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FedEx Express Delivers Real-Time Shipping Data
(Pen Computing Issue #53

As the world's largest express transportation company, FedEx Express provides fast and reliable delivery to every United States address and to 215 countries worldwide. FedEx Express, a member of the FedEx family of companies, uses a global air-and-ground transport network to speed delivery of time-sensitive shipments, usually in one to two business days, and guarantees its delivery time.

Needless to say, optimizing operations is critical. Mission-critical.

FedEx Express and Intermec have teamed to develop a new dispatch system designed to capture accurate information about package pickup and delivery operations in real time. FedEx initially will deploy the system to couriers in China. When rollout is complete, more than 1,300 Intermec mobile computers will be in use by couriers throughout China.

The new system, called GPRS-Dispatch, combines software developed by FedEx's GSP Technologies group and Intermec handheld computers with integrated GPRS wide-area radios. These wireless data collection devices are a key part of what makes it possible for customers to find out where their packages are, whether it's on a FedEx Express jet speeding across the Pacific Ocean or on a courier's delivery vehicle in Shanghai.

FedEx Express kicked off the global launch of the new system with a press conference held at the Landmark Hotel in Beijing on July 2. More than 40 journalists attended the launch event, which included a technology overview presentation and speeches by Eddy Chan, FedEx Express regional vice president for China, and William Leo, country manager for Intermec in China. FedEx couriers also provided a demonstration of the new system for attendees.

Real-time shipping status

The real-time data collection and communications capabilities of the Intermec 760 mobile computer, which was customized for FedEx, allow the company to improve pickup time, enhance customer service and increase the efficiency of its operations.

The Intermec mobile computer also integrates functions such as security control and downloading/uploading data to and from FedEx's information center, which monitors every shipment in process. With the new system, FedEx is the first company able to meet customer demand for real-time shipping status. On average, FedEx packages are scanned at least a dozen times from pickup to delivery. On pickup, each package's shipping label bar code is scanned to confirm pickup time, destination and delivery time commitment. With the new wireless system, this information is immediately uploaded to FedEx's mainframe computers. Bar codes are scanned again at every key step of the shipping process, allowing customers to follow the progress of their shipments throughout the journey.

"We've always known that information about a package is as important as the delivery of the package itself," said David L. Cunningham Jr., president, Asia Pacific of FedEx. "With the real-time information provided by the new system, we expect to reduce pickup response time from 1.5 hours to 1 hour. In addition, the capabilities of the Intermec mobile computer allow FedEx to eliminate the use of car radio transmitters, pagers and cell phones to transmit information to and from couriers. The significant increase in customer satisfaction is as important as the cost efficiencies of this system. With real-time information, we're able to 'push' the work out to our couriers and proactively dispatch them as needed." What sealed the deal?

Key factors FedEx used in selecting Intermec included the 760's three integrated communications options--local-area, wide-area and Bluetooth. The company plans to use Bluetooth wireless technology to communicate with portable printers, replacing former IrDA communications. Other features that appealed to the company were the computer's ability to integrate bar code scanning and 2-D imaging, and its extended battery life.

Instant communication

Accurate route and load planning is essential to the success of FedEx China's operations. The 760's wide-area networking capabilities provide instant two-way communications between courier and dispatcher, which reduces the amount of downtime a courier experiences while en route. These enhancements help FedEx reduce transit times and ensure on-time delivery, directly benefiting its customers.

"FedEx has always led the logistics industry in adopting mobile computing technology to improve its business processes," said Intermec President Tom Miller. "Now the company has enhanced real-time in-depth information to communicate with its drivers, service centers and customers."

With GPRS-Dispatch, package data is being collected at the point of activity. At the point of need. At the point of use. Data is available instantly, to help companies make better decisions and provide better service to their customers.

Now FedEx can ensure that data is delivered anytime, anywhere it's needed. And it's mobile computing technology that makes that vision a reality.

Intermec Technologies
FedEx Express