Here is a question to ponder for a moment, is GPS Tracking in leaflet distribution as effective as you might be led to think?
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.
The system provides critical capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world. The United States government created the system, maintains it, and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.
In addition the EU is at an advanced stage with an alternative system called Galileo. The €5 billion project is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. One of the aims of Galileo is to provide an indigenous alternative high-precision positioning system upon which European nations can rely, independently from the Russian GLONASS and US GPS systems, in case they were disabled by their operators. It is intended that the use of basic (low-precision) Galileo services will be free and open to everyone. The high-precision capabilities will be available for paying commercial users.
The current US system has made it possible for Satellite navigation in cars and is now becoming a popular method for companies to track their employees in various work situations and this now includes the tracking or logging of distributors carrying out Leaflet Distribution activities.
What are the main types of tracking device in use by distribution companies?
There are basically three types of GPS tracking devices
- A simple logging device that can be purchased for about £20-£30 on the internet. When switched on and logged onto the satellite system the device pings the satellites every 5 seconds or so and records in its memory the position of the individual at that point in time. When the device is plugged into a computer the positioning data can be downloaded and displayed on Google Maps or Google Earth to show a trail that the individual has walked whist the device was switched on.
- The second type of device can be more correctly called a GPS tracker. These are much more expensive than the simple logger and are about £90-£100 in addition they require a Sim card with data charges for connection to a mobile phone network. These work in a similar way to the GPS loggers but using a mobile phone network the positioning data can be transmitted to a computer server and via the internet a user can log onto the server and can view the distributors distribution track in real time. This makes the process of tracking distributors much less labour intensive but at much greater cost. In addition to the £90 for each device you have the cost of the mobile phone network connection at around £10 per month plus the cost of accessing the Server where the data is stored and this can be anything from £5-10 per month per distributor.
- There is also a 3rd option using a smartphone which has GPS capability. It is possible to use a a tracking app like Map My Walk or Strava. These are basically a fitness apps which are used by walkers, runners and bikers to track their activity and can be used effectively to provide a fairly accurate track of their distribution activity. The app has a free version but it will use the data allowance of the users mobile phone account. It is however possible to turn data off and then upload the track to Map My Walks servers when they get home via WiFi.
Pros & cons
Deliverers are unsupervised whilst they are doing their work and theoretically a track of where they have delivered to could be a definitive record of when and where the work was done.
Also by asking the deliverer to carry a tracker you are effectively telling them that less than 100% delivery in the drop area is not acceptable and that you are effectively watching them.
The technology works but it is far from fool proof. Loggers seem to be stable and produce the best track but downloading the data to a PC is a time consuming task. It can be made easier by an experienced operator but managing the data produced by the logger is still a job to be done which will not be paid for by the client. The logger need to be connected (logged on) to the satellites before it will start working and satellites signals can be hidden by buildings and trees. Even the very basic action of switching on the device needs to be done or remembered to be done by the deliverer. Similarly the deliverer needs to charge the device and remember to do this well before the planned delivery session. There are often incidents where the operative forgets to switch on the device and doesn’t realise this and completes the delivery. In these circumstances what is to be done? Would you make the deliverer do the job again?
Live trackers (loggers with a mobile phone data connection) have similar problems to loggers but as they are uploading the track to a server. It is possible minimise some of the problems of the logger. Firstly it will show you if the tracker is switched on and the deliverer delivering – or not. It will give you real time information about the deliverer’s activity – you don’t have to wait until the logger is back in the possession of the manager. The data does not need to be downloaded to a PC but the track displayed on the computer will still need to be managed.
Only a professional Leaflet distribution Co will properly use the tools
A track showing the paths to houses have been walked is not proof that a particular item was pushed through a letterbox so is never going to be proof of delivery and needs to be used in conjunction with effective management systems
The signal from the satellite can be lost and when this happens there will be no track of the deliverers activity – did they deliver to that area or not? And what do you do in these circumstances? Other back checking data will verify the true situation.
Loggers and trackers are expensive technology, they get lost, they become faulty or get damaged, batteries run out and wear out. If you have 50 delivery people in your team and they all have a tracker or logger, that’s a lot of equipment to purchase and maintain – only a professional company with good financial resources will be able to use these tools.
Despite the questions can GPS tracking make a difference?
GPS tracking should be seen only as a tool in the whole deliverer management system. A successful distribution company will have management systems in place to ensure that only the right people are employed to do the work. In this they will be motivated to do it for a number of reasons, for the exercise, or because they like working outside or because they can do it in their own time at their own pace (within clients time requirements of course) and not necessarily just for the money. However they will be paid a fair rate for the work they are being asked to carry out. The deliverer will be properly trained how to do the delivery. eg how to keep leaflet folding to a minimum, how to deliver properly in flats. How to deal with householders who don’t want the leaflets and importantly what they can do to show that the work has been properly done.