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The POD Goes Digital

The POD Goes Digital – Sign here… on the screen, that is. T@lecom has consigned the paper POD to the bin with its Wireless Delivered™ Express system.

Obtaining accurate PoD (Proof of Delivery) information instantly along with the recipient’s signature makes the lives of operators a whole lot easier.

Anything that simplifies this process is bound to win support. That’s why a growing number of firms are taking a closer look at what T@lecom has to offer.

It’s come up with a system called Wireless Delivered™ Express. It uses a standard hand-held PDA unit incorporating a screen and a mobile phone – T@lecom has been working closely with mobile network O2 – which the driver can take out of the vehicle and present to whoever is receiving the goods.

They sign the screen, and the details are immediately relayed back to base using GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology.

“There’s no need to use a barcode reader,” says T@lecom chief executive officer, Jan O’Hara. Nor is there any need for reams of PoD paperwork to be completed when the driver returns to the depot at the end of the day, he adds – and there’s no need for all those details to be keyed or scanned into a computer. That saves on administration costs.

Because signature capture and transmission is instant, it’s easy for the office to keep customers abreast of the progress of their deliveries. There’s no reason why the details cannot be put into a password-protected area on the operator’s website so that clients can inspect them whenever they wish, and print off a hard copy.

The device can be used to receive details of the next job. All the driver needs to do to show that he’s got them is to press a button.

If the operator has chosen the satellite navigation option, then details of how to get to the next pick-up point will be displayed on the unit. Verbal instructions are given too. Add the Live Tracking option, and the position of the driver and his vehicle can be monitored on screen from an office hundreds of miles away. It offers one-minute updates.

T@lecom has also developed Wireless Delivered™ Manifest. Launched last May, it allows units to receive a list of drop points with the weight and size of each package to be delivered as well as the name and address of the consignee. Jobs can be added, and the schedule rejigged, as the day proceeds.

So what does all this cost per vehicle? “We don’t make a charge for the unit,” says O’Hara. “Instead, we levy a monthly fee of £55 which includes the unit, the mobile phone contract and the cost of sending all the data backwards and forwards.

“Satellite navigation costs you a further £20 a month, while tracking costs you £10. What’s more, Wireless Delivered™ can be integrated with the majority of back office systems. “Bearing in mind the recent legislation, we can provide a full hands-free kit for use in conjunction with the device for around £100.”

“Our next step will be to introduce some means by which drivers on home delivery work will be able to take credit card payments on the step,” says O’Hara. “We’re also thinking about packaging what we’ve got to offer so that van and truck manufacturers can sell it to their customers.”

A wireless expert and former engineer, O’Hara set up Coventry-based T@lecom in May 2002. Before that he worked for Hugo International, and was involved in establishing Cerocom.

Several major customers are installing Wireless Delivered™. Hellman Overnight Logistics for example is equipping its 500-strong UK and Ireland fleet with Manifest to replace a paper-based system. With a fleet that includes everything from panel vans to 17-tonners, Move Solutions, which is based in Manchester, is employing Express as part of its nationwide same-day delivery service. The subject of a management buyout last April, it also arranges commercial removals.

“To be honest Wireless Delivered™’s introduction hasn’t gone as smoothly as we would have liked, but we’re getting there,” says managing director, Mike Laking. “We’ve reached the point where we think it will work properly without too many more tweaks.” It replaces ordinary mobile phones, and Private Mobile Radio too for deliveries within 20 miles of Manchester.

“It’s a powerful package – it’s something I’ve been looking for years, and we don’t think it’s excessively expensive when you consider the alternatives,” Laking says. “In fact we reckon it’s good value, and T@lecom are pretty proactive when it comes to providing support.”

Does the ease with which the units can be taken out of vehicles make them vulnerable to theft? “No more so than mobile phones are, and we’ve got them encased in rubber sleeves to protect them if they’re accidentally dropped,” he replies. “The drivers still have to be careful how they treat them though.”

With 45 van and truck drivers to be kept busy, including subbies – they’re charged £5 a week unit rental – Concord Couriers of Welwyn Garden City, Herts, employs both Express and Manifest. As with Hellman, they replace a paper-based approach.

“We chose Wireless Delivered™ after examining all the other alternatives, and we had a lot of input into it in its development stage,” says Gary Daniel, who runs the operation. “These days it does exactly what we want it to do, it integrates perfectly with our CMS back-office system, and we only get the occasional problem. Most of the issues that arise tend to revolve around the way the driver has used it, although we had to replace one of the units after it was stolen.

“We like the fact that they’re so neat and tidy, and that they can be taken into the customer. We’re going to have tracking installed, but we’re not going to opt for satellite navigation. A lot of our drivers are on contract work, which means they can be on the same run four days a week.”

“Six of the drivers use Manifest, and we’ve provided them with extended life batteries,” he continues. “Strictly speaking they don’t really need them – but they can sometimes forget to use the charger.”