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National post office RFID system

Increased efficiency. Real-time delivery status. Less human errors. - RFID is the future technology for postal, courier and high volume light logistics.

Though the percentage of mail delivery errors in postal services is relatively small, most of us have encountered them now and then. Mail arrives late, to the wrong address or does not show up at all. The Finnish national post office "Itella" reports that their delivery error rate is about 1%. Customers make about 18,000 missing item inquires annually of which about half can be solved.  What if the other half could be resolved with the help of RFID?

POSTAL DELIVERY VALUE CHAIN

The postal systems vary a lot from country to country, but we can roughly say that private consumers bring their outgoing mail to local postal offices, APCs (automatic postal centers) or to traditional drop mail boxes. Companies usually get their mail collected by a carrier service truck once a day. After this the mail is transported to postal sorting and distribution centers from where they are sent to local postal offices and thereafter delivered to their final destination. RFID can be helpful in many different ways during the stages of this process.

TAG & SORT

"Tagged-at-arrival"

Many national post companies have so called APCs (automatic postal centers). They can be placed either in a post office or separately much like an ATM. Customers can conveniently buy stamps and see to that the mail gets sent off correctly. It would be fairly easy to add an RFID application to this system, where the consumers are in charge of tagging their own mail with RFID tags and adding the delivery information to a data base where each mail item receives its own traceable ID. For those who prefer being served by a real person the same action could be performed at regular post offices. With this system stamps would possibly be redundant on "tagged-at-arrival" mail since the tag contains all the payment information.

postal_ATM

"Tagged-at-arrival" mail deliveries would be less prompt to human error and demand less working hours. Still, human errors can appear here as well. Consumers do not always necessarily have the right address or the address might be miscopied into the system.

"Tagged-at-sorting"

Traditional drop mail boxes, on the other hand, would probably not enable tagging mail at arrival, so here we need another system - "tagged-at-sorting". Untagged mail arrives at the mail sorting centers where the first step would be to let a hand writing and letter recognizer scan and copy the delivery information to the data base. This procedure would have to be supervised and double-checked by the staff. The easily recognized addresses would get tagged and join the "tagged-at-arrival" mail, but the problematic or incorrect addresses would be sorted the traditional way - that is manually - but still be tagged. The tag would contain the information that could be retrieved (if any) but also an "incomplete address information alert".  This way the problematic addresses will be recognized at the local postal offices as they are scanned at arrival. Local workers are more likely to be able to figure out what the sender means since they know the area.

With all mail made traceable with RFID it is easy to make sure that the right mail is going to the right zip code with automatic sorting without manual work and human errors. All stops and vehicles on the mail's journey are equipped with RFID readers that make sure that all the right, and only the right, mail is passing through. The database is constantly aware of the exact status and location of all mail items. Off they go, tagged, registered and tracked in real-time.

DELIVERY - TO THE RIGHT ADDRESS

Once all letters and packages are tagged, sorted and loaded into delivery vehicles correctly, it's time to deliver them to their final destination. The tags contain all the information needed for sorting the mail in the exact right order according to the optimal route of delivery. When the postman starts his car, he is immediately informed where the first mail box is. If a letter or package is forgotten at a stop, the RFID reader in the vehicle will sense it and alert the postman that "There is one more letter in the car for Mr. Johnson" before he leaves.

The delivery vehicle as well as the RFID readers in use are all equipped with GPS which makes it possible to follow a tag like a moving dot on a map. The post database constantly knows in which vehicle the mail item is travelling - even if it is not supposed to be in that particular vehicle - making it almost impossible to lose track of mail.

Tagged mailboxes

Once the delivery vehicle has dropped off the mail in the right box and driven away - mail can still get lost. This can be prevented by tagging mail boxes. Not only can the postman double check that it's the correct mailbox with an RFID reader that, of course, sends a notification to the database that the delivery is completed to a mailbox with the right tag.

A tagged box can also provide other services. A common cause for lost mail is vandalism and crimes targeted at mailboxes. There are ways that RFID could help prevent this as well. Tags equipped with sensors can be used to set off load alarms (like a car alarm for instance) and report to a cellphone if a mailbox is being or has been vandalized. Besides from discouraging vandals from choosing to attack "smart" (and scary) mailboxes, they make sure that the receiver knows HOW and WHEN the mail was lost. The more information, the easier it is to prevent similar situations in the future.

