The most affordable way to keep up with the increased consumer demand created by e-commerce is to become more efficient. A recent story by NPR examined how United Parcel Service has been using big data to significantly increase the speed and accuracy at which it delivers packages. The data is collected by each driver in every truck, so it is not a general overview of delivery efficiency; it provides data specific to each route and driver.
Since collecting and analyzing this data, UPS has been able to up the average number of packages that a driver delivers per day from 90 to 120. Many of the changes seem small at first. The company realized that unlocking the door with a key wasted time, so it provided drivers with a key fob. Jack Levis, who heads the collection of data at UPS, told NPR that just one minute of lost time per driver per day adds up to $14.5 million annually in lost revenue.
In addition to improving productivity, the technology has made certain aspects of the job easier for the driver as well. The chances of missing a package and having to return later to deliver it are almost nil, since the computer can instruct drivers on the best way to load the truck in the morning. The data can also be used to monitor if any drivers are operating their vehicles in an unsafe manner.
Data in the Warehouse
While mobile data collection is changing the way products arrive at their destinations, improving efficiency and productivity begins long before a product hits the truck. Within the warehouse, automated data collection allows supply chain managers to see specific details about each product and how it travels from receiving to shipping. While important for accurate inventory control, this data can also be used to increase productivity, just like it has for UPS drivers.
With real-time information on each order, managers can determine what orders routinely hold up productivity, which pickers have the best techniques for selecting the right order and delivering it to the conveyer quickly and how fast workers can prepare an order for shipment. With high-quality data on products before they enter the warehouse and after they leave as orders, there is no limit to the improvements that supply chain managers can bring to the warehouse.