WO2016012741A1 - System, method and apparatus for facilitating same- day order fulfilment and delivery - Google Patents

System, method and apparatus for facilitating same- day order fulfilment and delivery Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2016012741A1
WO2016012741A1 PCT/GB2015/000213 GB2015000213W WO2016012741A1 WO 2016012741 A1 WO2016012741 A1 WO 2016012741A1 GB 2015000213 W GB2015000213 W GB 2015000213W WO 2016012741 A1 WO2016012741 A1 WO 2016012741A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
order
delivery
location
packaged
data
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2015/000213
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Andrew David Whiteside
Original Assignee
Andrew David Whiteside
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Application filed by Andrew David Whiteside filed Critical Andrew David Whiteside
Publication of WO2016012741A1 publication Critical patent/WO2016012741A1/en

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING OR COUNTING
    • G06QINFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY [ICT] SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL OR SUPERVISORY PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL OR SUPERVISORY PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/08Logistics, e.g. warehousing, loading or distribution; Inventory or stock management
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING OR COUNTING
    • G06QINFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY [ICT] SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL OR SUPERVISORY PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL OR SUPERVISORY PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/08Logistics, e.g. warehousing, loading or distribution; Inventory or stock management
    • G06Q10/087Inventory or stock management, e.g. order filling, procurement or balancing against orders

Definitions

  • the present invention relates to a system, method and apparatus to facilitate same- day order fulfilment, including delivery.
  • the invention is directed particularly to the co-ordination of the item order Ranough to delivery of the ordered item at a requested location.
  • item orders will be received or relayed from a customer and fulfilled at a distribution centre from which the order is dispatched, traditionally by mail order.
  • the logistics of handling and delivering multiple orders is a well-appreciated one and numerous software programs are available to assist in the routing of delivery vehicles where the postal or other outsourced delivery regime is not utilised. In many instances, it makes little sense to use a large regional or national infrastructure such as the postal system to deliver to locally based customers (or ones within a serviced radius of a distribution centre).
  • the present invention also relates to a stock carrier adapted to receive a plurality of packaged orders and to ensure the delivery location data is correctly associated with the order and its position within the stock carrier, so that minimum time is expended identifying the correct order for the physical location (geo-location) reached.
  • the invention is additionally concerned with the conveyance of the stock carrier, its configuration as a cart or trolley for manual manoeuvrability, its configuration as part of a delivery vehicle, whether as a trailer or as suitable for loading onto a delivery vehicle.
  • the invention yet further relates to a delivery vehicle adapted to receive a stock carrier of the type having a plurality of compartments or receptacles, each configured to receive an order item.
  • a delivery vehicle adapted to receive a stock carrier of the type having a plurality of compartments or receptacles, each configured to receive an order item.
  • Associated with each order item is an identity allowing real-time tracking to provide location information to a customer and enhanced security features which ensure an order item is not removed from the vehicle at an incorrect location.
  • the present invention further relates to a system, method and apparatus for the provision of location-based, order delivery information to a navigation device, mobile cell phone or similar device having a microprocessor implemented program adapted to inform a driver of stock information and modification to a route in the real-time.
  • the invention is directed particularly to the provision of security features associated with confirmed delivery.
  • distributed centre is used broadly to indicate any central location where order fulfilment may occur. It will be appreciated by the skilled addressee that such a location is not limited by size or function and can include everything from the back office of a small "Mom & Pop" store where order items are boxed for shipping up to a 50,000+ stock item warehouses where inventory management is conducted using remotely controlled mobile drive units.
  • orders will be packaged in padded envelopes, prescription bags, flexible cases and a variety of other ways, none detracting from the fact that they have been selected, collated, sorted, wrapped, parcelled and/or packaged for delivery.
  • orders are boxed in regularly sized cardboard containers.
  • the terms "packaged order” and “boxed order” are used interchangeably in the present description.
  • customer order delivery can have a number of meanings depending on the circumstances in which it is used. Predominantly, when discussing the customer, reference is being made to the recipient of an order placed by the customer via an online shop or auction site. During checkout, the customer requests as a delivery option that a "SprintShip" TM delivery is requested. Similarly, if a gift is being bought by a customer, the intended recipient is not technically a customer but for the purpose of the description which follows can be designated a customer.
  • customer can be applied to larger entities including those running their own distribution centres and having inventory management software planning delivery routes for its own fleet of vehicles.
  • Radio Frequency Identification technology is a particularly useful means by which articles, in this case boxed orders, can be readily identified or their position monitored with respect to a fixed point.
  • Active RFIF technology can be used within a limited radius to monitor location, however, active RFID tags must be powered.
  • Use of passive RFID tags is significantly cheaper and can be read from a distance of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters).
  • Other location/position tagging technology can be utilised, however, RFID tagging is well-appreciated and is illustrative of the techniques applied in the invention.
  • GPS Global positioning systems
  • PDAs personal digital assistants
  • apps application program
  • Apps are normally closely associated with an operational system platform of which Android and iOS are the current market leaders.
  • non-device based programs or so- called Cloud-based implementations provide increased sophistication and processing power with only minimal data being transmitted to and from the data device to provide the required app utility.
  • the user inputs a destination into the device which calculates a route from its known current position to the required destination and either displays the projected route, usually when the device is static, or commences to provide direction information to the user.
  • Multiple locations may be provided to calculate a route including deviations from a direct route to the chosen destination.
  • the GPS location of the device is modified so that location critical information can be provided, such as particular traffic features from roundabouts, one-way systems, speed restrictions and the like.
  • the location of static speed cameras and typical sites of mobile speed traps may be included in the navigation software or software updates.
  • the navigation software together with GPS location data facilitates the rapid provision of updated route information to the user.
  • the term "conveyance” is utilised to denote a range of means by which orders can be moved from one location to another, as such the term “vehicle” is considered limiting, as it excludes manually manoeuvrable carts, trailers and other transport means, where no such limitation is warranted or intended.
  • an end tab of one side wall is secured to an edge portion of another side wall and the or each base portion is folded and secured to form an open-mouthed container.
  • the or each lid portion is folded and secured.
  • the means of securing the portions to form the container is normally selected from gluing, stapling or applying adhesive tape.
  • the invention has as a yet further object, the provision of real-time routing information to a driver via a data device, having remote access to a database of customer location, stock carried, and, optionally, stock acquisition data.
  • the present invention provides an order fulfilment system, comprising: an inventory management means operable to: receive a packaged order having delivery location data associated therewith; formulate a route for conveying the order to its delivery location; and verifying delivery of an order to its delivery location, a data device for providing real-time location data to the inventory management means; and order delivery verification means for matching real-time location data provided by the data device with the delivery location data of the packaged order before authorising release of the order and completing the delivery.
  • the specific object of the invention is to provide means by which the release of a packaged order is withheld until the actual physical location (geo-location) of the order as conveyed substantially matches that of the order delivery location associated with the order.
  • the inventory management means is operable to determine the configuration of the order, issue instructions to create a packaged order having a label thereon, said label including machine-readable delivery location data.
  • the inventory management means is operable to identify co-located deliveries and formulate a route.
  • the inventory management means is operable to coordinate loading of co-located deliveries onto a stock carrier.
  • the inventory management means includes means for identifying a packaged order and its delivery location.
  • NFC Near Field Communication
  • delivery location data associated with an order is provided by any one or more of barcodes, QR codes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging.
  • RFID Radio Frequency Identification
  • the data device incorporates the inventory management means or parts thereof. Additionally, the data device comprises a Global Satellite Positioning (GPS) and General Pocket Radio Service (GPRS) mobile device, such as provided by a smartphone or tablet
  • GPS Global Satellite Positioning
  • GPRS General Pocket Radio Service
  • features of known data devices such as smartphones and tablets having integrated application programs allow for the inclusion of inventory management functions, geo-location operations and collection and communication of data to be performed by the data device.
  • delivery location data is associated with an RFID tag attached to the order, the tag including means for communicating with the data device.
  • the RFID tag is selectively paired with the data device using Bluetooth communication techniques.
  • the order delivery verification means includes any one or more of: means for releasing a packaged order only at a predetermined delivery location; means for presenting the packaged order only to a confirmed driver/agent or customer/recipient; means for scanning order delivery location data provided on the packaged order into a data device; and means for recording proof of d3livery at a real-time location (geo-location) corresponding to the order delivery location data specified on the packaged order.
  • the means for recording proof of delivery includes forming a visual record of the transfer of the packaged order to a customer/recipient.
  • the visual record is stored on the data device.
  • a delivery conveyance driver is provided with a visual recording means which includes a "heads-up" display element.
  • the visual recording means is in communication with the inventory management means to provide the driver with real-time data.
