Postal Technology: Yard champions

Press Review

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Yard champions

AGILE OPTIMIZATION SOFTWARE HOLDS THE KEY TO AUTOMATING YARD
MANAGEMENT DECISION MAKING, LEADING TO AN OVERALL IMPROVEMENT
IN THE PERFORMANCE OF SORTING CENTERS

Soccer has become a data game. Many clubs have adopted the latest technologies to capture data from players and matches to better understand and improve the results of their team. Almost every move on the pitch is monitored and analyzed. Likewise, digital coaches also play an increasingly important role in postal operations.

The digitization and automation debate around postal operations is in fast-forward mode worldwide. Buzzwords like big data, business intelligence and analytics promise to channel data streams into knowledge, transparency and insights. But the optimization of processes often requires more than just channeling a flood of data.

For those who work under pressure, quick action is needed. There is no time to analyze huge amounts of data. Given the sheer number of possible alternatives, rapid and wise decisions are required. Agile optimization software makes data useful. It can be used to speed up and optimize decision-making processes in postal operations. Powered by algorithms, the software analyzes a virtually endless number of scheduling decisions in real time and identifies those that are ideal for minimizing costs and maximizing speed.

Agile optimization benefits from the enormous advances in computer hardware that have occurred over the past two decades. But gains in processor speed pale in comparison with the progress made in algorithms: hardware power has increased by a factor of 1,200, while algorithms have improved by a factor of 55,000 in the same period. Combined, they result in a staggering factor of 66 million. In other words, a planning model that would have taken two years to solve in the 1990s could be solved in just one second today.

Figure 1 shows a comparison of two sorting hubs, each with 10 unloading docks, two presorters, four sorters and 32 loading docks. The challenge is to unload 38 loading units in the shortest time while keeping the workload of the sorters at a well-balanced level. Team A is using Inform’s agile optimization software, whereas Team B uses manual planning. The results show that Team A finishes their work 30 minutes ahead of Team B

A stronghold of agile optimization software is the control and synchronization of time-critical processes in real time, such as hub and yard management, dock assignment, smart network management, and mobile asset management. To gain a better understanding of how this works in practice, let’s take a closer look at some applications in hub operations.

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