Thinking outside of the box about freight
3D measurement a major breakthrough
Global freight shipments have been on a rapidly rising upward curve over recent years. The growth of online sales - up 22% in 2019 to $3.3 trillion - is helping to drive the movement of goods and packages in every region around the world.
The global parcels market rose to almost $430bn in 2019, up from just under US$380bn in 2018. Asia Pacific is the largest regional parcels market by value, accounting for around 42% of the global market. North America and Europe together represent a little over 50% of the market.
Although this growth is great for business for freight shipping and logistics firms, alongside it comes fierce competition and an ever growing pressure on profit margins.
Like almost all industries, these pressures have been compounded by the impact of the COVID19 pandemic. With passenger flights grounded and it expected to be a long time before traveller numbers return, many airlines have been looking at the possibility of converting their existing aircraft into cargo carriers.
Necessity is the mother of all invention and with these combined challenges come a fiercer focus on the benefits technological innovations can provide. With transportation costs being the primary expense for freight organisations, the ability to maximise the cargo on every journey is a natural place to start.
A lack of accurate information about the freight size can often make forward planning and packing efficiency as difficult as a game of Tetris. Of course, in the transportation business, any empty space is dead space and that costs money.
Innovation in 3D sensor technology is one area that is already being tested and deployed to address this challenge in the sector. GPC’s 3D Freight Measure provides instant measurements with a 3D camera to calculate the volume, width, length and depth to accurately measure cargo, warehousing or postal items.
Using advanced 3D algorithms, the camera on a rugged mobile computing device, such as the Panasonic TOUGHBOOK M1 with RealSense for example, can identify the size of any object. The software can provide an instant measurement of an item to enable effective planning for packing, processing, cross charging or stock control. It provides multiple customisable functions including manual and birds eye view measuring.
The largest freight and passenger airline in the UK has been testing its capabilities with great success. It has been used to accurately measure the volume occupied by any shape of freight. This enables the carrier to efficiently plan and load freight and has improved their freight carrying efficiency by more than 40%. A level of efficiency improvement that can generate significant profits for an international freight shipping business.
Moving forward, it would also be possible to roll out the solution to the carrier’s customers to ensure accurate measurements are taken earlier in the transportation process. This would forewarn and forearm the airline earlier about the exact size of the freight and provide further opportunities to improve planning efficiencies.
At the backend, a portal provides a secure cloud application for collecting data from the 3D application. This fully customisable electronic forms portal that means customers do not have to develop a new application every time they want to collect data in a new way or for another commercial purpose.
Available as a service running on the Microsoft Azure Cloud, the portal allows organisations to create their own electronic forms and collect data via a Windows, iOS or Android app. Uniquely it also supports 3D captured data allowing the business to share, collaborate and re-measure images captured within the 3D applications.
As the commercial world bounces back from its current set-back, this type of 3D measuring technology looks set to find a number of valuable commercial applications across many industry sectors. But in the first instance, the freight shipping industry has an immediate and vital need for this type of innovation.Header image source: xactive/shutterstock.com
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