IoT meets parcel delivery excellence

(L–R) Nick Lambrou, CEO, Thinxtra; Phil Reid, Chief Operating Officer, CouriersPlease; and Taba Managheb, Optus Enterprise.

Nation-wide small parcel delivery specialist, CouriersPlease, recently solved the problem of lost and underutilised delivery cages during a crucial period of rapid growth. MHD speaks to Phil Reid, Chief Operating Officer at CouriersPlease, and Zorawar Singh, Head of Core Product at Optus Enterprise, to discover why Thinxtra’s Internet of Things (IoT) offering was not only the best – but the only – solution on offer capable of achieving this result.

CouriersPlease (CP), founded nearly four decades ago, is in the midst of an exciting new period of growth in Australia. The metropolitan small parcel delivery specialist has continually grown and thrived over the decades since its inception – today boasting a network that provides nationwide coverage.

The company services Australians through its independently owned franchisee fleet of couriers, with more than 750 franchisees and 300 delivery partners across Australia.

“I think a major reason we’ve been so fortunate in the success we’ve enjoyed is our franchisees,” says Phil Reid, Chief Operating Officer, Couriers Please. “Our franchisees own their businesses, bring on local customers, and know the people, geographies, and cultures in which they operate.”  

Recently, CP was awarded the number one ranking in the prestigious Canstar Blue 2021 Most Satisfied Customers rankings in the small business courier services category. 

WHAT WAS CP’S NEW CHALLENGE?

The company utilises parcel cages to hold freight – and has roughly 3500 of them in constant movement across the country. Rapidly growing demand for its service meant it also had to rapidly acquire more cages. 

The problem that accompanied this development was that CP was simply losing too many of these cage assets. While losing cages was not a new phenomenon, the costs of solving this problem had previously outweighed the costs of such asset losses. But with each cage costing $1000, such losses would become increasingly unsustainable. 

This is why fixing the lost-cages problem was imperative. Lost cages not only drain financial resources but create inefficiencies and knock-on effects that could negatively impact customers in future. 

“We’ve lost literally hundreds of these cages over the years,” says Phil Reid, Chief Operating Officer at CouriersPlease. “Whether that’s due to theft, or cages left unaccounted for.”

To solve this problem, three companies – CouriersPlease, Optus Enterprise, and Thinxtra, Australia’s only Internet of Things (IoT) telco and enabler of Massive IoT– came together and were able to solve CP’s cage-loss problem with a cost-effective and sustainable long-term IoT solution, utilising fit-for-purpose tracking devices, which are securely attached to the parcel cages and connect to Thinxtra’s pathbreaking 0G network. The result? No more lost cages. 

A NEW SOLUTION FOR A NEW SITUATION

Zorawar Singh, Head of Core Product at Optus Enterprise, says that CouriersPlease approached Optus for consultation and advice on how CP could put an end to its increasingly detrimental asset losses. 

“Optus Enterprise and CouriersPlease already had a well-established relationship,” says Zorawar. “But we pride ourselves on our flexibility in helping clients solve new problems. We don’t take them for granted. At a high level of analysis, the solution would be some form of asset tracking. But the challenge is making it cost effective and – moreover – cost effective with respect to the precise asset you’re tracking and the precise purposes for which it is used.”  

Zorawar notes that tracking devices come in myriad varieties and fall within a broad price range. For example, some sophisticated tracking devices might cost $400-$500.  

“Paying $500 for a tracking device on an asset that’s valued at $1000 doesn’t make sense – the cost is not justified by the asset’s tracking requirements,” Zorawar says. 

“When conceptualising a sustainable solution, you must zoom out to the big picture to grasp what information you need on or from your asset – and whether those needs are likely to change or remain stable as you advance-plan for the next five or 10 years. We then asked the question: ‘What information do we want about these assets, and what information do we want from them?’ For parcel cages, the primary objective was to track their locations and communicate that information back to user dashboards. 

To provide the right IoT solution, Optus Enterprise partnered with Thinxtra, operator of the 0G network which – powered by Sigfox technology and dedicated to the IoT – is designed to transmit small amounts of information from connected IoT devices across vast distances. 

Since only small amounts of data were to be transmitted – simply the location of a cage – this was an elegant solution that provided CP with country-wide coverage with low energy consumption and at low cost. The battery powered IoT location tracking device lasts up to five years, while maintaining the perfect data update frequency for CP’s needs, Zorawar says. 

As the only national, public 0G network operator in Australia, Thinxtra provides a unique service by connecting large volumes of distributed, non-powered physical assets to a low power, low-cost, long-range network. “There is no need to build and maintain network infrastructure, he says. “Thinxtra has it ready to go.”

Zorawar says that collaboration with valuable partners is indispensable: “Optus offers a strong value-add range of services on top of our basic network assets. That’s why collaboration is indispensable. It isn’t a simple vendor-buyer binary relationship anymore. Optus’s priority is flexibility and delivery, so we’ve built an amazing partnership ecosystem – partnering with those offering the most unique, innovative solutions on the market.

“If we didn’t have this partnership with Thinxtra, our team could not have solved CouriersPlease’s problem in a cost effective manner. The alternatives would have been more expensive, less flexible, less scalable, less user friendly, more difficult to implement. Our partnership ecosystem is something Optus firmly believes in, and we are always seeking out the best players in its space.”

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Phil seconds Zorawar’s point about the primacy of collaboration. “Working with Optus means you can work with and through their teams, their expertise, and their relationships. 

“I don’t think it’s an accident that companies like Thinxtra are simultaneously highly collaborative in their culture – always attending to our needs, not foisting a one-size-fits-all solution on us – as well as highly creative, technologically speaking. Openness and attention to new fixes for new client problems breeds innovation. That’s why Optus partners with them. Off the strength of the pilot’s success, CouriersPlease is now rolling out the IoT solution”

“We actually expect to lose zero cages going forward,” Phil continues. “From hundreds lost over recent years to losing zero in a matter of months. That’s the difference we’re looking at. The savings from not losing those cages easily outweigh the cost of implementing Thinxtra’s solution. But on top of loss reduction, it optimises our processes because we can take a proactive approach to cage retrieval and targeted deployment. As we scale up, we’ll add more cages, get more use out of them – because they won’t be lost somewhere, unused – and we’ll lose none of them.” 

While IoT implementation is different for every company, Phil is eager to dispel the notion that it’s unnecessary or too expensive, as many assume given its scale and relative novelty in the Australian context.

“People forget how quickly technology improves and prices drop. IoT tech is getting better and better and more cost-effective. We’re only scraping the surface of its future potential. To be the only IoT 0G telco in Australia tells you something important about Thinxtra’s culture. They’re looking way ahead over the horizon – and that’s exactly the kind of company you want to be working with.”

Nick Lambrou, CEO, Thinxtra adds that Thinxtra’s IoT solution in this case is one of many examples of the company’s passion for creating efficiencies that enable greater sustainability, too.

“We are passionate about green tech creating a more sustainable world,” Nick says. 

“Partnering with leaders such Optus Enterprise and CouriersPlease, who share the same values and practise true collaboration, allows us to achieve this. Working together we created a shared outcome that truly supports ESG goals while delivering economic and customer service benefits.”

For more information on Thinxtra, click here. 

For more information on CouriersPlease, click here. 

For more information on Optus, click here. 

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