Can automation be affordable?
Paul Todd: Very much so, with the rising costs of manual labor and the uncertainty of being able to recruit high volumes of resource to service peak volumes, automation is the logical solution in order to reduce operational costs and increase processing capacity. With the ever increasing expectations from customers and partners accurate real time data is also a mandatory element in this data driven world. Through the automation process there is total visibility of the items travelling through the network and extensive data sets to meet specific customer requirements which is a standard output and benefit of automation we achieve this through our BÖWE Sort Software. To replicate this without automation would be both time consuming and expensive making the ROI calculation more attractive.
What automated solutions should the smaller posts invest in?
Paul Todd: It is important that the investment meets both future and present business needs. In the short term obviously the automated solution must have the capability and capacity to meet the customers current requirements. At the same time there are real benefits in being able to utilize the investment for other traffic streams. For this reason, our push tray technology based solutions we offer through our OptiSorter, support the processing of a wide variety of item from 5 g to 31.5 kg: Parcels, packets, small cross border items sourced from China and even large letters.
Flexibility is the key for lower volume customers, or new entrants into the marketplace as – quite often – they have financial or special constraints. As we offer multiple configurations and modular designs, the OptiSorter in Vertical and Horizontal formats are both affordable and can be configured to fit even into quite small locations. This enables customers to maximize the investment in the short term and expand their processing capability in line with increasing volumes. In addition to the operational benefits, the technology we use with the OptiSorter packet and parcel sorter offers exceptionally low maintenance and running costs compared to other technologies.
What affordable solutions do you offer the smaller posts?
Paul Todd: The OptiSorter packet and parcel sorter is available in two formats: Vertical and Horizontal. In both cases we can offer the solution with a small footprint if required, with the additional benefit of being able to add features or functionality: Additional chutes, induction lines, weighing, dimensioning, OCR, labelling etc. as and when required.
We have received quite a number of enquiries whereby customers initially wanting to validate receipt of postings in the form of in-checking which in essence is the front end of the sorter. This involves barcode reading, weighing and scanning each item upon receipt and exporting the item data on a real time basis to support confirmation of posting, or billing, for example. As an added advantage, when customers have the need to migrate from in-checking to a more conventional sorting solution we are able to integrate the in-checking hardware into the full solution to minimize costs.
Can these solutions be easily scaled up so they can add more automated solutions as and when they can afford them?
Paul Todd: Our OptiSorter solutions are fully modular as we recognize that business and market needs are liable to change. It’s flexible design allows posts to customize and expand this sorting solution at minimal downtimes and costs.The sorting solution can easily be transformed from a small basic system with as few as four chutes into a full production system with 300+ chutes.
Are the smaller posts being left behind because they can’t afford automated technologies?
Paul Todd: The National Posts are obviously seeing a significant increase in packet growth year on year which will continue for the foreseeable future. The challenge they face is how to handle this growth in a cost-effective manner. The progressive posts have quickly embraced this opportunity by investing in automation to provide increased processing capacity and lower their operational costs as they realize that manual labor is both costly and unreliable. In such cases, these types of posts are actually re-inventing themselves as logistics rather than postal companies as this is clearly where the future growth is and will be a major contributor to the profitability of the business.
At the other end of the spectrum we see slow adopters who are more cautious due to maybe the lower volumes and or still benefiting from the low labor costs in the short term, but they recognize that they also need to change. In such case, the ROI for a sorting solution cannot be justified at this time, but they do see the justification for an in-checking solution to automate the acceptance and recording of items received as manual recording is expensive and not always accurate.
We have worked closely with a broad range of National and Private Posts to develop solutions for their specific needs, as each of our systems is of bespoke design we have solutions for all customers large or small.
Is it worth the smaller posts investing in automation? Or should they be focusing on different areas?
Paul Todd: Without doubt it is essential that posts invest in automation to generate the benefits previously stated, but more importantly they must ensure that they invest in the right solution taking the time to ensure that the solution meets current and future needs, with the ability to maximize the utilization through the processing of multiple products.
The reality is that any posts that choose not to make the investment will potentially lose market share and become delivery companies losing direct contact with its customers and the opportunity to develop and grow their business.
With our know-how of that business, we are pleased to provide our customers with advice. Get in touch and/or take the opportunity to discuss your individual requirements with us on site at one of the upcoming exhibitions and events.