKi Media & Events, the organiser of Parcel+Post Expo. The 2020 show will host the twelfth edition of the awards, which will be announced during an awards ceremony and networking party held live in the exhibition hall.
Service Provider of the Year
Winner: An Post
In March 2019 An Post revealed an increase in its revenue and operating profit following its business transformation strategy in 2018. The company announced that revenue reached €897m (US$981m) in 2018 – an increase of 7%. It attributed this to a 40% volume growth in parcels in the face of a global decline in mail due to online alternatives.
2018 was the second year of revenue and profit growth since the losses of €12m (US$13m) in 2016. Revenue increases in conjunction with cost-cutting measures saw operating profit rise from €8m (US$8.7m) in 2017 to €40m (US$43m) in 2018.
In March 2019 the company also announced that it has rebranded by unveiling a new green logo and two new financial services. One of the new services is An Post Money, which will allow customers to avail of credit cards, personal loans, current accounts (debit card) and multi-currency FX cards — all of which will be delivered across the Post Office network and digitally through anpost.com. The other new service is An Post Commerce – a new business-to-business brand providing expert e-commerce, mails and mail media solutions for domestic and international businesses.
In addition to new financial services, in April 2019, An Post joined with charities and service providers to announce the launch of Address Point, a ground-breaking, free personal postal address and letter collection service for people who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation.
The postal operator is working hard to continue providing innovative solutions. In March 2019 An Post announced the launch of its Innovation Challenge as part of its technological transformation. Throughout 2019 entrepreneurs and technologists are being invited to take on the challenge of exploring ‘Open Banking opportunities for a challenger bank’ and a ‘Dynamic route and parcel optimization’.
Other new solutions include a new Inflight Delivery Option launched in November 2018, which enables shoppers to pick and choose exactly where and when to have their parcels delivered. The evening before an item from an e-tailer is due for delivery, the customer receives an email or text from An Post telling them it is on its way and allowing them to choose, with two clicks, one of five alternative delivery options, if they are not going to be home to receive their parcel.
Furthermore in October 2018, An Post launched a new Digital Assist service, which will utilize local post offices for the delivery of government services and advice. As part of the service post office staff will assist customers in accessing government or local authority services, forms and information.
An Post is also investing in reducing its environmental impact. In late 2018 the operator pledged to eliminate carbon emissions from all its letter and parcels operations by 2030. In phase one of the ‘An Post Eco Plan’ a new fleet of electric post vans and delivery tricycles will deliver zero carbon emissions in Dublin’s city center by the end of 2019.
Supplier of the Year
Solystic, a provider of automated parcel and mail sorting systems, mobile robotics, and real-time data and image processing, has won a number of contracts over the past 12 months, further cementing its position in the postal and parcel industry.
Recent projects include providing Posti Group in Finland and CTT Correios in Portugal with its XMS automated mixed sorting solution. Furthermore, Deutsche Post DHL expanded its fleet with the acquisition of 125 additional MARS machines for delivery round sequencing. This new contract covers almost 340 MARS letters sorters in Germany. More generally, there are more than 2,000 MARS machines sold worldwide.
Other posts to invest in a Solystic solution include Poste Italian acquiring 33 Soly Sort systems – a mobile robotic sorting solution and La Poste in France investing in Solystic’s container management solution Soly Move for the Roissy PIAC airport site.
Furthermore, in 2019 PostNL chose Solystic for its Small Parcels Sorting Center project to sort and prepare delivery routes for small packages, mainly from the e-commerce sector, to the whole of the Netherlands. This unique center is designed to process several hundred thousand objects per day in several thousand directions, with the possibility of extensions (the exact figures are confident at the moment). The solution chosen is highly automated and includes Solystic’s Compact Slide Tray for sorting small packages and a fleet of Soly mobile robots to carry out the automatic handling of containers.
Over the past year Solystic has also worked hard on the further development of its SOSi simulation product, which enables users to create digital twins of industrial processes. The benefit of doing this is that users can digitally visualize processes and test and adjust them to improve efficiencies.
In 2019 Solystic produced a proof of concept using its SOSi solution for its partner ARaymond in France, a major player in the automobile subcontracting sector. Solystic modelled a significant part of the company’s Saint-Egrève plant. This Proof of Concept will be extended to establish a full digital twin of the plant.
Environmental Achievement of the Year
Winner: Qatar Post
Qatar Post’s Sustainable Development Program 2018-2019 focuses on reducing its environmental impact in two areas – reducing carbon emissions through buildings and operational activities, and through transportation and logistics operations. The post’s overall goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2030. For the financial year 2018-19, Qatar Post is projecting a total carbon emission reduction of 12% to 3,789.163 tones
Over the past year the operator has implemented a number of green initiatives including developing a new eco-friendly headquarters and sorting facility which will open in January 2021; installing intelligent lighting solutions in its general post offices – under this initiative 80% of fluorescent lights have been replaced with more efficient LED lights; and introducing delivery bikes instead of vans for domestic delivery. For the latter, in Doha the post has replaced 30% of its van fleet with city motor bikes.
Qatar Post has also deployed a vehicle monitoring system using GPS trackers and ORTEC route optimization technology, which has resulted in a drastic reduction of petrol from 70,000 liters to 45,000 liters over the past three years.