  • the system includes a delivery conveyance having a transport compartment adapted to receive a plurality of packaged orders, the transport compartment having at least one lockable hatch therein, each hatch being so sized and shaped as to allow access to a discrete number of packaged orders.
  • the transport compartment has a security door having a plurality of remotely lockable hatches, each hatch having an assignment indicator means.
  • Each packaged order is assigned to a lockable hatch which is released only when the delivery conveyance is in a physical location corresponding to the delivery location of the packaged order.
  • the transport compartment is divided into a number of sections, each aligning with a corresponding lockable hatch.
  • packaged orders having delivery locations along an assigned route are loaded onto a stock carrier loadable into a delivery conveyance transport compartment and secured therein.
  • each stock carrier has a plurality of receptacles so sized and shaped as to constrain in transit a packaged order, each receptacle having an identifiable position on the stock carrier.
  • each receptacle is assigned a lockable hatch in a security door.
  • each stock carrier is configured so that the packaged order receptacles are mounted for rotation on a carousel mechanism held within a frame of the carrier.
  • each stock carrier includes a drive controller which operably rotates the carousel mechanism in response to a drive signal; the drive signal moving a receptacle holding a selected packaged order into a dispatch position adjacent a corresponding hatch, which is unlocked when the order delivery location has been verified by matching it to the geo-location provided via the data device.
  • the carousel mechanism is rotated in response to a verification signal.
  • the controller is in communication via the data device with the inventory management means to receive the verification signal.
  • the inventory management means provides real-time information relating to packaged order location and scheduled time of delivery to a customer and/or intended recipient.
  • the data device is registered to the delivery conveyance, the data device being provided with a security identity matched to the conveyance to limit further access to the packaged orders.
  • the inventory management means relays order data to a stock carrier controller, the carrier including means to manoeuvre packaged orders loaded thereon to a presentation (dispatch) position within the conveyance to facilitate easy retrieval by the conveyance driver or a customer/recipient.
  • the or each packaged order is conveyed autonomously along its route, the means for autonomous conveyance being selected from a mobile platform capable of elevating a plurality of orders in a stock carrier, a powered trolley upon or within which the orders or a stock carrier is disposed, an autonomous (driverless) vehicle adapted to manoeuvre amongst regular road traffic or a drone (pilotless) aircraft.
  • the invention further provides a method of delivering packaged orders to predetermined locations along a route by conveying at least one stock carrier capable of receiving a packaged order in each of a plurality of individually identifiable receptacles so sized and shaped as to receive said packaged orders, each packaged order having associa ed therewith a delivery (or return) location which can be associated to its corresponding receptacle location within the stock carrier.
  • Each stock carrier includes a drive controller which operably rotates a carousel mechanism within the carrier in response to a drive signal; the drive signal moving a receptacle holding a selected packaged order into a dispatch position adjacent a corresponding secured hatch, which is released from a secured mode in response to a verification signal.
  • the invention also provides an order fulfilment method, comprising: compiling orders to fulfil a request; affixing a customer delivery label to the packaged order; scanning the delivery label to identify order delivery location data; sorting an optimum route for delivery of packaged orders; loading packaged orders according to delivery location or route onto a stock carrier; loading a stock carrier onto a delivery conveyance; dispatching the conveyance to successive locations on a route; presenting a packaged order to a secured hatch upon reaching a physical location corresponding to the delivery location associated with the packaged order; releasing the secured hatch upon generation of a verification signal; scanning the delivery label to confirm order identification and delivery location; and completing delivery of the packaged order.
  • the delivery label includes means for electronically tagging the packaged order. Ideally, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging is utilised.
  • RFID Radio Frequency Identification
  • the invention further provides an order fulfilment system for providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the system comprising: one or more computers having access to updated data regarding order fulfilment, real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; one or more mobile data devices in communication with the one or more computers and having a microprocessor implemented program thereon adapted to inform a conveyance driver and/or customer/intended recipient of order location along a route; means for determining the current location of an order and providing order status data to a mobile data device; and means for transmitting to the data device a plurality of order and pick-up locations on or adjacent a route, wherein the plurality of locations is integrated into an order fulfilment schedule by an inventory management means.
  • Order status indicia are presented on the screen of a user data device indicating the status of an order and/or its anticipated arrival time at a given location.
  • order status indicia are shown as map pins having associated data fields.
  • the method comprising: interrogating one or more computers having access to updated data regarding real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; providing means for communicating between said one or more computers and one or more mobile data devices, each having a microprocessor implemented program thereon adapted to inform a conveyance driver and/or customer/intended recipient of order location along a route; determining the current location of an order and providing order status data to a mobile data device; and transmitting to the data device a plurality of order and pick-up locations along or adjacent a route, wherein the plurality of order and pick-up locations are integrated into the order fulfilment schedule by an inventory management means.
  • the invention yet further provides a computer-readable medium having stored thereon computer readable instructions which, when executed by a processor, cause a computing device to perform a set of actions to providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the actions including: interrogating one or more computers having access to updated data regarding order and pick-up locations, real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; and communicating between said one or more computers and the or each mobile data device, each device having a microprocessor adapted to execute instructions in accordance with an implementing program thereon to inform a user of order status data and a driver of delivery and pick-up location.
  • a plurality of orders is packaged into cartons of a predetermined dimension.
  • Affixed to each carton or "packaged order" is a label with details of the order and customer information in a machine readable format, including barcodes, QR codes and RFID tagging techniques.
  • the customer information includes a destination code corresponding to a delivery address, which is convertible to GPS co-ordinates.
  • distribution centre inventory management software formulates an inventory list for a stock carrier in accordance with a route determined by the software.
  • the software optionally includes information on returns or materials to be collected enroute.
  • the stock carrier When a stock carrier is full or a route is adequately occupied, the stock carrier is loaded onto a delivery conveyance.
  • the delivery conveyance is adapted to receive the stock carrier and is provided with means to secure the carrier in place.
  • the stock carrier is self-contained in that it includes a power- source, drive motor for the carousel and a drive controller.
  • the stock carrier In a second configuration, the stock carrier includes a power coupling for connection to the conveyance, so that power for the carousel drive motor is taken from the vehicle.
  • the drive controller may be mounted within the vehicle and connected to the carousel drive motor once the stock carrier is secured within the vehicle.
  • Route details may be stored within logic circuitry associated with the carrier and may be downloaded to a vehicle or driver data device therefrom or remotely from a database maintained by the distribution centre inventory management software.
  • a security door is provided which is opened for loading and unloading a stock carrier from the vehicle but secured at all other times.
  • a plurality of individually lockable hatches are provided in the security door, each of which is associated with a position where a packaged order is presented for retrieval from the carousel upon reading a location associated with the boxed order.
  • the carousel motor drive controller positions individual boxed orders adjacent a hatch only when the associated location has been reached. Where multiple hatches are provided in the security door, only the hatch behind which the order corresponding to the location reached will be unlocked. A LED or other indicia may be provided to direct the dispatch driver to the unlocked hatch.
  • the driver scans the machine readable label as part of the delivery process.
  • the data device used by the driver may indicate whether a signature is required or whether a drop-off delivery has been confirmed.
  • the driver may be presented with one of a number of pre-agreed instructions. Where the delivery is to be deposited on a doorstep or outside a customer's premises, this fact is entered on the order delivery details. Photographic evidence of timed deposit may be gathered and fed back to the distribution centre management software.
  • the driver is provided with a handheld data device having facilities for photographic or video recording and for time and location stamping such evidence. Modern smartphones and tablets have such facilities or application program (“apps”) may be devised for such purposes.
  • each order compartment comprises a wire-framed receptacle so sized and shaped as to retain a carton of a predetermined dimension in which there is sealed a boxed order.
  • Figure 1 is a schematic flowchart representing the main component interacts of the system
  • Figures 2(1) to 2(12) are a series of mobile data communication device screenshots illustrating the user interface of an application program in accordance with the invention
  • Figures 3(1) to 3(10) are a series of screen display snapshots illustrating a driver interface program in accordance with the invention
  • Figure 4 is an exposed perspective elevation of the stock carrier carousel mechanism
  • Figure 5 is a perspective elevation of a pair of stock carriers secured within a vehicle presenting boxed orders to a plurality of remotely releasable hatches disposed within a security door;
  • Figure 6 is a schematic circuit diagram of a drive controller for the carousel mechanism.
  • fulfilment orders are referred to as "boxed orders" however, it will be understood that no such limitations apply.
  • the present invention provides a system, method and apparatus for the provision of rapid order fulfilment, including delivery.
  • the invention specifically provides order tracking from placement, through inventory control and collation, to dispatch and delivery confirmation for both the recipient (and order placer, if not the same) and for each member of the supply chain.
