Most Western postal operators have already invested in automated sorting and are now seeking to gain further efficiency by augmenting their existing infrastructure with the introduction of new technology. One such operator, based in central Europe, is a prime example.
It recently sought the advice of Prime Competence on the next steps it should take to underpin its competitiveness. In particular it wanted us to assess the potential outcome and implications of introducing combined OCR and/or video coding for letters, flats, parcels and other mail streams in a logistically central location.
Currently the post has two separate sorting centers equipped with ageing technology. Both have letter sorters with some video coding functionality for entering address information for items that cannot be read by OCR. The centers also have parcels sorters but there is no provision for automated sorting of flats.
The client required us to establish if it was feasible to connect its existing infrastructure – with all established interfaces – to a new platform and also centralize the video-coding of letters and parcels at a single hub. We were asked to analyse the consequences of such a plan with particular emphasis on process design, working methods and financial constraints.
Naturally the question of proprietary interfaces also arose. The post wanted to know whether the architecture of its systems would allow the easy and cost-efficient integration of independent video coding or whether it was tied to the supplier of its existing equipment to make the necessary changes.
The subsequent Prime Competence report mapped out the proposed IT infrastructure and included the possibility of installing intelligent camera technology on the existing parcel sorters that are currently only equipped with laser bar-code readers. This technology would also allow the use of parcel images for a range of data processing applications including automatic reading and on-site or remote video coding.
Completing our report were details of the cost of such initiative together with analysis of the financial impact to the business. It provided management with all it needed to make a presentation to its operating board that included a request for a budget to cover further innovation.