Getting parcels faster to recipients: digital assistants help delivery staff to organise the van’s cargo space

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Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles cooperates with Hermes on optimisation of delivery vehicles.
Renault Trucks

After a record year for the courier and parcel delivery sector in Germany with an estimated volume of over four billion parcels nationwide (source: ‘Parcel Shipping Index 2021’, Pitney Bowes), the industry faces the question of how delivering parcels to customers can be further optimised. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is cooperating in this challenge also with logistics provider Hermes in order to support their parcel delivery staff with innovative assistance systems for Volkswagen Transporter and Crafter delivery vehicles. Being run by Munich start-up Viscopic, a pilot project aimed at doing just this is now starting in Bavaria. Their software solution initially learns the routes to be taken and then sorts the parcels for the next round into a logical order for loading, in order to save tiresome searching and sorting time en route.

There is a great need to be well organised when a three-digit number of parcels has to be packed into no more than 18 square metres of cargo space in the back of a Volkswagen Crafter: “We first split the large quantity of cargo into small portions, which go into one pannier each,” explains Viscopic CEO Felix Meißgeier. These box-shaped bags are then stowed inside the Crafter. “The key factor here is the order,” says Meißgeier. “Because the delivery routes follow a similar sequence, the bags can also be loaded accordingly.”

The advantage for the driver: as they move along, they can see on an app in which bag the parcel for the next customer can be found. Based on the Volkswagen Crafter‘s GPS coordinates, the bags containing the parcels that need to be delivered nearby are shown on the van’s infotainment system and on a hand-held device. The aim is to save a significant amount of time that would otherwise be spent searching for parcels at the delivery address.

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Based on the Volkswagen Crafter’s GPS coordinates, the bags containing the parcels that then need to be delivered nearby are shown on the van’s infotainment system and on a hand-held device.

This digital assistance has come at just the right time, as according to the Parcel Shipping Index 2021 the growth in the sector is set to continue: the study projects an annual growth rate of at least six per cent for the period through to 2026. In the Christmas season 2020 (October to December) Hermes has delivered the record amount of 126 million parcels in Germany – which represents an increase of 25 percent vs. the previous fourth quarter.

However, it is not just about saving time. The aim is also to improve the working conditions for the drivers, explains Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles project leader Artur Hasselbach: “Delivering parcels is a very demanding task. Inner-city traffic in particular demands total concentration, places to stop for our large vehicles are hard to find and especially due to the pandemic and the associated safety measures the delivery work has become even more complex. In light of that, intelligent solutions like this for the last mile are very interesting for our customers in the logistics sector.

As one of 180 entrants from all over Europe in the Future Logistics Challenge run by Hermes and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to find the most promising solutions in the areas of ‘Delivery Driver Experience’ and ‘Smart Delivery Vehicles’, Viscopic came out top along with one other project. The aim through until the end of March is to test acceptance of the system and how much it increases efficiency in everyday use by different drivers in a location near Augsburg. “We are looking intensively into how we can further support the work of our delivery staff in this area and we already have a range of digital tools in use. We are looking forward to see what findings this trial will deliver,” declares Marco Schlüter, Chief Operation Officer at Hermes Germany GmbH and a member of the Future Logistics Challenge jury.

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