India is a vast country that holds a landmass of close to 3.29 million square kilometres within its boundaries. Breaking this down further, the country has a web of 29 states and 7 Union Territories comprising a total of 497 cities, 7,935 towns, and more than 5.93 lakhs of inhabited villages, along with innumerable blocks, lanes, house numbers, localities, office buildings, and floors. The geographical areas also vary dramatically from cloud-piercing skyscrapers to snow-covered hillside regions, settlements in pouring rainforests, and of course deserts. But everything boils down to an address along with Postal Index Number (PIN)that on average covers 82.71 square kilometres of land. But what if you only needed a PIN-like code in order to precisely explain your address?
The problem faced by Indian logistics
India is a country of massive potential. Yet, it cannot realise it due to its inadequate infrastructure. It is a country hailed as the second largest road network across the globe. But a lesser known fact has been that close to 39% of the roads covered by the country are unpaved. Also, Indian roads are prone to slow movement of traffic which dramatically affects the supply chain of a company. High detention time at an intermediary plant/factory is, moreover, quite common in industrial operations. This cumulatively increases the overall journey period, thus contributing to massive delays while nearing the end-destination.
Contrasting this with the burgeoning digital infrastructure and,with it, the demand for online products, the delivery gaps are immense in the distribution network of India. A few services such as ‘Same Day Delivery’ and ‘Two Day Delivery’ are seen as a fairly complex problem for tier II and tier III geographies.Urban cities also include locations that have block and sector distributions which are often difficult to comprehend. People also characteristically use unpopular location names and landmarks, as well as make human errors, making it harder for addresses to be identified.Collectively, these factors pose as a great challenge for Indian logistics companies as they contribute towards high FTAs (Failure to Attend), limiting operations, especially with regards to last mile delivery.
Geocoding and Reverse Geocoding
Geocoding is the process of converting an address with all the essential information into a concise code containing its location. It converts the descriptive address into a position according to its geographical coordinates. This technology is rapidly evolving considering its advantage for the logistics operations.
Suppose three deliveries are to be made to two adjacent localities. While it appears that two deliveries to the same locality must be catered to in succession for time-efficiency, this could also result in an adverse situation if there is proximity between houses in different localities. The geocode eliminates all such issues encountered in last-mile delivery.
Similarly, reverse coding converts a point location to a descriptive address. However, this often does not provide the precise address of the location and a mere presumptive address through analogy.
Geo-fencing is the allocation of a digital boundary to different areas of the map, including roads, localities, and checkpoints. It finds its use in preventing a delivery vehicle from straying to an unauthorised route and notifies the receiver with regards to approaching shipment. This prepares the forward supply chain along with the ETA (Expected Time of Arrival) to process the incoming vehicle. If employed effectively it results in a poka-yoke in the entire supply chain. It’s similar to digital version of the revolutionary technique, Kanban system, used in Just in time Manufacturing. This minimises delays at the receiver’s end and results in faster movement of the cargo. It can also be used to allocate boundaries of operation for various players, including third-party logistics, to ensure that they adhere to the time limit. Geo-fencing also notifies the end-customer in advance which is estimated to reduce FTAs by 25%.The real-time inputs of the vehicle also equip the business with high manoeuvrability. They can make changes to the designated route of the vehicle to ensure timely delivery of the shipment. With it, average stops per vehicle can be increased while also reducing the lags in logistics operations.
The biggest benefit of geo-fencing is that it not only makes the last-mile delivery possible, but also much more efficient. Deliveries can be made to various blocks by analysing the shortest possible trip that can cater to maximum number of orders. This increases the volume, velocity, along with visibility in logistics – something which is highly desired and still to be realised considering the sheer size of the country.