New UPS scanning system boosts speed of package delivery and customer visibility

UPS this week has rolled out what it calls a “wearable” scanning system that augments and speeds up how packages are loaded onto vehicles by its employees as well as the delivery of visibility information to customers.

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UPS this week has rolled out what it calls a “wearable” scanning system that augments and speeds up how packages are loaded onto vehicles by its employees as well as the delivery of visibility information to customers.

Company officials said that the new device, which was produced by Motorola Solutions, is comprised of a hands-free imager worn on a finger and a small terminal worn on an employee’s wrist or hip, with the ring imager automatically scanning packages based on label-sensing technology. This process, they said, enables employees to more quickly image barcodes compared to the current “point and shoot method” with existing equipment which has been typically deployed.

UPS Vice President of Information Services Juan Perez told LM this new offering had been in the works for several years.

“At UPS, we constantly evaluate new innovations in order to identify best-in-class technology solutions that can be integrated into our operations to maximize efficiency and deliver superior customer service,” said Perez. “As soon as we begin deploying a new technology, we begin developing our strategy for evaluating, developing, and deploying the next round of improvements. Our culture is one of continuous improvement and constructive dissatisfaction. We began investigating the hardware for the next scanner in mid-2007 and Application development on the selected hardware began at the end of 2008.”

This new system has been used by UPS since last year, with 28,000 ring imager and terminal devices being used at 480 company facilities. UPS said that the total deployment will be completed by the fourth quarter of next year with more than 38,000 ring imager and terminal devices being used at 1,383 facilities.

UPS said that this new technology helps to accelerate the transfer of package tracking data to customers and boost package travel reliability through its system, with the scans—known as “link and load”—providing tracking data which feeds the 32.1 million tracking requests seen daily on ups.com.

“The most significant advantages of the new wearable scanners compared to the previous generation scanners are speed and efficiency,” explained Perez. “From an operational standpoint, the new wearable scanners help us accelerate the loading of packages into our trailers and containers. Through the use of the hands-free imager (or ring scanner) and wireless terminal it connects to, our UPS employees image a barcode quicker, use that information to receive verification that they are loading the package in the correct trailer, and do it while having both hands available to safely move the package. The rugged and ergonomically designed device allows UPS employees to have both of their hands free to handle packages. The imager is faster and more effective in reading barcodes than the previous scanners and Bluetooth technology allows us to eliminate the need for a cable to connect the scanners to the portable terminals further improving efficiency and reliability.”

When asked what the direct benefits of this release are for customers, Perez said that the innovative label-sensing imaging technology in its wearable scanners offers superior UPS reliability and increased visibility into shipments by providing customers with real-time shipment status information and by helping its employees eliminate potential human error in the loading of packages.

What’s more, he said that the deployment of these new devices is one innovation in a line of recent technology-focused rollouts from UPS in the past year, including the industry-first UPS My Choice service, which utilizes UPS operational technologies to give consumers unparalleled control and flexibility around the delivery of their packages. 

Looking ahead, Perez said there are more related offerings in the pipeline for UPS.

“UPS invests approximately $1 billion in technology each year and is committed to investing in technologies that improve our operational efficiencies, provide new services and capabilities to our customers, and help our customers improve their supply chains,” he said. “You will continue to see us adopt, develop, and deploy advanced operational technologies that support innovative services that give our customers the visibility and flexibility they need in managing their logistics.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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