Q&A with Patrick McGuirk: Data gets deliveries to the door
Patrick McGuirk, Commercial Director at UK-based navigation platform PostTag, is seeing customer delivery and service businesses transforming as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses are seeking to expand their reach, improve their cost-efficiency and reduce their emissions, especially where the ‘last mile’ is concerned.
How does PostTag’s platform enable cost and emission reductions?
The bit that often fails on last-mile delivery is actually finding the exact address location. But it fails invisibly. A delivery might somehow make its way to the correct address eventually, but often it is because the delivery driver has been really persistent, asking passers-by or googling for information about the address they cannot find. An awful lot of additional carbon miles are being travelled as a result of inaccurate addressing. On average, using Google Maps in the UK will take a delivery to 62 metres away from the actual location.
This problem of inaccurate addresses is invisible to the C-suite until the chief executive heads out for a day on a van with a driver and suddenly realises that this is a huge barrier to efficiency, and that they are losing money right at the end of the supply chain.
The PostTag proposition is very simple: on our platform we combine multiple data sources to create an exact location and we help guide deliveries or visitors of any kind to within 1 metres of the front door, rather than to an approximate location.
Our typical customers are the big delivery firms with parcels and food delivery, and then others that you would not expect – for example, telecoms or gas boiler engineers. A lot of people talk about the last mile. We do the final 100 metres.
Postal services and communities differ considerably around the world. Where does your business model work best?
We started in the UK because we were founded by British people, but you could argue that it is not the best example because its postal accuracy is quite good. The best in the world is Switzerland, where there probably is no need for PostTag. And in countries in the developing world that are completely unmapped, the data sources that we reference don't exist.
We are at our best where the system is good but not perfect. Our value-add is based on our ability to provide that final bit of accuracy for the last 100 metres. We are expanding in the United Arab Emirates and Southeast Asia, for instance, where we can effectively create that accuracy and partner with local companies to work out a successful commercial model.
The US is interesting for us because the challenge in New York is very different from the challenge in the Midwest. In New York it is about finding the correct entrance to a multi-occupancy set of flats, whereas in the Midwest it is the fact that historically, the map shows the letterbox at the end of the driveway. This is great when people used to have only letters delivered, but is not good enough for large parcels. Australia is another good example, where address accuracy is mixed in the cities but very poor in the countryside.
What has the pandemic meant for PostTag? Has it affected demand?
It has. At the start, I was incredibly nervous that we would need to shut down as a business, in terms of our new development work, because there is huge strain on supply chains right now. Businesses are completely reconfiguring themselves. My fear was that the ability to work with the likes of PostTag to make an important efficiency improvement would be lost in the need to fundamentally remap what businesses look like.
We have been pleasantly surprised. There has been a desire to drive fundamental change in how supply chains operate as part of the reaction to the pandemic. There are businesses with drivers who for years have been working with a B2B model, and are now required to work at the B2C level. And we see the strain on that type of business, from the way in which they brief their workforce to how they use their vehicle fleet.
I did not expect such a high level of adaptability or desire to drive transformational change while going through such a panic situation. But I have been hugely impressed by businesses' capability to both transform and just keep going.