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Austria is an important gateway to Eastern Europe. Its postal market is extremely buoyant but also highly competitive. Post.at is one of the country's leading parcel carriers and despite increased competition, particularly from a German parcel services provider, the company has achieved significant growth in the premium parcel segment.
The acquisition of new group companies has had a bearing on its first quarter 2008 sales of €191.2 million. However this is not the sole reason for the 4.5 percent growth. Post.at has become technology-led and invested heavily in automation. This program has been undertaken in line with a major restructuring program to achieve greater efficiency from its nationwide delivery network. The company has also introduced a new premium product, the 24-hour business parcel. These moves anticipate further growth in the business to business parcel segment of which Post.at confidently predicts it will have a 20 percent market share by 2011.
Prime Vision (Delft, The Netherlands) was heavily involved in the automation process at Post.at, working with a main contractor to provide OCR, video coding and a parcel image archive. Although in Prime Vision's terms this was a fairly standard, full suite specification, the aspect that made this project a first for this parcel-automation specialist was its scale. Its Parcel Vision modules were initially installed at the Post.at flagship sorting centre in Vienna and then rolled out across six further regional sites. This phased introduction was completed within four months.
In common with most parcel carriers Post.at had relied on labor intensive manual coding and clearly to maximize every opportunity to grow the business this process needed to be automated. The solution was provided by a three company consortium. Prime Vision's considerable experience in this field together with its established and excellent working relationship with the camera supplier, Sick made it the ideal choice for the dedicated software.
Prime Vision had all the right credentials. It had successfully implemented similar systems in Norway, Holland and Denmark, effectively becoming the industry standard for parcel automation. "This experience presented Post.at with a very low risk proposition," explained Eddy Thans, the CEO of Prime Vision. "All we needed to do was to create a German version of our proven Parcel Vision solution."
The main contractor had the overall responsibility of integrating the Prime Vision modules. This provided comprehensive visibility of all items handled throughout the complete operation cycle from collection to delivery. It also synchronized many related business processes on the way. These include billing, quality control, traceability and a range of customer services.
Prime Vision certainly took an active role in this integration process. The system is designed to read non-EDI labels, known as AVISO in Austria. Empowered by Parcel Vision the top-face scanning cameras supplied by Sick read the labels to capture address detail and determine the parcel service required. Typical variants include signature required, Saturday delivery and value parcel. This information is not contained within the bar code but appears in standard text format.
Naturally the format of the label has an important part to play in minimizing the percentage of parcels being rejected for video coding. Prime Vision has a great deal of experience in this field and its expertise proved valuable at Post.at. Prime Vision advised on the design of a new label resulting in the ability of the overall system to achieve automatic read rates of above 60 percent. This increased read rate has given Post.at an important edge in its bid to be the most sophisticated carrier in the Austrian market.