  • Each element of the invention facilitates information transfer to effect full accountability, enhanced security and accurate order fulfilment, thereby increasing order throughput speeds and decreasing returns and incomplete transactions.
  • the invention further provides means for ensuring orders are not misplaced, incorrectly assigned or delivered to a wrong location.
  • the present invention provides a system, method and apparatus for the provision of location-based, order delivery information to a data device, commonly a navigation device, mobile cell phone or similar device having a microprocessor implemented program adapted to a driver of stock information and modification to a route in real-time.
  • a data device commonly a navigation device, mobile cell phone or similar device having a microprocessor implemented program adapted to a driver of stock information and modification to a route in real-time.
  • Standard GPS navigation devices may also utilise the invention with appropriate modifications and upgrades/updates.
  • the invention also provides a means for a customer or order recipient to track an order from fulfilment at a distribution centre through dispatch along its assigned route to delivery.
  • the means is usually implemented by providing order information to a user data device, such as a smartphone having Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G capability or can also be a personal computer (PC), laptop or tablet.
  • a user data device such as a smartphone having Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G capability or can also be a personal computer (PC), laptop or tablet.
  • Both the driver interface and customer interface can be implemented via an application program ("app"), the mobile data device communicates an order or routing data request to a database server connected to the Internet and accessible via a 3G or 4G data network service. This then provides the device with real-time data for locations within a predetermined radius of the current or proposed route. Other modifications and corresponding pick-up and delivery locations may be used to modify the route presented to a driver and new locations are displayed for the modified route.
  • apps application program
  • the driver interface is presented as an application program (app) or display software on a bespoke platform but may equally be presented on an iPhone, Android or Windows platform or any suitable successor to the above. Equally, the presentation may be via existing navigation software modified to accommodate the additional requirements as described hereinbelow with reference to the screenshots of Figures 3(1) to 3(10). Most notably, although not explicitly illustrated the driver interface may be presented as information on a "heads-up" display or wearable interactive display, such as that provided by Google Glasses TM.
  • the customer or user interface although available on desktop, laptop and tablet, is optimised ideally for smartphone use on iPhone, Android and Windows platforms. Additional platforms may be provided as demand dictates.
  • the customer app is tailored also to integrate with online shops and auction site so that delivery options normally associated with "basket” and "checkout” processes can be presented.
  • focus is directed to the user experience when requesting pick-up and delivery of an order and tracking its progress to its destination and receiving real-time data.
  • the "SprintShip" TM user application program is presented to facilitate use of next-day and increasingly same-day delivery services and to enable the user to temper their expectations and schedule their day. Orders can be made, deliveries scheduled and presented in a convenient way with full traceability on an order. Pick-ups, gifts, online auction items, deliveries all can be controlled from one access point.
  • Figures 2(1 ) to 2(12) are, by way of example only, a sample series of mobile data device screenshots illustrating a user interface of the type provided by a downloadable application program.
  • Figure 2(1) comprises a marketing (or "splash") screen during downloading or initiation of the app. It will be appreciated that this and the following screenshots may also be presented on the device when accessing the web interface across a Wi-Fi, 3G/4G or similar data network. Normally, the splash screen will remain on the display for a period of less than 5 seconds, showing an application logo or client logo, as appropriate, if licensed to a third party or available as a white-label platform. The user can access associated Terms and Conditions of use or Disclaimer Notice pages from the splash screen, via a device menu button.
  • Figure 2(2) represents the "Login” screen for an existing user but may be used to bring a new user to registration screen, as shown in Figure 2(3), via a "Create an Account” button.
  • a user registration will enhance the user's experience and convenience when using the app.
  • account details will enable many additional features including, for example, favourite locations (home, office, friends, business associates) preferred stores, and favourite purchases, including predicated offers which may be of interest based on previous purchases. Advertising revenue opportunities are thus presented for a database provider or third party affiliates.
  • Figures 2(4) to 2(6) illustrate the pick-up and delivery address screens where a user can provide the requisite information.
  • Location pin icons are provided as shortcuts to favourite or saved "From" and "To" addresses.
  • the pin icons can also be used with GPS functionality of the data device so that a current location may also be entered.
  • predictive or drop-down address details can be utilised.
  • a user has two package deliveries to be made. For each delivery the user will select a box or carton of a predetermined size and can conveniently provide user defined package information for ease of reference. "New Leather Boots" fit into a Small Box and
  • the user will be advised of a pick-up time and when collected, the driver of the vehicle provides an order confirmation sheet with an order delivery address label, including a machine-readable barcods or QR code assigned to the boxed order.
  • an order confirmation sheet with an order delivery address label, including a machine-readable barcods or QR code assigned to the boxed order.
  • the user can either type an order code or scan the machine-readable code using a reader built into the application program. If the tracking number or QR code is not valid or incorrectly entered, this will be displayed on the data device screen. If correctly entered, all recent and current orders will be displayed.
  • Figure 2(7) illustrates an icon led screen from which a user may choose to purchase another "Sprint” delivery, to "Track” an existing delivery, to gain access to “Settings” or to review activity by "History”.
  • the screen can be expanded by a drop-down function to provide an alternative layout and a "Logout” function, as shown in Figure 2(8).
  • a first screen opens requesting a tracking number or QR code scan where one has not yet been entered or details downloaded.
  • the user interface screen acknowledges a correct order identification, as shown in Figure 2(10).
  • the user interface will only allow an involved party (dispatcher, supplier, operator, recipient) to "Track" an order, thereby enhancing privacy and security.
  • the two package deliveries from the screenshot showing packaging information is presented with a recent "Accepted” package designated “Jim's Tools".
  • the tracking number of each boxed order is presented with the user defined title and the current status of the delivery.
  • the package was handed to a driver who scanned the QR code and designated an RFID tag to "Accepted” the delivery request.
  • the status is indicated as "Delivered”, which indicates a "customer-not-present” transaction where, by agreement, the boxed order was deposited at a neighbour's premises or in a discreet receptacle or out- building.
  • secured compounds or limited access premises including apartment buildings
  • the final boxed order designated “New Leather Boots” is noted as currently “In Transit” with an Estimate Time of Arrival (ETA) of 24 minutes.
  • ETA Estimate Time of Arrival
  • a map screen is presented, as illustrated in Figure 2(12), where the position of the delivery van (designated by the SprintShipTM logo) is shown on its route to its target destination, that it, the delivery address.
  • This map is updated with real-time data as to the position of the delivery vehicle and its ETA. Should another pick-up or a re-routing be introduced, this information will be displayed on the user's data device.
  • a distribution centre inventory management software program has allocated a route for the driver to deliver six orders from the depot, designated by a home map pin, around a highlighted route.
  • the route is optimised by the software program, however, the driver has the option to edit the order of the numbered deliveries to alter the route.
  • the delivery vehicle is again designated by the SprintShip logo and the delivery locations by sequentially numbered map pins.
  • the route is also shaded to indicate status of progress, so that the route completed to the first delivery location is chequered, the position of the route between the first and second map pins is shaded to indicate the vehicle is in transit and a cancelled portion of the route (where the recipient may have indicated an alternative delivery time) is alternatively shaded or dashed to indicate to the driver that this portion no longer requires to be driven. Where a shorter alternative route exists to bypass the cancelled portion of the route, this is indicated on the updated map, to show a direct route between the fourth and sixth delivery location. As the first delivery is completed and the fifth cancelled, there remains four "Sprints" left, as indicated on the counter.
  • the route and order status can be alternatively represented in the screenshot of Figure 3(2) where the order delivery list includes status updates and corresponding shading.
  • the first order is “Delivered”
  • the second order is “In Transit” with an ETA of 5 minutes and 5 seconds
  • the fifth order “Cancelled”.
  • the status is indicated as “Accepted”, meaning they have been accepted by the driver onto the delivery vehicle.
  • Figure 3(3) shows an alternative to a driver interface screenshot where data or menu options are presented as a heads-up-display or via a wearable visual interface.
  • Voice activated control allows the driver to select an option from a scrolling list. In the options presented the driver can select from:
  • Figure 3(4) is an image or screenshot through a QR reader or QR reading app on the driver's data device for either logging or identifying a boxed order.
  • the QR code printed on the affixed label has been generated by the distribution centre management software and printed out as part of the address label.
  • the QR code is centrally created so that proper inventory and route logistics can be assured.
  • the QR code is identified by the reader or data device app (as shown in Figure 3(5)) the driver is informed that it may be placed within the transport compartment. As detailed, a security hatch will open allowing the position of the boxed order within the compartment to be known.
  • the boxed order will not be presented again at a hatch until the vehicle is located at the distribution centre.
  • the driver is informed of the route change and the "Accepted" boxed order will not be released from the compartment until the designated location has been reached.
