Federal Express, the company that absolutely, positively promises to deliver packages on time, absolutely, positively must be able to provide proof of these deliveries. In fact, an average of one million signatures are collected for the two million pacakges that Fed Ex delivers daily, and these records are kept on file for seven years. In 1995, the company implemented a new Electronic Delivery Record (ERD) system that supports the input of 1.2 million signature images per day. With the new system, written proof of delivery can be faxed to a customer within minutes of an inquiry.
The ERD System
Signatures are scanned overnight, and indexed with data objects including pick up information, proof of delivery and billing information. On an average there are six data objects per delivery. Four thousand customer service and research agents throughout the country can access proof of delivery records from a database that includes 1.5 terabytes of optical data online. On a busy day, more than 2.5 billion data objects are accessed.
IA Corporation (Emeryville, CA) designed the EDR system based on WorkVision™, a document management and workflow application, which sorts and associates data objects and a signature image for every package that Federal Express handles. Twenty-seven SPARCserver 10 workstations create the database and migrate signatures and associated data objects to optical storage on a rolling 30-day cycle. Input and storage components of the system include nine scanners, 15 low-capacity, automated optical disk changers, and a Cygnet Series 1800 optical storage library.
The EDR system stores the data objects and signatures on magnetic disk for 17 days, and then migrates them to the Cygnet Model 1803 optical storage library with four Philips LMS drives. Indexing data is stored on the disk changers after 30 days on magnetic disk. After a full year, disks are removed from the automated libraries and changers and stored on site manually, to make room for more frequently accessed, newer data.
The new Electronic Delivery Record system has reduced the cycle time for proof-of-delivery by as much as 80 percent and manhours by 50 percent. Previously, delivery records were archived on microfilm, and requests for written proof of delivery could take weeks. Now, requests for proof of delivery, including images of signatures, are answered by fax on the same day they are received.