FedEx is making the latest move in a technology battle among the world’s leading delivery carriers: it will replace its clunky and proprietary radio system with 40,000 new handheld PDAs, which will use AT&T Wireless’ GSM network to transmit detailed package information. In so doing, it has beaten archrival UPS to the punch.
FedEx has selected Motorola to supply its new handheld device.
FedEx plans to equip the 40,000 couriers in its US express-delivery unit with sophisticated new customized PDAs, called PowerPads, that will provide them with far more capabilities than the Super Tracker it replaces. The new wireless handsets will enable drivers to relay information back into FedEx’s delivery network more quickly, and raises hopes for improved customer satisfaction.
As PowerPad is connected to the back-end system, a courier can use it to quickly correct bad ZIP codes on package labels, capture signatures electronically, and check on bad weather that could delay delivery times.
The new technology is expected to save each courier more than 10 seconds per pick-up stop, as FedEx’s current system requires drivers to return to their trucks and send such information from radio systems in their delivery van. The Motorola handsets, which will operate on AT&T Wireless’ GSM network, will instead allow couriers to enter delivery details straight into FedEx’s database from customer locations.
The PowerPad project will cost more than $150 million including networking costs. But in the long term, FedEx thinks that it will save more than $20 million annually on the cost of package collections alone. The project is only a small step in FedEx’s plans to cut expenses by shifting communications with its couriers from its private wireless network to AT&T’s network.
The new FedEx devices are the latest advances in a continuing effort among package carriers to harness the enormous flow of package-detail information that accompanies their daily loads of deliveries.
FedEx pioneered the use of wireless technology almost 20 years. It was also the first to use hand held devices to enable package tracking, as well as real-time tracking and drop-off location information via most types of PDAs and wireless phones. For now, FedEx has again taken a lead over its main competitors by rolling out its new courier technology ahead of rival United Parcel Service.
Related research: Datamonitor, Mobile Business: Opportunities for Logistics Providers (BFAU0055)
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