  • Figures 3(7) and 3(8) are alternative navigation screens available to the driver.
  • a screen view of a boxed order is scanned by the driver at the delivery location and is notified of a "Package Error" should the location not correspond to the QR code.
  • the driver is alerted to the discrepancy so remedial action can be taken.
  • the above situation should never arise as the boxed order would not be presented to the driver if the actual location is inconsistent with the delivery location.
  • a security hatch is opened to give the driver access to a limited number of boxed orders, only the correct one should be indicated.
  • only the correct boxed order would be presented at an unlocked security hatch.
  • the correct boxed order is presented to the recipient/customer and an image is recorded to complete the order fulfilment process.
  • QR codes may also be used to associate order delivery location data with receptacle position in a stock carrier (if utilised) and real-time physical location data provided via the data device.
  • RFID tagging technologies and other Near Field Communication (NFC) devices provides appreciable enhancements to the handling, sorting and locating of packaged orders to which a RFID tag, for example, is attached.
  • a RFID tag ideally having a QR code affixed thereto, is associated with a QR code or barcode on a label affixed to a packaged order
  • orders are arranged in a stock carrier having a plurality of receptacles the location of each being allocated a code, which can be associated with either or both of the label code and the RFID tag.
  • a carousel mechanism is provided for a vehicle transport compartment. It will be appreciated that the carousel can be built within a framework defining a stock carrier mounted on wheels for easy manoeuvrability into and out of a vehicle transport compartment.
  • a delivery vehicle such as a Mercedes Sprinter is adapted to receive at least one stock carrier, each having a carousel mechanism, which is loaded from a loading bay into the rear of the vehicle and secured therein, either by locking bolts or by engaging a receptacle mounted within the vehicle.
  • the receptacle may include a power coupling for connecting vehicle electrics to the carrier to power the carousel or a battery pack may alternatively be provided.
  • the transport compartment of a vehicle need not be integral with the vehicle and can alternatively be linked to a vehicle via a tow-hitch or other means.
  • a transport compartment formed within a shipping container allows for increased utility of the system of the invention.
  • the exemplary carousel comprises an oblong drive train to which there is connected a plurality of wire-formed order receptacles.
  • the drive train includes end sprockets held in spaced apart relationship by at least one spine component, one of the sprockets being driven through gearing by a driver motor.
  • the drive motor is powered via a drive power controller under microprocessor control.
  • a logic controller coupled to the driver controller can position each order receptacle according to data received.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates the exemplary embodiment of the invention in which a pair of stock carriers (in hidden detail) is secured in a transport compartment of a delivery vehicle, which has a high security loading door in which a plurality of hatches are provided.
  • Each carrier is provided with a carousel mechanism with two rows of receptacles, one disposed over the other and linked to move together via a drive motor.
  • Each receptacle is adapted to hold a single boxed order and each row of each carousel has a capacity of sixteen boxed orders, that is, 32 per carousel/stock carrier.
  • Each row of each carousel is adapted to align a boxed order with a releasably locked hatch so that when an order is presented for retrieval, an indicator light notifies the driver which of the hatches will be opened.
  • the logic controller circuit is shown in Figure 6 and illustrates the power coupling from the vehicle which includes a data connection for carousel control.
  • One power option for the carousel is to provide a vehicle electrics to mains voltage inverter (12Vdc to 240Vac), through a 24V battery charger to a 24V battery pack.
  • the battery pack in turn connects tc the driver power controller and the logic controller.
  • the stock carrier is configures as a two-wheeled trailer, adapted to be towed by a bicycle or a moped (or may be integrated into a tuk tuk or rickshaw design) and is provided with a plurality of tote receptacles, ideally sized so as to receive a standard grocery bag, this size being selected for local area and short distance deliveries from a convenience store or local pharmacy.
  • Each packaged order has a label with wr ten delivery location details and machine- readable code denoting or representing delivery location data.
  • a smartphone or tablet with an appropriate application program can be used to collate the route and provide this to the delivery rider/driver.
  • the rider/driver will be alerted and attention brought to the correct order by way of an indicator.
  • the rider/driver will scan the individual order label to verify that it is the correct order in the correct geo-location corresponding to the order delivery location data provided and complete the delivery.
  • a medicaments trolley comprises a wheeled chassis to allow for manual propelling and steering.
  • a stock carrier having rows of receptacles mounted for rotation on a carousel mechanism which conveys sequentially each row of receptacles towards a series of dispatch hatches, aligned to correspond with a row of receptacles.
  • Each hatch is releasable Locked to prevent unauthorised access to the medicaments and each medicament order or prescription remains inaccessible until a verification signal is received.
  • the verification signal can again be generated by matching order location data with geo-location or by matching an order code to a patient utilising a personal wristband barcode or medical record barcode/QR code.
  • a delivery vehicle of any configuration described hereinabove but ideally incorporating a receptacle carousel and security door with security hatches is provided as an autonomous vehicle
  • the autonomous vehicle is provided with route details remotely via a data device and inventory management means.
  • the order is cycled to a dispatch hatch ready for release.
  • the intended recipient of the order is notified in advance of arrival by a msssaging service, ideally associated with the

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Abstract

The invention discloses an order fulfilment system including an inventory management means which is operable to receive an order having delivery location data associated therewith, formulate a route for conveying the order to its delivery location and verifying delivery of an order to its delivery location. A data device provides real-time location data to the inventory management means; and an order delivery verification means matches real-time location data provided by the data device with the delivery location data of the packaged order before authorising release of the order and completing the delivery. The order fulfilment system ensures that an order is released only when it has reached its designated delivery location. Security means are provided to effect the above, including a configuration in which a delivery vehicle has a transport compartment within which at least one stock carrier is loaded. The compartment is provided with a security door having a plurality of remotely lockable hatches. A stock carrier is also provided having a carousel mechanism to position orders at a hatch for retrieval.

Description

SYSTEM, METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR FACILITATING SAME- DAY ORDER FULFILMENT AND DELIVERY
Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a system, method and apparatus to facilitate same- day order fulfilment, including delivery. The invention is directed particularly to the co-ordination of the item order ihrough to delivery of the ordered item at a requested location. Generally, item orders will be received or relayed from a customer and fulfilled at a distribution centre from which the order is dispatched, traditionally by mail order.
The logistics of handling and delivering multiple orders is a well-appreciated one and numerous software programs are available to assist in the routing of delivery vehicles where the postal or other outsourced delivery regime is not utilised. In many instances, it makes little sense to use a large regional or national infrastructure such as the postal system to deliver to locally based customers (or ones within a serviced radius of a distribution centre).
The present invention also relates to a stock carrier adapted to receive a plurality of packaged orders and to ensure the delivery location data is correctly associated with the order and its position within the stock carrier, so that minimum time is expended identifying the correct order for the physical location (geo-location) reached.
The invention is additionally concerned with the conveyance of the stock carrier, its configuration as a cart or trolley for manual manoeuvrability, its configuration as part of a delivery vehicle, whether as a trailer or as suitable for loading onto a delivery vehicle.
The invention yet further relates to a delivery vehicle adapted to receive a stock carrier of the type having a plurality of compartments or receptacles, each configured to receive an order item. Associated with each order item is an identity allowing real-time tracking to provide location information to a customer and enhanced security features which ensure an order item is not removed from the vehicle at an incorrect location.
The present invention further relates to a system, method and apparatus for the provision of location-based, order delivery information to a navigation device, mobile cell phone or similar device having a microprocessor implemented program adapted to inform a driver of stock information and modification to a route in the real-time. The invention is directed particularly to the provision of security features associated with confirmed delivery.
In the description hereinafter, the term "distribution centre" is used broadly to indicate any central location where order fulfilment may occur. It will be appreciated by the skilled addressee that such a location is not limited by size or function and can include everything from the back office of a small "Mom & Pop" store where order items are boxed for shipping up to a 50,000+ stock item warehouses where inventory management is conducted using remotely controlled mobile drive units.
As will be exemplified in the description, it is envisaged that every level of order fulfilment and delivery function can be accommodated within the system defined by the invention.
It will also be understood by the skilled addressee, that the phrase "customer-not- present" in respect of deliveries, represents a situation whether by design or coincidence that a recipient for the order is not present to sign for or otherwise acknowledge delivery. In such cases, an order can be left either at a confirmed point at the location (outside rear door, in garden shed, etc.) or with a neighbour. The term "packaged order" is used throughout the description and within the definition of the invention as a convenient phrase to indicate an order which has been prepared and packaged and is not intended to be limiting with regard to shape, size or configuration. Many orders will be packaged in padded envelopes, prescription bags, flexible cases and a variety of other ways, none detracting from the fact that they have been selected, collated, sorted, wrapped, parcelled and/or packaged for delivery. In an ideal scenario, orders are boxed in regularly sized cardboard containers. The terms "packaged order" and "boxed order" are used interchangeably in the present description.
