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iTouch Business Mobility: Parcelforce Case Study

Press release
iTouch Business Mobility: Parcelforce Case Study

New Managed Service Solution gives Parcelforce Worldwide 'phenomenal' real-time tracking advantage

Christchurch, New Zealand, 17 November 2003 - A new managed service provided by iTouch Business Mobility and Symbol Technologies to Parcelforce Worldwide's 2,500 delivery staff is being heralded as 'one of the most significant' wireless parcel tracking systems ever deployed in the UK.

The system is part of the combined 'Symbol Managed Service Solution' that is enabling customers to track the delivery of their parcels in real time, and providing instant data communications between depot and driver over the Vodafone GPRS network.

Parcelforce Worldwide is one of the UK's leading providers of express and time-guaranteed delivery services throughout the UK and across the globe.

The business provides delivery to all 27 million addresses throughout the UK and more than 99.6 per cent of the global population, reaching 239 different countries and territories.

Parcelforce Worldwide's introduction of the GPRS wireless service is part of a programme to further enhance and improve the all-round experience of its customers. The new technology gives Parcelforce Worldwide's customers quicker access to delivery and collection information.

It also gives Parcelforce Worldwide greater flexibility to arrange ad hoc deliveries and collections with drivers, while on the road, to ensure it is better able to react to customer requests at short notice.

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When considering ways to upgrade its technology. Parcelforce Worldwide identified the need for a solution that would rationalise the system architecture, enable and automate software upgrades to mobile devices and have more features and functionality, all at a competitive price.

Following months of tenders, proposals, and a series of depot trials late last year 2,500 Parcelforce Worldwide drivers have now been equipped and trained with the first managed GPRS wireless service provided by Symbol Managed Service Solution (iTouch Business Mobility and Symbol technology over Vodafone's GPRS network).

Ken O'Rahilly, Head of Operations Development at Parcelforce Worldwide, and Nigel Arkwright, Technology Director, are delighted with the new system that they initiated and project managed. Mr O'Rahilly said: "The development time of the iTouch and Symbol offering was phenomenal and the reliability is equally as good. The functionality of the system has provides us with a clear advantage over the competition."

"With outstandingly fast development from iTouch, excellent service from all parties and an impressively smooth rollout, the new Parcelforce Worldwide dispatch, collection and delivery wireless tracking system is a modern industry revelation that has met and exceeded all objectives."

The Business Challenge

The Parcelforce Worldwide contract is iTouch's first major broad-scale, multi-user, GPRS wireless service solution that is hosted in the UK and managed by iTouch development staff in both the UK and New Zealand. It also seals the Symbol Managed Service Solution partnership between iTouch Business Mobility, Symbol Technologies and Vodafone - a relationship that introduced iTouch to Parcelforce Worldwide.

"Our key objective was to enhance customer service, maintaining our position as the UK's leading express parcel carrier with clearly competitive technology and service advantage," said Mr O'Rahilly.

A Winning Proposal

"One of the most powerful aspects of iTouch's proposal was the ability to experience first hand a live and fully-functional demonstration at one of our smaller depots in Banff, Scotland," said Mr O'Rahilly. "Seeing the iTouch iDeliver system providing near-real time confirmation of delivery and collections and instant communications between the driver and depot was the unique selling point.

"We had a tight development window to get the new system up and running, so this achievement rated extremely highly in iTouch's favour. They are also very responsive and flexible. We couldn't find any other software house that could match their ability."

"We pulled out all the stops for Parcelforce Worldwide," said Dave Tinkler, iTouch Business Mobility UK Manager, "and were fortunate to have existing customer references in the freight industry already benefiting from the iDeliver GPRS application. We flew in our Software Development Manager from New Zealand especially to support the demonstration and answer all technical queries in detail."

Andrew Jones, Business Development Manager at Symbol Technologies agreed. "Certainly one of the strong advantages with iTouch is their huge experience in wireless technology. They have over a hundred GPRS industry applications developed - all very demonstrable, available and easy to operate. These days customers want to see and test a working product before they buy. iTouch's demonstration to Parcelforce Worldwide definitely hit the mark, as it was most tangible offering they had seen."

System Benefits

The system was designed for a 'hub and spoke' business model (collection point to depot - depot to customer, as opposed to direct point to point) where drivers log delivery information on consignments using Symbol's PPT-2837 pocket PC - a ruggedised handheld device with built in barcode scanner and GPRS communications. Scanning parcel barcodes and capturing the recipient's digital signature confirms proof of delivery.

