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The deployment of wireless technology has taken by both of the Giant company, FedEx and UPS in order to keep the company competitive advantage. The Bluetooth short – range wireless specification, 802.11b wireless LANs, and general packet radio service (GPRS) are the wireless solution for both big companies. These lead to the operational efficiency, saving cost – the critical business requirement, and increasing customer satisfaction while also doing more with the same resources. The devotement of $100 million had been done by these two firms to wireless initiatives. The two companies are exploiting new wireless technologies in their differing attempts at aiding the two main components of their operations: pickup/delivery and packing/sorting. Both are also looking ahead for radio frequency identification (RFID) and GPS wireless technologies.
The Wireless Advantage
Since the late 1980s, the dealing between technology vendors and the two companies has created proprietary process system. Later on, standard-based technologies such as 802.11b wireless LANs, Bluetooth short-range wireless links and general packet radio service (GPRS) cellular networks had been used by them, which provide the greatly reduced development costs, easier maintenance, greater capacity and security, and lower operation cost.
Pickup and Delivery
To hold the package over 13 million each day by UPS, and approximately 5 million, as FedEx dose, couldn’t really imagine of. The wireless solutions become the driving force in improving efficiency possible. More than $100 million in wireless technology initiative invest by both companies. The wireless technology take them to the near of getting-real-time information in their facilities.
Basing on the global standard yield more vendor choices and then lower technology costs. Therefore, the same technologies were choosing by both of them (802.11b, Bluetooth and GPRS). There are more than hundreds of thousands workers have picked up and delivered packages according to FedEx and UPS, making the stops up to millions per day. That’s why the wireless technology solution emphasis on their workers operations. They have to take the advantage of their facilities to improve their customer service while also increasing the satisfaction. The new wireless handhelds are provided to their worker to complete their task, as well as elaborate ways to apply technologies to other equipment.
Using Handhelds at UPS
The Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD) IV, the new current version handheld, like the previous version, DIAD III, enable to connect the operation center directly using cellular transmitters in the delivery trucks. Hence, the worker in the area could be transmitted to the company’s global network almost right away.
UPS plan to deploy Bluetooth in its new handheld to upgrade the handheld to the truck and also processing customer credit card, when GPRS cellular signal unavailable.
It expects to improve customer service by adding Global Positioning System (GPS). For example: rerouting packages that are already transit, the driver may find the most efficient route to the new location, says Killeen, UPS’s director of global network services.
Saving Time and Cost at FedEx
The company equivalent of UPS’s DIAD is the PowerPad device, which use a Bluetooth radio to send package information, scanned during pickup, and help the drivers from having to dock the handheld to upload the data transferring. The PowerPad gives FedEx with time and cost savings $20 million per year.
An infrared technology in PowerPad, uses to send lock and unlock signals to the drop boxes instead of key. However, it needs of devices line up to each other’s apertures with the drop boxes’, Bluetooth signal will improve the time-saving rather that infrared signal. Still the requirement the drivers to change drop box batteries more frequently.
The need of skipping empty boxes, hence the testing of Bluetooth to transmit a package detection signal to an approaching drivers. The risk is that if the battery is dead mean empty might cause the driver to ignore packages. Thus, the danger the FedEx’s promise to deliver package on time.
The plan of adding 802.11b to PowerPad make the compatibility with Microsoft operating systems, provide the improved of processing power. Consequently, adding information look-up and retrieval systems that would allow answering on the topics such as packaging rules and regulations, supplies, and rates will be taken, as well.
Sorting Facility Deployments and Distribution Centers
FedEx’s main hub in Memphis, Tennessee, handles about million packages a day in a group of runways and makes the Memphis airport the number-one cargo airport in the world. UPS’s World port hub in Louisville, Kentucky, has a similar scale. Even a small facility, such as the Richmond, Calif., UPS sorting facility (which is one of the first to receive the new scanning systems), is a stadium-size maze of belts and funnels through which packages move as they are unloaded from trucks and trains onto other trucks and trains for transshipment. For both UPS and FedEx, wireless technology has improved operational speed and accuracy.
The business challenge for both companies is to reduce the cost of sorting. In the sorting facilities, both companies use a device called a ring scanner, which is a bar code reader mounted on two fingers and wired to a terminal strapped to the forearm.
Currently, both companies use the same devices, made by Symbol Technologies and Intermec Technologies. But UPS is replacing its model with a new model from Symbol and Motorola that moves the terminal to the waist and uses Bluetooth to communicate with a finger-mounted scanner. That’s because UPS loaders scan packages as they place them in trucks, which leads to cords getting caught on box corners and breaking, slowing operations and requiring a stock of replacement devices to be maintained. By switching to the Bluetooth system, UPS expects to reduce scanner maintenance costs by 30 percent, downtime by 35 percent and the need for spare parts by 35 percent. The system also uses 802.11b to transmit package data in real-time, so UPS’s inventory systems can flag issues and report to customers faster. (The old systems stored the data, which required loaders to transfer status periodically.)
Deployed at about a dozen facilities so far, 55,000 of the new scanners will be rolled out during the next five years to about 1,700 facilities.
The old scanners also had to be triggered for each scan, like a camera. The new ones are perpetually scanning unless they are turned off, saving time and effort for the loaders.
But FedEx is sticking with the older, forearm-mounted model. A big reason is that FedEx doesn’t use ring scanners as widely as UPS, whose employees simultaneously scan packages and transfer them to the destination truck or container. Because FedEx tends to deliver smaller packages, it doesn’t need as many people to pick up individual boxes, and so doesn’t see the occasional cable break as a significant issue.
FedEx also faced a problem with Bluetooth: signal interference from its 3-year-old 802.11b network, which used the same frequency, as well as from the radio noise emitted from sorting belts’ engines and from the lights.
Because UPS is upgrading its entire scanning system, it could design the devices and access points to accommodate both Bluetooth and 802.11b. In a technique called time-division multiplexing, the scanners alternate between Bluetooth and 802.11b, so their signals don’t conflict.
As they move onto new wireless platforms, both companies are also changing their approaches to network security. Years before there was an 802.11b standard, both UPS and FedEx had adopted predecessor wireless networks. With wireless networks both proprietary and novel, there was little chance of catastrophic disruptions. FedEx has deployed over 5,000 802.11b access points in its facilities since 1999, shortly after the standard was finalized. UPS will have about 9,000 802.11b access points in place by 2009. Both UPS and FedEx use the maximum security settings provided by 802.11b’s wireless equivalency protocol key encryption—UPS augments it with a proprietary Symbol protocol called Key Guard—and expect to adopt the Wi-Fi protected access standard soon, followed by the 802.11i security standard when that is finalized.
Seeking New Benefits from Wireless
Outside of the two delivery companies’ major package scanning retooling efforts, FedEx and UPS continue to investigate what business benefits they might gain from other wireless technologies. Two have gained particular attention: RFID tags, which could replace bar code scanners, and GPS, which can precisely locate field units.
But RFID requires very large capital investments—not just in readers but in the tag writers as well—plus standard data models so that different recipients can use tags from different sources.
Basically, UPS and FedEx will need to develop wireless applications that can handle disconnected. However, these things don’t affect them to continue as industry leaders.