A new alternative to bar codes?
During a six-month practical test, System Alliance, the medium-sized general cargo cooperation network, is evaluating whether the quick response code (QR) is suitable for daily use. This electronic tool can store significantly more information on a square base than can the bar code, which is currently used almost everywhere.
By conducting this test programme, System Alliance hopes to gain insight into the possible areas of application for the two-dimensional QR code. This comparatively new technological tool is a code that can transfer text information in binary characters (black or white fields). The coded areas can be read with special scanners, as well as with the use of the most recent models of mobile telephones, the so-called smartphones and appropriate applications, colloquially also referred to as apps.
For the purposes of exploring the potential of such a two-dimensional code in practice, System Alliance initiated a study during the first quarter of 2013. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The initial project partner is Gahrens + Battermann, a service provider for event technology. Based on the results of the study, System Alliance will decide in late 2013 whether this new technology will definitively be rolled out within the network of the general cargo cooperation.
Possible benefits and areas of use
During daily freight forwarding operations, the use of the QR code is expected to allow for the direct recording of consignment data during pick-up and the transfer of that data to a transport management system. In doing so, the packages taken over can be reconciled with the shipping order immediately.
Looking further into the future, it may even become possible one day to trigger a notification message to the recipient already during the takeover scan. What is more, the QR code could also be used to record the shipping documents, such as information about hazardous materials according to the ADR agreement or a packing slip.
Senders and recipients will also be able to use the coding to exchange information, explained Klaus Hellmann, chairman of the board of System Alliance and managing partner of the globally operating logistics services provider Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, in an interview with ITJ. Hellmann believes it would be beneficial to use the system if, for example, reference, order or lot numbers need to be transferred, or if using QR codes facilitates the forwarding of notes relating to inbound control, flow of goods or handling in a compact manner.
Hellmann did not want to divulge any projected numbers for the concrete cost savings within the logistics process chain that are expected to be achieved as a result of using QR codes. But he indicated that he could certainly imagine the new technology to offer cost savings for the senders of goods as well.
«One of the biggest revolutions»
Hellmann left no doubt about the fact that he is completely convinced of the technology and the potential for QR codes. «To my mind, the the QR code is one of the biggest revolutions in the logistics industry to date. The most important advantage is that freight forwarders are no longer required to re-record shipments if the corresponding consignment data has been saved by the customer.»
Georg Köhler, managing director of System Alliance, explained how the general cargo cooperation network began to explore the QR code subject matter. Köhler: «We thought about how we can advance the industrial handling of logistics processes within our association. Industrial handling and communications are nowadays synonymous with increases in data volume and data processing. While searching for new, innovative approaches, we came across the QR code. We subsequently discussed this matter with our partners and asked them in this process whether this new technological tool could potentially also be useful for a general cargo cooperation network like ours. In any event, in the end we decided that this entire subject matter was extremely interesting.»
As Köhler further explained, the general cargo cooperation network subsequently contacted a number of its customers about this technology and involved them in the decision-making process. The feedback from the network’s customers in relation to the QR code was «very good», he said. That is the reason why System Alliance decided to conduct a practical test, according to Köhler.