RFID tagged mailbox

Sometimes the post system database might be incomplete. People do not always remember to update their address information when they move. Mark Roberti, CEO and President of RFID Journal, suggests that this problem could be solved by giving families their own personal tags that move with them when they move (much like a phone number) to be placed in the mailbox of their current living place. Mail boxes would have their own fixed tags and thereby be equipped with two tags. One with the recipient's information and one with the mailbox position and address information. Postmen would thereby be able to automatically update the database when they scan mailboxes with an RFID reader. Read the whole blog post here.

RFID IMPLEMENTED IN POST SERVICES WORLD-WIDE

RFID has been active in the postal business area for a long time, though rather in truck, box and pallet tracking than item-level tracking. It all started with tests that were aimed to pointing out inefficiencies in the value chain. Letters and packages were randomly equipped with RFID and send off to different destinations in the world. The tracking results showed where the system needed improvements.

Saudi Post has already implemented RFID in post operations, and Deutsche Post DHL has lowered fuel consumption with RFID-enabled pallets to avoid bottlenecks at loading docks. ETRI of Korea developed an RFID system that aims to reduce costs, errors and tedious human intervention while maximizing mail package process capabilities and minimizing logistics costs. The Italian Postal Service has been a leader in tagging postal bags and other uses of RFID in the postal service.

Sweden Post is also a forerunner when it comes to using RFID. They mainly use it to monitor the quality of their customer service by allowing customers to follow their own products through the postal logistics with the help of RFID.  These are just a few examples, though. For more information about 40 cases that has implemented RFID world-wide, read this article based on research by IDTechex.

BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING RFID IN POSTAL SERVICES

As a conclusion we can state that tagging mail and mailboxes would result in:

  • Overall reduced rate of mail delivery error
  • Less human errors -> more efficient working hours in sorting and deliveries
  • Satisfied customers who trust the system
  • Less money spent on investigating lost mail
  • Less money spent on insurances for lost mai
  • Real-time up-to-date database
  • 100% exact mail traceability service for customers
  • Less vandalism of mailboxes
  • Reduced handling costs for customers -> increased competitiveness
  • More efficient and flexible operations -> shorter delivery times
  • Enhanced security and safety
  • Cheaper return package costs (for online shopping)

There is one huge flaw with the system though… when this is all reality you can no longer tell your aunt that "the post has probably lost your invitation" when she's wondering why she's not invited to your wedding… But let's look at the positive side of things! The pilots and implementations of RFID in postal services have already started and they have been considered a success. RFID will make life easier! It will be exciting to see what applications and ways of benefitting from RFID will be added as the system develops.  Let us know what you think by commenting below!

8 comments on “National post office RFID system”

  1. Gravatar of sohrab keshavarzsohrab keshavarz
    Posted 22 December 2013 at 12:40:54

    hi
    I need to information
    abut rfid in post offic procces

  2. Gravatar of Kirsikka DrägerKirsikka Dräger
    Posted 23 December 2013 at 13:04:22

    Hello Sohrab,

    what kind of information are you looking for?

    Best regards,

    Kirsikka

  3. Posted 28 April 2015 at 11:11:27

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    do you have Russian-speaking managers?

    I have some questions about this solution, and i think that i have no ability to fully explain all of my mind on English.

  4. Posted 25 June 2015 at 14:01:58

    Hello Binur,
    You can send your request to info@nordicid.com and we will forward it to our Russian speaking partner.

    BR, Mirva

  5. Gravatar of ibrahimibrahim
    Posted 04 August 2015 at 16:47:07

    Team please tell me who did the implementation in Saudi Post?
    Thanks and Best Regards
    Ibrahim

  6. Gravatar of Suvi DalénSuvi Dalén
    Posted 11 August 2015 at 08:51:21

    Hi Ibrahim,

    here is some more information about the implementation: http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?4829/2 . Hope this helps you!

    br, Suvi

  7. Posted 14 March 2017 at 09:26:03

    Really it is a great transformation to implement RFID in post office.Using RFID results in reducing the error of mail delivery and provide good satisfaction to its customers.

  8. Posted 08 September 2017 at 14:20:51

    This is helpful, nonetheless it can be crucial so that you can check out the following website:

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