In 2007, Palletline Plc began work on Project Vision - an ambitious concept built around the implementation of innovative, bespoke technological developments designed to achieve complete visibility of freight throughout the process.
The objective of Project Vision was to make best use of IT to optimise Palletline services, stripping cost out of the business to the benefit of both Palletline Member Companies and the end users of the Palletline network.
As part of this objective, Palletline were looking to achieve both scanning and discrepancy photography using one single scanning unit to speeding up the process, increase freight visibility and automate the claims procedure. Unfortunately, at this time high performance units combining an image scanner with a high resolution camera did not exist on the market,
As one of the UK’s leading device manufacturers, TouchStar were already in dialogue with Palletline and they suggested they would meet the requirement via ‘bespoke development’.
A critical sub-set of the Palletline investment plan was the need to secure a hand-held terminal with a wide range of technical capabilities that would help support the drive towards complete transparency of operational data and the securing of tangible competitive advantages. Specifically, Palletline wished to appoint a partner to facilitate effective and efficient data capture, to record pallet movements at strategic points throughout the distribution process.
The key attributes that the supplier and unit would have to meet were defined as:-
- User friendly, effective and efficient interface
- Simple connectivity to host application
- Fast, reliable and accurate capture of data, with long distance scanning
- Ability to capture photographic images simply
- Elimination of lost data risk
- Ability to provide ultra-rugged hardware, designed to survive the rigours of the pallet distribution operation
- Full technical resource and 'fit for purpose' hardware
- Flexible solutions, adaptable to future requirements
Working closely with technology partner TouchStar, Palletline created a customised hand held terminal bringing together the best components with the required performance levels.
The TouchStar development team worked intensively on the development exercise and were able to present Palletline with a fully working prototype of the Boston 8500 terminal, incorporating the new-to-market EX25 near-far imager, within an incredibly short two week period! The ability to deliver a customised hand held terminal was a key determinant in Palletline’s decision to place the order for 250 devices with TouchStar.
Allied to this were two other important issues. Palletline required a method of effectively managing such a significant number of terminals. TouchStar were able to supply their ‘Remote Terminal Administration’ (RTA) software. RTA facilitated the effective management of the Boston terminals, namely:-
- Fault diagnosis by remote technicians
- Event logging of individual devices
- Remote download of operating system upgrades and application software
In addition, TouchStar worked with Palletline to develop the customer application software required to interface to the host system. This included retaining the ability for those sites without the appropriate wireless infrastructure to continue operating on a 'batch mode' basis.
The resultant benefits to customers are immense, with visual evidence of any freight presentation or delivery issues instantly available, assisting to determine liability and minimise claim costs.
Selecting a UK manufacturer, TouchStar, to produce the equipment has also optimised maintenance and support, achieving minimal downtime and contributing towards the development of a robust infrastructure management solution.
Commenting for Palletline, Managing Director Kevin Buchanan underlined the importance of these technological developments to the future of the company. “We are committed to driving efficiency and innovation in order to deliver the highest standards of quality in palletised distribution,” he stated. “TouchStar have clearly demonstrated their ability to work creatively and effectively to help us achieve this goal.”