The phrase "customer order delivery" can have a number of meanings depending on the circumstances in which it is used. Predominantly, when discussing the customer, reference is being made to the recipient of an order placed by the customer via an online shop or auction site. During checkout, the customer requests as a delivery option that a "SprintShip" ™ delivery is requested. Similarly, if a gift is being bought by a customer, the intended recipient is not technically a customer but for the purpose of the description which follows can be designated a customer.
The same broad interpretation of "customer" can be applied to larger entities including those running their own distribution centres and having inventory management software planning delivery routes for its own fleet of vehicles.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is a particularly useful means by which articles, in this case boxed orders, can be readily identified or their position monitored with respect to a fixed point. Active RFIF technology can be used within a limited radius to monitor location, however, active RFID tags must be powered. Use of passive RFID tags is significantly cheaper and can be read from a distance of 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters). Other location/position tagging technology can be utilised, however, RFID tagging is well-appreciated and is illustrative of the techniques applied in the invention. Background to the Invention
Global positioning systems (GPS) are now a regular feature in most vehicles, either as a factory-fitted installation or as a removable device secured to a vehicle dashboard or window, for conveniently displaying navigation or route information to the vehicle driver. More commonly, in recent years has been the provision of GPS and navigation software integrated into mobile cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), tablets and similar devices. Of such data devices, the modern "smartphone" has superseded most earlier devices, however, the present invention whilst exemplified by use with a smartphone or tablet and an application program ("app") loaded thereon, is not limited by device and may be adapted for implementation on predecessors of and successors to the smartphone and above mentioned devices.
Application programs, commonly referred to as "apps", are normally closely associated with an operational system platform of which Android and iOS are the current market leaders. Increasingly, however, non-device based programs or so- called Cloud-based implementations provide increased sophistication and processing power with only minimal data being transmitted to and from the data device to provide the required app utility.
Typically, with navigation devices or route planning apps, the user inputs a destination into the device which calculates a route from its known current position to the required destination and either displays the projected route, usually when the device is static, or commences to provide direction information to the user. Multiple locations may be provided to calculate a route including deviations from a direct route to the chosen destination. As the user progresses along the route, the GPS location of the device is modified so that location critical information can be provided, such as particular traffic features from roundabouts, one-way systems, speed restrictions and the like. In some implementations, the location of static speed cameras and typical sites of mobile speed traps may be included in the navigation software or software updates.
Where traffic restrictions, obstructions or diversions are encountered, the navigation software, together with GPS location data facilitates the rapid provision of updated route information to the user.
Increasingly, customers are eschewing the time-consuming routine of travelling to purchase their shopping and/or personal and business requisites. It is now common for purchases to be made by mail order, telephone and via the Internet and email. As a consequence, for goods to be received there is a marked increase in the use of postal and courier services to deliver the purchases.
The further involvement of postal services and other delivery systems is different from the traditional mode of shopping where the customer travels to purchase articles over the counter and returns using public or their own transport means. In this scenario, packing or packaging is done at the counter or before the customer leaves, after which responsibility for damage no longer resides with the seller. As most postal and courier services either limit their liability for damage to articles delivered by them or charge significant premiums for insurance against such damage, it falls to the retailer, warehouseman or company dispatching the purchase to ensure there is minimal risk of damage during transit to the customer. The term "postal" as used herein is intended as a convenient expression of all local, national and international dispatch and courier services, including drop- shipping services.
With the increased popularity of Internet shopping and the dispatch of ordered articles via the postal system the requirement for packaging has increased manyfold. The popularity of such websites as Amazon™ and eBay™ have increased the postal traffic of a huge variety of goods, from garden tools to laptops amongst others. Due to the vast turnover of dispatched articles and the inherent risks associated with the bulk handling of goods, there is a market requirement for reliable, secure, trackable and rapid delivery. Additionally, as the volume of mail order catalogue business increases so too does the volume of returns. A delivery system which is sufficiently flexible to collect customer returns "on-the-fly" would be hugely beneficial to the dispatcher (in return delivery costs) and provide enhanced service to the customer. It is well appreciated that the cost of returns (whether faulty or unwanted) has significant impact on the profitability of an online or mail order transaction and, where the returned article is damaged, the customer must bear responsibility for the damage. This condition of sale often has repercussions for customer relationships. When a transaction is fully trackable, the risk of damage, fraudulent claims of loss and theft are markedly decreased.
As the popularity of Internet shopping has leapt order values have steadily increased, as have customer expectations. Customers are now buying higher value items but are expecting also faster turn-around of even the smallest order.
Grocery shopping is also an ever increasing market but there is a trend away from the existing system whereby a customer is allocated a time frame on a requested day within which the order will be delivered. Customer-not-present deliveries are not accepted is such cases, as the customer is expected to wait for delivery. Currently, the earliest delivery provided is next-day.
In addition to grocery shopping, entertainment (books, CDs, DVDs) and electronic goods, pharmaceutical sales have also seen an upward swing.
Increasingly, prescription medicines have been dispatched via postal services, however, there are many restricted or controlled items which currently cannot be dispatched this way.
Only by providing enhanced security as a matter of common practice will restrictions on certain goods be relaxed and notably customers will entrust higher value orders to providers of secure delivery services.
This provides particular challenges for customer-not-present deliveries and proof of delivery is often required by the dispatch source (as well as by customers).
As customer expectations increase, there has been a significant demand for same- day delivery services. This may cover many different requirements from grocery shopping (including single meal orders) to luxury goods (for last minute gifts) and regular or emergency medicaments (prescriptions).
There has been a long history of utilising trays in delivery vehicles having a compartment into which deliveries are placed. The disadvantage of trays is that unless they have a depth, articles loaded thereon move during transit. More commonly, deep boxes are provided on a series of rails provided within the "transport compartment". These are common use by most large grocery stores who provide home deliveries to their customers, usually via a next-day basis and within time slots allocated by the grocery store.
To increase capacity of orders carried by a delivery vehicle within its transport compartment and to provide security for contents (without providing a plurality of doors each requiring a latching mechanism and individually operated lock), it is essential to eliminate curtain-sided vehicles, multi-door compartments and single- door configurations leading to a longitudinal access corridor within the compartment.
In the description that follows, the term "conveyance" is utilised to denote a range of means by which orders can be moved from one location to another, as such the term "vehicle" is considered limiting, as it excludes manually manoeuvrable carts, trailers and other transport means, where no such limitation is warranted or intended.
It has been found in practice, that the packaging of articles such as books, records, and similar articles having at least one surface with a relatively large surface area in relation to depth or thickness of the article has presented, in terms of packaging, a significant ongoing problem. This problem manifests itself particularly in situations where the articles are packaged on a production line basis using a packaging method involving the folding of a card or like blank into a container for receiving an article to be packed. Containers formed from blanks made of card and cardboard and other materials suitable for dispatch through the postal services are well known in the prior art. Generally, the containers are formed from a relatively simple blank having side walls separated by fold lines and one or more base and lid portions connected to one or more of the side walls by corresponding fold lines. To construct the container, an end tab of one side wall is secured to an edge portion of another side wall and the or each base portion is folded and secured to form an open-mouthed container. When the or each article to be dispatched has been placed within the container, the or each lid portion is folded and secured. The means of securing the portions to form the container is normally selected from gluing, stapling or applying adhesive tape.
It will be appreciated that unless the container is designed to receive the specific article(s) to be dispatched, further packaging materials will be required to prevent the article(s) moving about within the container. In the packaging industry generally there is a move to obviate extraneous packaging materials and in some countries there are regulations and legislation to prevent wasteful packaging practices.
There has been an increasing awareness for the need for packaging to be easily recyclable and, although the general public are increasingly involved in the separation of recyclable and non-recyclable waste, where there is separation of materials required it is perceived as being simpler simply to discard the entire packaging for processing as non-recyclable waste. More recently, packaging legislation has pushed packaging manufacturers towards simpler and less obtrusive packaging use to cut down the volume of packaging material that is used for individual containers. Consequently, there is a perceived need to provide a container having an article retaining means which is adaptable to conform with the article or articles contained therein to minimise movement of the or each article within the container during transit and to be formed of a single type of recyclable material.
It is an object of the present invention to seek to alleviate the disadvantages associated with existing order fulfilment systems and to facilitate, by way of improved stock handling, staging, routing and delivery, same-day receipt of an order by a customer.
It is further an object of the invention to provide a delivery conveyance adapted to receive a stock carrier having a plurality of compartments or receptacles into which separate orders are placed, including carriers that are demountable from the conveyance so as to be stocked at a distribution centre.
