Technology Becomes Critical Barrier to Last Mile Delivery in the US

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new USPS last mile delivery options

USPS Delivery. Source: Wall Street Journal

In the US, more parcel carriers are increasingly using United States Postal Services (USPS) for last mile delivery but sorting system technology serves as an obstacle reports Total Retail.

The parcel carriers utilize their transportation networks to deliver packages close to its final destinations — often to a local post office — and the USPS takes it from there to recipients’ homes or businesses.

It’s cheaper than FedEx and UPS ground services because USPS delivery men can deliver regular mail in addition to packages from retailers.

The last-mile delivery services unify the USPS, UPS and FedEx delivery tracking systems so customers only have to manage one tracking number.

Barriers to using USPS unified tracking system

This omnichannel approach to last mile delivery has its challenges such as using this technology requires a speedy ability to sort and manage a wide range of products and sizes of packages to the ZIP code. Conventional sorting systems are too large and costly to meet requirements.

For example, the facility for one big company occupies over 4 million square feet with more than 17,000 feet of conveyor. This is not a suitable set up for the delivery of low weight products. Consequently, retailers that wish to use USPS for last mile delivery of their low weight products actually need a low weight parcel sorting system to meet their tailored needs.

The parcel sorting system relies on accurate barcode scanning. The wide variation of products, in terms of size and packaging presents a challenge as it requires a vision system to maintain high read rates at constantly shifting focal lengths.

Today’s sorting systems usually rely on line-scan vision cameras that has a single row of pixel sensors that capture image frame as the product moves past the camera. The image frames are fed to a software which makes a complete image.

Although using USPS is cost effective for delivery, it poses challenges for the logistics process of effectively scanning and sourcing products of different types and sizes. Supply chain models across the world, especially in Asia, see a demand for even the most basic technology but the last mile learnings in the US can be applied to Southeast Asia.

A version of this article appeared in Total Retail on July 6. Read the full version here.