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Transportation/Distribution

Transportation and logistics, nowadays, rely mainly on various mobile devices to do tracking, record, update, log-in, log-out, evidence of receiving and dispatching. All data associated with cargo/parcel labels are entered into the system database via barcode scanning which used to be several 1D barcodes ( sender’s ID, destination ID, cargo/parcel ID and S/N,if there are more than one parcels in the same delivery order, ---etc ) and now more data are integrated into a 2D code to save label space and scanning efforts.

 

Dispatch Center Scanning

All parcels or cargo are collected then sent to a regional dispatch center. Based on related barcodes described above, all cargo or parcels will be sorted via big sorting machine/system into various destination lots based on the destination ID ( cargo or parcels to be delivered to similar region ).


In the back end system, all parcels or cargo ID and S/N have been registered already in the regional dispatch center. After been sorted, parcels or cargo sorted into the same destination lot will be sent via conveyer to the same shipping dock waiting to be loaded into the same truck ( or same fleet if there will be several trucks to deliver those parcels or cargo ).

 

While loading these parcels or cargo into the truck, the driver will scan the parcel IR ( and S/N ) using a mobile computer to signal the system that this specific parcel or cargo has been loaded into this specific truck ( with driver’s ID already logged in the system ).

 

After scanning every parcel or cargo, the driver locks the cargo door and the loading is completed. At this time, the system has complete list of cargo or parcel to be delivered by this specific truck, under the operation of this specific driver.

 

 

Destination Scanning & Evidence of Receiving

When the truck arrives the destination, the driver retrieves the parcel or cargo as shown on screen of the mobile computer ( sometimes, GPS feature of the mobile computer will work with destination ID to further improve the accuracy and efficiency of the delivery ). Delivering the parcel to the receiver, either the driver will ask the receiver to sign on the delivery voucher or, on certain mobile computers, sign directly on the touch screen which will capture the signature and implement this signature directly into the electronic delivery order form.

 

After the driver confirming the delivery and acceptance by the receiver, this parcel or cargo will be shown as “delivered” on mobile computer screen and related status will be reflected in the back end system as well. Through the RTC data, the actual sign-off time ( receiving time ) will be associated with the parcel/cargo ID for future tracking purpose.

 

 

 

Parcel/Cargo Collection Scanning

Parcel or cargo usually will be collected by logistic trucks from the sender’s site. With known sender ID ( or called “account number”, A/C No. ), logistic company usually will provide the sender preprinted shipping form with sender’s ID ( A/C No. ) barcode printed in each page of the shipping form. Truck driver will log in all parcels or cargo into the mobile computer ( by scanning the sender ID barcode ) under sender’s account ( together with total parcel count and preliminary delivery destination code, for example, country ID or city ID if it is domestic shipment ). The driver will acknowledge the receipt of the said parcels and log in these parcels to accomplish the parcel collection. Same as above, tracking number will be issued together with the actual “collection time” which is given by RTC for tracking purpose. Of course, the truck and driver ID will be provided by the back end system together with parcel ID, sender ID, ---etc.

 

 

 

Equipment Alternatives

From operation side of view, some logistic companies, in order to give more flexibility, are changing the way the arrange equipment to be allocated to their truck fleets.

Traditional mobile computers have the advantages of:
- Well integrated into one-piece configuration;
- Well tuned operation flow ( including barcode scanning, internal processing, communication integrations using Bluetooth or WiFi, 4G, GSM, WCDMA, ---etc );
- Compromised dimension and weight.
However, there are two disadvantages in sight:
- Overall cost is higher than other possible alternatives;
- If only the scanning device integrated is defect, the whole unit has to be retreated from the truck for repair ( so, spared units have to be prepared for situation like this and that will be extra costs for the company ).

 

One alternative has been noticed in recent years in transportation and logistic applications. The alternative approach is:
- Using a 2D pocket size Bluetooth imager together with a consumer tablet or smart phone to take the place of a traditional mobile computer.

 

With this configuration, the system software and database will be stored in the tablet or smart phone ( nowadays, the on board memory capacity is large enough to adopt these data ). The pocket size Bluetooth 2D imager will do the job to scan related barcodes as needed in the transaction. On the other hand, all internal process and communications between the truck in the field and the back end system will be handled by the tablet or smart phone. Of course, all data entry except barcode scanning will be done on the tablet or smart phone ( via on screen virtual keypad ). Disadvantages can be seen clearly are:
- Neither the pocket size Bluetooth 2D imager nor the tablet or smart phone is rugged enough to stand rough handling commonly seen in logistic applications; and
- The operation will be “two-hand” operation instead of “one-hand” operation.

 

However, advantages listed below do get favorable votes from logistic companies:
- Total cost-of-ownership ( one pocket size Bluetooth 2D imager plus one tablet or smart phone ) in this configuration is lower than a traditional mobile computer; and
- If the 2D imager is defect, it can be sent out for repair and the spared unit will be just a 2D pocket size Bluetooth imager and the tablet or smart phone can be kept on duty.

 

In this alternative approach, Cyclops 2 from BitaTek has been the one used mostly. Together with the optional hand-free kit, Cyclops 2 can be used as a Bluetooth ring-scanner while the driver can use both hands to carry the parcel or cargo. It has been teamed with name brand tablet and smart phone in some cases adopted by international logistic companies. Operating system, in these applications, are all Android because most smart phones and tablets are running Android now in the market.