The evolution of the courier and delivery industries
When I started my career in the courier industry back in 2001, everything was purely manual, said Hussein Wehbe, a seasoned executive in the delivery and transportation industry who lead international express, mail delivery and logistics companies in the region.
Technology at that time didn’t exceed what used to be a simple electrical device or what we call today those old-fashioned tools and devices that were used to fulfill and execute the delivery of a package or a document, and which today are labeled as traditional and obsolete tools.
Courier technology of old
The essential tools for exchanging shipping documents between customers and delivery companies were limited to the Telex and the Fax machine at that time.
Today, a simple scanned copy can reach any email in the world within seconds and to any handheld device across the globe.
Before the technological boom, most of our field delivery tools were offline and not connected to the internet, which meant there were delays and no real-time integration between merchants and shipping companies, nor between shipping companies and their carriers.
People used paper run-sheetsto log every delivery schedule and proof of delivery, while today we progressed to have mobile apps and connected handheld scanners with real-time updates and instant pick up or delivery confirmations and this improved massively operational efficiency and visibility.
Ecommerce and online stores barely existed and the trend started only after amazon officially became an online bookseller in 1995.
Tracking and tracing a parcel was a lengthy process by itself, and most of the old delivery tracking systems used to depend on manual data entry at every step of the parcel journey or through email updates from other countries.
And getting a tracking update used to take days instead of today’s advanced systems that can provide you an accurate tracking update instantly, via a simple click.
The process of scheduling a delivery when mobile phones were not popular yet, and capturing an actual delivery address or coordinating with customers for a delivery date, time, and location was a very hectic and lengthy process.
It made it almost impossible to have same-day delivery and the average delivery timeframe within the same country used to take between 24 to 48 hours compared to today’s within-hours delivery services.
Over two decades later, we can say that the delivery industry is in the middle of a major transformation where technology is ruling the game.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are taking over the duties traditionally taken up by humans, especially when it came to calling customers when capturing addresses, and scheduling deliveries.
The industry is introducing Bots to communicate with customers directly and plan for more accurate delivery windows based on sophisticated algorithms and real-time capacity analyses to suggest delivery time schedules that suit the customers.
Predictive technologies are progressing further with better accuracy levels when it comes to predicting the location of the receivers based on the customer behavioral history and trends.
BI or Business Intelligence was the only tool for a lengthy analysis process and decision making, while AI today has taken over and allows immediate decisions based on real-time data that can give proper visibility of the whole operations and allow instant decisions that can move the needle in the right direction.
We’re even replacing the advanced handheld scanners with mobile apps, where a courier mobile phone today can perfectly act as the main tool for delivery couriers at every single step of the delivery journey.
Payment gateways never existed in the past, and cash on delivery was the only option and also very limited since the B2C concept itself wasn’t that popular in the old days.
The main revenues and volumes were coming from the B2B local and cross-border businesses.
Today, we are lucky enough to see a tremendous evolution of the transportation industry and whatever used to take days and weeks will happen within minutes and hours.
There is a big generation of logisticians in our region who are lucky enough to have had witnessed every step of the transformation of this industry, and when you compare the way we used to operate 20 years back to today’s methods, then you will really understand the importance of technology and how it really helped in improving the performance of the logistics staff rather than being a threat for replacing their jobs.