When powered up the units communicate over Vodafone's GPRS to the iTouch server that is housed and hosted in the UK by Hugh Symons Group and Wireless Data Services (WDS). All collection and delivery information is exchanged live throughout the day via a file transfer mechanism designed specifically to replicate Parcelforce Worldwide's enterprise system. Parcelforce Worldwide didn't need to add or change a single line of code within their enterprise applications to achieve system integration. A simple user web based interface was also provided to enable depots to dispatch jobs to, and view jobs from, and administer their assigned mobile handheld users.

The tight integration between iTouch and Parcelforce Worldwide systems enables reconciliation between what's been collected, handled in a depot, and ultimately delivered. Every barcode is automatically cross-referenced by Parcelforce Worldwide against depot reports of the parcels that were to be delivered, with any anomalies immediately recognised and investigated by depot staff.

Rod McKay, Software Development Manager at iTouch Business Mobility explained, "One of the biggest advantages of the new centralised system is the ability to upgrade all 2,500 handheld units in one hit, remotely managed from New Zealand. Using a specially developed software component called iDeploy the system ensures all data transfer and network traffic is managed properly. Deployments can be drip-fed over a number of days, and set for synchronous activation - avoiding any bottlenecks or impact on normal system operation. To keep at the forefront of technology new features and enhancements of the Parcelforce Worldwide tracking system are ongoing, and involves scheduled deployment of software enhancements to all Symbol devices."

Return on Investment

While it's still early days since rollout was completed, Parcelforce Worldwide sees clear competitive advantages in relation to the iTouch system.

By changing business processes and upgrading technology to take advantage of faster data communication over GPRS, Parcelforce Worldwide is already experiencing savings on administration time and GSM communications.

For instance, instead of making mobile calls to the drivers, Parcelforce Worldwide depot staff can now assign parcel collections to designated routes and know that the system will automatically allocate the job to the first driver who logs onto that route. Text messaging is also used for general communication. With 20,000 customers and over 150,000 parcel deliveries a day, these features are an enormous benefit to the company.

All data is exchanged between depot and driver in real time, which means that Parcelforce Worldwide can provide customers with live access to the latest delivery status of their parcel, including accurate time and proof of delivery.

Instant data communications between driver and depot also allows Parcelforce Worldwide to meet its required KPI for data accuracy and transmission time.

Overall, faster data processing allows drivers and depot staff to work more efficiently - making time guarantees more accurate and competitive. If a job is cancelled or a new one has just come in that's on the driver's route, immediate notification will be sent to the driver's Symbol unit with the updated information. On receipt of the new job the driver is required to accept or reject it, providing instant confirmation to the dispatcher. This makes the depot staff's job easier and helps drivers to plan their route better.

The Final Word

"What continually impresses me is the shear ability of iTouch to meet and exceed our expectations," said Mr. O'Rahilly. "To be able to make software adjustments and have it turned around in days as opposed to weeks and months is phenomenal. To then have the project delivered to cost and specification is outstanding. Now, a few months since rollout completed, our on-going relationship continues to be very productive. To me the real criterion is, if I were to staff this project all over again, would I use iTouch and Symbol? The answer yes; without a shadow of a doubt."

As more organisations realise the financial and business benefits of a GPRS managed solution, so the mobility industry will take off.

"Delivering a real-time solution in the demanding environment of parcel delivery and collection not only requires robust mobile hardware, but also an equally robust software and communications architecture. The iTouch GPRS based system was an excellent fit for the requirements of Parcelforce. The ability to rapidly customise the solution proved a real winner for a project where the delivery timescales were short," said John Coon, AVP & Managing Director UK & Ireland Symbol Technologies Ltd.

"Delivered as part of an overall managed service, the iTouch solution allows us to update the mobile systems remotely and provide the support required for a business critical real-time solution."


Symbol Managed Service Solution is a business initiative where leading wireless technology providers have combined to offer customers a one-stop managed service for their business mobility requirements. It eliminates project management of multiple service providers, integration issues caused by inexperience and escalating costs.

Partners may vary according to customer requirements. The partners involved for this Parcelforce project are Symbol Technologies, iTouch Business mobility, Hugh Symons Group, WDS and Vodafone.

iTouch Business Mobility

iTouch Business Mobility is one of the top international mobile computing application developers. We were the first in the world to deliver market-ready business mobility applications that could run over the GPRS network.

We have developed a number of leading-edge applications that run on hand held computing devices with wireless data connections over a full range of mobile voice, data and Internet platforms. These innovative mobility solutions are enabling businesses to work more efficiently and competitively by extending the enterprise system to the mobile workforce. For information about business mobility solutions visit www.itouchmobility.com.

Parcelforce Worldwide

Parcelforce Worldwide is one of the country's leading providers of express and time-guaranteed delivery services throughout the UK and across the globe.

The business provides delivery to all 27 million addresses throughout the UK and more than 99.6 per cent of the global population, reaching 239 different countries and territories.

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