UPS Inc. said today it will install electronic beacons by year's end in nearly half of its U.S. package car fleet in an effort to notify workers when they have placed an item aboard the wrong delivery vehicle.
The initiative, dubbed "Preload Smart Scan," uses Bluetooth-enabled beacons that communicate with label-reading scanners worn by UPS package loaders. The scanners are programmed to know where a package belongs in a specific vehicle, while the beacons send signals unique to certain vehicles and the beacon's position within the vehicle. The scanners detect those signals, and will notify the loader if a package has been loaded aboard the wrong car.
Atlanta-based UPS said the technology will lead to a 70 percent reduction is package mis-loads, which waste time and money because drivers with mis-loaded packages often travel miles out of their way to correct their mistakes. UPS declined to disclose how many packages are mis-loaded on a typical shipping day. The company moves about 16 million packages and documents in the U.S. each day, and another 3-4 million a day internationally.
UPS had tested off-the-shelf beacon technology, but found that its signal range was too broad given the close proximity of the company's parked package cars during the morning load cycle at a location. Beacon signals would bleed through the sides of package cars, yielding inaccurate information, the company said. UPS subsequently deployed technology specifically designed for use on vehicles parked very close together.
UPS, which has applied for a patent on the use of beacons in this manner, said the technology could benefit other delivery firms that park their vehicles close together, as well as businesses in other industries that require precise location-based services.
By year's end, the beacons will be used in 301 U.S. locations, or 28 percent of UPS' facilities. The beacons will be deployed in 47 percent of the company's U.S. package cars.