It is also an object of the present invention to provide a stock carrier having a plurality of receptacles, so sized and shaped as to secure during transit a boxed order the destination of which being allocated at the distribution centre and relayed to a delivery driver via a central database.
It is further an object of the present invention to provide to a customer real-time, location based, data relating to an order dispatched from a distribution centre to confirm estimated time of arrival and confirmation of delivery or deposit in the case of "customer-not-present" deliveries.
The invention has as a yet further object, the provision of real-time routing information to a driver via a data device, having remote access to a database of customer location, stock carried, and, optionally, stock acquisition data.
It is also an object of the invention to provide additional security features to the fulfilment and delivery of orders, such that, location data and order rotation data is utilised to ensure the correct stock is on a stock carrier at any given interval.
It is further an object of the invention to associate location-based attributes to a stock item to ensure delivery to a correct address.
It is also an object of the invention to provide a comprehensive delivery verification means.
It is yet a further object of the invention to reduce significantly the labour and time overhead of stock handling for order fulfilment and delivery to customers.
The variants of the embodiments of the invention and the uses to which they are applied are not intended to be taken as limiting, being merely illustrative of the typical scenarios within which the system, apparatus and methods of the invention are adapted for use. Summary of the Invention
The present invention provides an order fulfilment system, comprising: an inventory management means operable to: receive a packaged order having delivery location data associated therewith; formulate a route for conveying the order to its delivery location; and verifying delivery of an order to its delivery location, a data device for providing real-time location data to the inventory management means; and order delivery verification means for matching real-time location data provided by the data device with the delivery location data of the packaged order before authorising release of the order and completing the delivery.
The specific object of the invention is to provide means by which the release of a packaged order is withheld until the actual physical location (geo-location) of the order as conveyed substantially matches that of the order delivery location associated with the order.
Advantageously, the inventory management means is operable to determine the configuration of the order, issue instructions to create a packaged order having a label thereon, said label including machine-readable delivery location data.
Preferably, the inventory management means is operable to identify co-located deliveries and formulate a route.
Conveniently, the inventory management means is operable to coordinate loading of co-located deliveries onto a stock carrier. Preferably, the inventory management means includes means for identifying a packaged order and its delivery location.
Conveniently, there is provided means for scanning order information provided on the packaged order into a data device, whereby delivery location data associated with an order is scanned or read by a Near Field Communication (NFC) device.
Ideally, delivery location data associated with an order is provided by any one or more of barcodes, QR codes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging.
Conveniently, the data device incorporates the inventory management means or parts thereof. Additionally, the data device comprises a Global Satellite Positioning (GPS) and General Pocket Radio Service (GPRS) mobile device, such as provided by a smartphone or tablet
Thus, features of known data devices such as smartphones and tablets having integrated application programs allow for the inclusion of inventory management functions, geo-location operations and collection and communication of data to be performed by the data device.
Preferably, delivery location data is associated with an RFID tag attached to the order, the tag including means for communicating with the data device.
Conveniently, the RFID tag is selectively paired with the data device using Bluetooth communication techniques. Advantageously, the order delivery verification means includes any one or more of: means for releasing a packaged order only at a predetermined delivery location; means for presenting the packaged order only to a confirmed driver/agent or customer/recipient; means for scanning order delivery location data provided on the packaged order into a data device; and means for recording proof of d3livery at a real-time location (geo-location) corresponding to the order delivery location data specified on the packaged order. Preferably, the means for recording proof of delivery includes forming a visual record of the transfer of the packaged order to a customer/recipient.
Conveniently, the visual record is stored on the data device.
Most preferably, a delivery conveyance driver is provided with a visual recording means which includes a "heads-up" display element. Advantageously, the visual recording means is in communication with the inventory management means to provide the driver with real-time data.
In a preferred arrangement, the system includes a delivery conveyance having a transport compartment adapted to receive a plurality of packaged orders, the transport compartment having at least one lockable hatch therein, each hatch being so sized and shaped as to allow access to a discrete number of packaged orders.
Preferably, the transport compartment has a security door having a plurality of remotely lockable hatches, each hatch having an assignment indicator means.
Each packaged order is assigned to a lockable hatch which is released only when the delivery conveyance is in a physical location corresponding to the delivery location of the packaged order.
In one construction, the transport compartment is divided into a number of sections, each aligning with a corresponding lockable hatch.
In an exemplifying embodiment, packaged orders having delivery locations along an assigned route are loaded onto a stock carrier loadable into a delivery conveyance transport compartment and secured therein.
Advantageously, each stock carrier has a plurality of receptacles so sized and shaped as to constrain in transit a packaged order, each receptacle having an identifiable position on the stock carrier.
Preferably, each receptacle is assigned a lockable hatch in a security door.
The invention is further exemplified where the or each stock carrier is configured so that the packaged order receptacles are mounted for rotation on a carousel mechanism held within a frame of the carrier. Advantageously, each stock carrier includes a drive controller which operably rotates the carousel mechanism in response to a drive signal; the drive signal moving a receptacle holding a selected packaged order into a dispatch position adjacent a corresponding hatch, which is unlocked when the order delivery location has been verified by matching it to the geo-location provided via the data device.
Conveniently, the carousel mechanism is rotated in response to a verification signal.
Preferably, the controller is in communication via the data device with the inventory management means to receive the verification signal.
Ideally, the inventory management means provides real-time information relating to packaged order location and scheduled time of delivery to a customer and/or intended recipient.
In a further modification, the data device is registered to the delivery conveyance, the data device being provided with a security identity matched to the conveyance to limit further access to the packaged orders. Advantageously, the inventory management means relays order data to a stock carrier controller, the carrier including means to manoeuvre packaged orders loaded thereon to a presentation (dispatch) position within the conveyance to facilitate easy retrieval by the conveyance driver or a customer/recipient.
In further constructions within the scope of the present invention, the or each packaged order is conveyed autonomously along its route, the means for autonomous conveyance being selected from a mobile platform capable of elevating a plurality of orders in a stock carrier, a powered trolley upon or within which the orders or a stock carrier is disposed, an autonomous (driverless) vehicle adapted to manoeuvre amongst regular road traffic or a drone (pilotless) aircraft.
The invention further provides a method of delivering packaged orders to predetermined locations along a route by conveying at least one stock carrier capable of receiving a packaged order in each of a plurality of individually identifiable receptacles so sized and shaped as to receive said packaged orders, each packaged order having associa ed therewith a delivery (or return) location which can be associated to its corresponding receptacle location within the stock carrier.
Each stock carrier includes a drive controller which operably rotates a carousel mechanism within the carrier in response to a drive signal; the drive signal moving a receptacle holding a selected packaged order into a dispatch position adjacent a corresponding secured hatch, which is released from a secured mode in response to a verification signal.
The invention also provides an order fulfilment method, comprising: compiling orders to fulfil a request; affixing a customer delivery label to the packaged order; scanning the delivery label to identify order delivery location data; sorting an optimum route for delivery of packaged orders; loading packaged orders according to delivery location or route onto a stock carrier; loading a stock carrier onto a delivery conveyance; dispatching the conveyance to successive locations on a route; presenting a packaged order to a secured hatch upon reaching a physical location corresponding to the delivery location associated with the packaged order; releasing the secured hatch upon generation of a verification signal; scanning the delivery label to confirm order identification and delivery location; and completing delivery of the packaged order.
The delivery label includes means for electronically tagging the packaged order. Ideally, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging is utilised. The invention further provides an order fulfilment system for providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the system comprising: one or more computers having access to updated data regarding order fulfilment, real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; one or more mobile data devices in communication with the one or more computers and having a microprocessor implemented program thereon adapted to inform a conveyance driver and/or customer/intended recipient of order location along a route; means for determining the current location of an order and providing order status data to a mobile data device; and means for transmitting to the data device a plurality of order and pick-up locations on or adjacent a route, wherein the plurality of locations is integrated into an order fulfilment schedule by an inventory management means.
Order status indicia are presented on the screen of a user data device indicating the status of an order and/or its anticipated arrival time at a given location.
Ideally, order status indicia are shown as map pins having associated data fields. In the order fulfilment method there is provided real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the method comprising: interrogating one or more computers having access to updated data regarding real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; providing means for communicating between said one or more computers and one or more mobile data devices, each having a microprocessor implemented program thereon adapted to inform a conveyance driver and/or customer/intended recipient of order location along a route; determining the current location of an order and providing order status data to a mobile data device; and transmitting to the data device a plurality of order and pick-up locations along or adjacent a route, wherein the plurality of order and pick-up locations are integrated into the order fulfilment schedule by an inventory management means.