Furthermore, the post has implemented a company-wide reduce, reuse and recycle methodology, which includes the signing of an agreement with the Elite Paper Recycling company to enable the operator to recycle paper waste effectively. In addition, 90% of the paperwork from Qatar Post’s HR department has been diminished by the introduction of electronic and biometric attendance, electronic content management and Oracle self-service systems.
Qatar Post believes that sustainability can only be achieved through a collaborative approach, so when Qatar Rail launched the metro service in 2019 the post undertook an awareness campaign and as a result 30% of employees are now commuting to work through the metro. This has a significant reduction in carbon emissions by reducing the use of private vehicles.
New Business Development of the Year
Winner: An Post’s Address Point Service
An Post has teamed up with charities and service providers to launch Address Point, a free personal postal address and letter collection service for people who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation.
Whether it’s trying to arrange medical appointments, dealing with children’s schools, applying for jobs, or trying to keep in touch with family and friends, Address Point is a practical, simple service which generates a personal address based on the person’s choice of local post office, which will be their mail collection point.
In conjunction with service providers and charities working in the area of homelessness, an instant address is generated online using a mobile phone or laptop, for use on all correspondence. Letters can then be collected by the customer on production of photo ID at the post office of choice. Should a person move to a different area, a new address can be generated, linked to a post office in the new location.
Retail/Customer Service Innovation
of the Year
Winner: Posti Finland’s Unmanned Postal Kiosk
In June 2019 Posti Finland launched the first unmanned postal kiosk in Finland in the municipality of Askola. It is a self-service kiosk where one can carry out all the same tasks as in a regular post office. These include sending and receiving domestic and international parcels, returning online purchases delivered via Posti, sending and receiving domestic registered letters, and easily contacting Posti customer service personnel via a video link for help and advice.
The unmanned kiosk was developed to offer customers the convenience of a post office but with longer operating hours. It also cuts costs for Posti as no personnel are needed on site.
Payments can be carried out with a bank card or credit card and the kiosk is open every day from 7:00am to 10:00pm. The aim is to make the services very easy to use. Local residents have been curious about the new form of service and Posti will develop the service further based on customer feedback and ideas.
Final Mile Innovation of the Year
Winner: Bpost in-home delivery
In late 2018 Zalando and the Future Lab of Belgian post group, bpost, collaborated to create an in-home delivery solution using smart home technology. Installing smart locks in homes across Antwerp, Belgium, Zalando and bpost tested in-home delivery and returns. The solution was developed to address the challenge of missed home deliveries.
Participating homes were equipped with smart lockers and a smart doorbell. Customers then downloaded an app which was linked to the smart home devices. When a home delivery is being made, the postal worker rings the smart doorbell, the customer is then alerted that a delivery is being made via the smartphone application. The customers’ smartphone camera and an in-house camera enable the customer to monitor the entire process remotely as well as interact with the delivery worker.
The customer can then open the door for the postal worker through the app. The worker places the parcel inside the house and then shuts the door, which locks instantly. Returns can also be collected using this process. Customers are also able to interact with the delivery worker if there are any issues or questions.
Bpost has received extremely positive feedback regarding in-home delivery. Nine out of ten people using the service asked if they could continue the service after the initial trial period. Bpost is now working on developing an open system which can be used by any retailer.
Last Mile Delivery Innovation of the Year
Winner: Cleveron’s self-driving parcel delivery robot
Estonian parcel locker manufacturer Cleveron has developed a new self-driving delivery robot, designed to automate the last mile by depositing parcels at compatible lockers.
The vehicle is loaded with parcels at the depot before traveling autonomously to predesignated locations where the drone pulls up alongside the compatible parcel locker and deposits the package inside using a robotic arm. The entire process is undertaken autonomously, which means that recipients don’t need to be in to receive their parcels. The recipient then receives a notification on their smartphone saying the package has arrived.
Sorting and Fulfilment Hub Technology of the Year
Winner: PrimeVision’s Chinese Address Reader
Prime Vision’s new e-commerce Chinese Address Reader helps postal operators overcome some of the major challenges associated with handling Chinese parcels. Like most cross-border shipments, parcels from Asia vary in size, shape and weight, making them difficult to position correctly for scanning in the automated sorting process. Chinese customs labels and barcodes are also often poorly printed with critical information missing or smudged. Add in the lack of standardization in address label format – which makes it almost impossible for common scanners to read – and the process becomes a daunting task for any sorting hub.
Prime Vision developed the Chinese Address Reader as a viable solution to these problems. When used in partnership with any established OCR solution, it allows postal operators to convert highly labor-intensive Asian parcel handling into a profitable revenue stream. Based on the company’s award-winning OCR technology, Prime Vision has taken the capabilities of its Chinese Address Reader to new levels by allowing data to be read across multiple labels including address labels, customs labels and recipient details.
The system sets itself apart by only detecting, interpreting and validating the information necessary for processing and sorting. It looks for relevant blocks of data. The Chinese Address Reader first interprets the type of mail – in this case Asian – and then identifies the segments of relevant data to establish the location of the necessary text. Once pinpointed, machine-learning and advanced OCR techniques, combined with Prime Vision’s OCR parcel libraries, clean the address line for conventional recognition.