Seamless data connectivity can help boost sortation centre performance

In the first blog of this series, we explored how the use of data can – with the right tools – help courier, express and parcel (CEP) companies reach new levels of operational effectiveness in their sorting centres. In this era of digitalisation however, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. Richard Trost, Product Manager, takes a closer look at the most common challenges when it comes to data integration in sorting facilities.

“The sheer volume of data generated by sortation centres poses a challenge, making it essential for CEP companies to rely on a robust data management system.”
Richard Trost
Product Manager

Like most organisations in today’s digital world, CEP companies produce an overwhelming amount of data. In parcel centres specifically, this can be used to optimise the sorting process to ensure that each parcel is handled quickly and accurately. However as facilities transition to more digital operations, challenges arise related to data availability, usability and security.

Ensuring digital readiness

The first challenge CEP companies might face when going through a digital transformation is ensuring they have a complete picture of their sorting system. Legacy equipment that was designed without data collection in mind may not have the necessary sensors or digital capabilities to capture and transmit data. This situation can put companies in a blind spot when it comes to exploiting data analytics and business intelligence tools.

To address this challenge, sorting equipment can be retrofitted with sensors to enable data collection. Connectivity solutions, such as Vanderlande’s PACE Exchange, can also be used to seamlessly integrate data and allow for its transmission to analysis tools.

The data generated by sortation centres comes from various sources, including hardware and software components, or from the sorting process itself. However, in relation to equipment data, it’s not uncommon for systems to be composed of conveyors, sorters, scanners and sensors provided by multiple vendors.

While this variety generally allows CEP companies to design facilities to meet their exact requirements, it can bring challenges by creating data siloes. Different vendors may use varying data formats and protocols, which makes it difficult to integrate data across the end-to-end process and prevents operators from getting a complete overview of the system.

To make this data usable and turn siloes into a digital ecosystem, solutions making use of APIs (application programming interfaces) can be implemented. By acting as a middleman between applications, APIs standardise the collected data and make it usable by analytics solutions.

Providing reliability and security

The sheer volume of data generated by sortation centres also poses a challenge, making it essential for CEP companies to rely on a robust data management system. Digital solutions should be capable of scaling to accommodate fluctuating demand, and to support an increasing amount of data generated as parcel volumes grow.

Of course, the data used and produced by sortation centres must be secure and comply with data protection regulations. Data collection and distribution software used in such a context must be designed with strong security measures, including data encryption, access control and regular security audits.

Once data across a sortation centre is fully integrated, it can be a powerful tool to gain a better understanding of the sorting process and its performance. Seamless data integration can also help predict various scenarios and prescribe the best course of action.

In the next installment of this blog series, our experts will share their thoughts on where the smart use of data could lead the parcel industry.

Like to know more?

Every parcel company and market are different. This is reflected by the various layouts of depots and sortation centres. Our experts are available to offer help and advice in every respect.