The invention yet further provides a computer-readable medium having stored thereon computer readable instructions which, when executed by a processor, cause a computing device to perform a set of actions to providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the actions including: interrogating one or more computers having access to updated data regarding order and pick-up locations, real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; and communicating between said one or more computers and the or each mobile data device, each device having a microprocessor adapted to execute instructions in accordance with an implementing program thereon to inform a user of order status data and a driver of delivery and pick-up location.
At a distribution centre, a plurality of orders is packaged into cartons of a predetermined dimension. Affixed to each carton or "packaged order" is a label with details of the order and customer information in a machine readable format, including barcodes, QR codes and RFID tagging techniques.
The customer information includes a destination code corresponding to a delivery address, which is convertible to GPS co-ordinates.
As successive orders are compiled and packaged, distribution centre inventory management software formulates an inventory list for a stock carrier in accordance with a route determined by the software. The software optionally includes information on returns or materials to be collected enroute.
When a stock carrier is full or a route is adequately occupied, the stock carrier is loaded onto a delivery conveyance. The delivery conveyance is adapted to receive the stock carrier and is provided with means to secure the carrier in place. In one configuration, the stock carrier is self-contained in that it includes a power- source, drive motor for the carousel and a drive controller. In a second configuration, the stock carrier includes a power coupling for connection to the conveyance, so that power for the carousel drive motor is taken from the vehicle. Optionally, the drive controller may be mounted within the vehicle and connected to the carousel drive motor once the stock carrier is secured within the vehicle.
Route details may be stored within logic circuitry associated with the carrier and may be downloaded to a vehicle or driver data device therefrom or remotely from a database maintained by the distribution centre inventory management software.
In a preferred vehicle construction, a security door is provided which is opened for loading and unloading a stock carrier from the vehicle but secured at all other times. A plurality of individually lockable hatches are provided in the security door, each of which is associated with a position where a packaged order is presented for retrieval from the carousel upon reading a location associated with the boxed order.
The carousel motor drive controller positions individual boxed orders adjacent a hatch only when the associated location has been reached. Where multiple hatches are provided in the security door, only the hatch behind which the order corresponding to the location reached will be unlocked. A LED or other indicia may be provided to direct the dispatch driver to the unlocked hatch.
When the boxed order is retrieved, the driver scans the machine readable label as part of the delivery process. The data device used by the driver may indicate whether a signature is required or whether a drop-off delivery has been confirmed. In customer-not-present deliveries, the driver may be presented with one of a number of pre-agreed instructions. Where the delivery is to be deposited on a doorstep or outside a customer's premises, this fact is entered on the order delivery details. Photographic evidence of timed deposit may be gathered and fed back to the distribution centre management software. Ideally, the driver is provided with a handheld data device having facilities for photographic or video recording and for time and location stamping such evidence. Modern smartphones and tablets have such facilities or application program ("apps") may be devised for such purposes. A visual aid similar to those associated with the Google Glasses™ program may be utilised. Advantageously, each order compartment comprises a wire-framed receptacle so sized and shaped as to retain a carton of a predetermined dimension in which there is sealed a boxed order. Brief Description of the Drawings
The present invention will now be described more particularly with reference to the accompanying drawings which show, by way of example only, the preferred embodiments of the systems and apparatus of the invention and methods of implementation in accordance with the invention. In the drawings: Figure 1 is a schematic flowchart representing the main component interacts of the system;
Figures 2(1) to 2(12) are a series of mobile data communication device screenshots illustrating the user interface of an application program in accordance with the invention; Figures 3(1) to 3(10) are a series of screen display snapshots illustrating a driver interface program in accordance with the invention;
Figure 4 is an exposed perspective elevation of the stock carrier carousel mechanism;
Figure 5 is a perspective elevation of a pair of stock carriers secured within a vehicle presenting boxed orders to a plurality of remotely releasable hatches disposed within a security door; and
Figure 6 is a schematic circuit diagram of a drive controller for the carousel mechanism.
Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment Referring to the drawings and initially to Figure 1 , the invention will now be described in detail with particular reference to a specific implementation of the system, method and apparatus with respect to its use with and integration of data from inventory management software. It should be understood that the invention is not so limited in its application, however, its utility beyond the usual categories of point-to-point deliveries and the application of real-time location data is more comprehensively demonstrated and will be understood more readily by the integration of stock control, order fulfilment and secure delivery services with familiar route mapping and navigation software of application programs.
As indicated in the preamble of the description, there are many short-comings with known inventory control, stock management and fulfilment, particularly when it comes to rapid delivery of individual orders. Due to the preference in the current system for regularly shaped orders for optimising handling, fulfilment orders are referred to as "boxed orders" however, it will be understood that no such limitations apply.
The present invention provides a system, method and apparatus for the provision of rapid order fulfilment, including delivery. The invention specifically provides order tracking from placement, through inventory control and collation, to dispatch and delivery confirmation for both the recipient (and order placer, if not the same) and for each member of the supply chain.
Each element of the invention facilitates information transfer to effect full accountability, enhanced security and accurate order fulfilment, thereby increasing order throughput speeds and decreasing returns and incomplete transactions.
The invention further provides means for ensuring orders are not misplaced, incorrectly assigned or delivered to a wrong location.
The present invention provides a system, method and apparatus for the provision of location-based, order delivery information to a data device, commonly a navigation device, mobile cell phone or similar device having a microprocessor implemented program adapted to a driver of stock information and modification to a route in real-time. Standard GPS navigation devices may also utilise the invention with appropriate modifications and upgrades/updates.
The invention also provides a means for a customer or order recipient to track an order from fulfilment at a distribution centre through dispatch along its assigned route to delivery. The means is usually implemented by providing order information to a user data device, such as a smartphone having Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G capability or can also be a personal computer (PC), laptop or tablet.
Both the driver interface and customer interface can be implemented via an application program ("app"), the mobile data device communicates an order or routing data request to a database server connected to the Internet and accessible via a 3G or 4G data network service. This then provides the device with real-time data for locations within a predetermined radius of the current or proposed route. Other modifications and corresponding pick-up and delivery locations may be used to modify the route presented to a driver and new locations are displayed for the modified route.
In the description which follows, the driver interface is presented as an application program (app) or display software on a bespoke platform but may equally be presented on an iPhone, Android or Windows platform or any suitable successor to the above. Equally, the presentation may be via existing navigation software modified to accommodate the additional requirements as described hereinbelow with reference to the screenshots of Figures 3(1) to 3(10). Most notably, although not explicitly illustrated the driver interface may be presented as information on a "heads-up" display or wearable interactive display, such as that provided by Google Glasses ™. The customer or user interface, although available on desktop, laptop and tablet, is optimised ideally for smartphone use on iPhone, Android and Windows platforms. Additional platforms may be provided as demand dictates. The customer app is tailored also to integrate with online shops and auction site so that delivery options normally associated with "basket" and "checkout" processes can be presented. In the detailed description associated with the screenshots shown in Figures 2(1) to 2(12), focus is directed to the user experience when requesting pick-up and delivery of an order and tracking its progress to its destination and receiving real-time data.
Accordingly, the "SprintShip" ™ user application program is presented to facilitate use of next-day and increasingly same-day delivery services and to enable the user to temper their expectations and schedule their day. Orders can be made, deliveries scheduled and presented in a convenient way with full traceability on an order. Pick-ups, gifts, online auction items, deliveries all can be controlled from one access point.
Figures 2(1 ) to 2(12) are, by way of example only, a sample series of mobile data device screenshots illustrating a user interface of the type provided by a downloadable application program. Figure 2(1) comprises a marketing (or "splash") screen during downloading or initiation of the app. It will be appreciated that this and the following screenshots may also be presented on the device when accessing the web interface across a Wi-Fi, 3G/4G or similar data network. Normally, the splash screen will remain on the display for a period of less than 5 seconds, showing an application logo or client logo, as appropriate, if licensed to a third party or available as a white-label platform. The user can access associated Terms and Conditions of use or Disclaimer Notice pages from the splash screen, via a device menu button.
Figure 2(2) represents the "Login" screen for an existing user but may be used to bring a new user to registration screen, as shown in Figure 2(3), via a "Create an Account" button. Although not essential to the invention, there are occasions where a user registration will enhance the user's experience and convenience when using the app. With registration, either through a User ID or an existing email account, certain data fields may be prefilled or preferences synchronised with inventory management software. When utilising a User ID, account details will enable many additional features including, for example, favourite locations (home, office, friends, business associates) preferred stores, and favourite purchases, including predicated offers which may be of interest based on previous purchases. Advertising revenue opportunities are thus presented for a database provider or third party affiliates. Figures 2(4) to 2(6) illustrate the pick-up and delivery address screens where a user can provide the requisite information. Location pin icons are provided as shortcuts to favourite or saved "From" and "To" addresses. Conveniently, the pin icons can also be used with GPS functionality of the data device so that a current location may also be entered. Ideally, predictive or drop-down address details can be utilised.
In the scenario presented here for illustrative purposes only, a user has two package deliveries to be made. For each delivery the user will select a box or carton of a predetermined size and can conveniently provide user defined package information for ease of reference. "New Leather Boots" fit into a Small Box and
"Grandma's Presents" are placed in a Large Box and a Delivery Address is associated with each now boxed order. The delivery cost is displayed and once confirmed, the user presses the "Sprint It" icon to submit the pick-up request.
The user will be advised of a pick-up time and when collected, the driver of the vehicle provides an order confirmation sheet with an order delivery address label, including a machine-readable barcods or QR code assigned to the boxed order. To integrate the order request into the app, the user can either type an order code or scan the machine-readable code using a reader built into the application program. If the tracking number or QR code is not valid or incorrectly entered, this will be displayed on the data device screen. If correctly entered, all recent and current orders will be displayed.
Figure 2(7) illustrates an icon led screen from which a user may choose to purchase another "Sprint" delivery, to "Track" an existing delivery, to gain access to "Settings" or to review activity by "History". The screen can be expanded by a drop-down function to provide an alternative layout and a "Logout" function, as shown in Figure 2(8).
When using the "Track" function, as shown in Figure 2(9), a first screen opens requesting a tracking number or QR code scan where one has not yet been entered or details downloaded. When a valid tracking number or QR code has been entered, the user interface screen acknowledges a correct order identification, as shown in Figure 2(10). In one arrangement, the user interface will only allow an involved party (dispatcher, supplier, operator, recipient) to "Track" an order, thereby enhancing privacy and security.
As shown in Figure 2(1 1), the two package deliveries from the screenshot showing packaging information (Figure 2(6)) is presented with a recent "Accepted" package designated "Jim's Tools". The tracking number of each boxed order is presented with the user defined title and the current status of the delivery. In the case of "Jim's Tools", the package was handed to a driver who scanned the QR code and designated an RFID tag to "Accepted" the delivery request. For "Grandma's Presents", the status is indicated as "Delivered", which indicates a "customer-not-present" transaction where, by agreement, the boxed order was deposited at a neighbour's premises or in a discreet receptacle or out- building. In secured compounds or limited access premises (including apartment buildings), it is common practice to leave deliveries at or adjacent an apartment doorway.
It is crucial for delivery records that any "customer-not-present" delivery is handled according to protocol. In many cases, photographic or video evidence of deposit at the delivery address will meet requirements.
The final boxed order, designated "New Leather Boots" is noted as currently "In Transit" with an Estimate Time of Arrival (ETA) of 24 minutes. By selecting the order via touch-screen control or menu button, a map screen is presented, as illustrated in Figure 2(12), where the position of the delivery van (designated by the SprintShip™ logo) is shown on its route to its target destination, that it, the delivery address. This map is updated with real-time data as to the position of the delivery vehicle and its ETA. Should another pick-up or a re-routing be introduced, this information will be displayed on the user's data device.
Referring now to the screenshots of the driver interface as depicted in Figures 3(1) to 3(10), a distribution centre inventory management software program has allocated a route for the driver to deliver six orders from the depot, designated by a home map pin, around a highlighted route. The route is optimised by the software program, however, the driver has the option to edit the order of the numbered deliveries to alter the route. In the screenshot of Figure 3(1), the delivery vehicle is again designated by the SprintShip logo and the delivery locations by sequentially numbered map pins. The route is also shaded to indicate status of progress, so that the route completed to the first delivery location is chequered, the position of the route between the first and second map pins is shaded to indicate the vehicle is in transit and a cancelled portion of the route (where the recipient may have indicated an alternative delivery time) is alternatively shaded or dashed to indicate to the driver that this portion no longer requires to be driven. Where a shorter alternative route exists to bypass the cancelled portion of the route, this is indicated on the updated map, to show a direct route between the fourth and sixth delivery location. As the first delivery is completed and the fifth cancelled, there remains four "Sprints" left, as indicated on the counter. The route and order status can be alternatively represented in the screenshot of Figure 3(2) where the order delivery list includes status updates and corresponding shading. As in the screenshot of Figure 3(1), the first order is "Delivered", the second order is "In Transit" with an ETA of 5 minutes and 5 seconds, and the fifth order "Cancelled". For each of the remaining orders, the status is indicated as "Accepted", meaning they have been accepted by the driver onto the delivery vehicle.
Figure 3(3) shows an alternative to a driver interface screenshot where data or menu options are presented as a heads-up-display or via a wearable visual interface. Voice activated control allows the driver to select an option from a scrolling list. In the options presented the driver can select from:
"current Sprint" to see details of the current delivery run ETA;
"scan for pick-up" where a pick-up has been inserted from the distribution centre (via a placed order request) into the current route and the driver must scan the QR code before "Accepting" the order for return to the distribution centre or delivery inserted into the existing route "scan for delivery" where a boxed order is retrieved from the transport compartment and must be scanned using the driver's data device to verify that the boxed order has reached its destination and is ready to be given over to the recipient or otherwise delivered; "take a picture" where the driver takes a picture of the recipient (if available or willing to give photo verification) or in the case of a "customer-not-present" delivery, takes an image of a neighbour, with whom there is a prearranged arrangement, or takes a series of images showing the boxed order deposited at a doorway or an outbuilding, for example; "start a chat" where the driver wishes to communicate with the dispatcher, customer or a technician at the distribution centre; and
"exit SprintShip" where the driver has completed his route and returned to base.
Figure 3(4) is an image or screenshot through a QR reader or QR reading app on the driver's data device for either logging or identifying a boxed order. When picking-up a new boxed order, the QR code printed on the affixed label has been generated by the distribution centre management software and printed out as part of the address label. For any SprintShip request or order, the QR code is centrally created so that proper inventory and route logistics can be assured. When the QR code is identified by the reader or data device app (as shown in Figure 3(5)) the driver is informed that it may be placed within the transport compartment. As detailed, a security hatch will open allowing the position of the boxed order within the compartment to be known. Where the order is to be bought to the distribution centre, the boxed order will not be presented again at a hatch until the vehicle is located at the distribution centre. Where the boxed order is to be delivered to another location on a modified route, the driver is informed of the route change and the "Accepted" boxed order will not be released from the compartment until the designated location has been reached.
Using now a screen view through an interactive wearable head-up display device, in this case Google ™ Glasses, the driver is presented with menu options, additional to those described with reference to Figure 3(3), as follows:
"logon to SprintShip" where the driver has been assigned a vehicle or has been offline and wishes to ensure the distribution centre management software program has acknowledged receipt of new orders to be picked up or already picked up and any possible variation to the route, including cancellations;
"record a video" where a simple image may not suffice, the driver can record a video or send live feed back to the distribution centre. Publicising that deliveries are recorded or, more specifically, are connected to a live feed enhances security for the drivers and their deliveries; "get directions to" when the driver wishes to revert to the navigation mode of the data device, and
"send a message to" when the driver wishes to relay or respond to a text message to a customer or recipient regarding order status updates, rather than engage in a chat. Figures 3(7) and 3(8) are alternative navigation screens available to the driver.
In Figure 3(9), a screen view of a boxed order is scanned by the driver at the delivery location and is notified of a "Package Error" should the location not correspond to the QR code. The driver is alerted to the discrepancy so remedial action can be taken. In the transport compartment configuration of the preferred embodiment, the above situation should never arise as the boxed order would not be presented to the driver if the actual location is inconsistent with the delivery location. In the instance where a security hatch is opened to give the driver access to a limited number of boxed orders, only the correct one should be indicated. In the configuration having an order retrieval system, such as the exemplary carousel mechanism, only the correct boxed order would be presented at an unlocked security hatch. In Figure 3(10), the correct boxed order is presented to the recipient/customer and an image is recorded to complete the order fulfilment process.
In the description above reference is made almost exclusively to the use of QR codes. The skilled addressee will readily appreciate that barcodes may also be used to associate order delivery location data with receptacle position in a stock carrier (if utilised) and real-time physical location data provided via the data device. The inclusion of RFID tagging technologies and other Near Field Communication (NFC) devices provides appreciable enhancements to the handling, sorting and locating of packaged orders to which a RFID tag, for example, is attached.
Where a RFID tag, ideally having a QR code affixed thereto, is associated with a QR code or barcode on a label affixed to a packaged order, there are provided greater opportunities to track and trace individual orders within a collation of disparate orders. In the present invention, orders are arranged in a stock carrier having a plurality of receptacles the location of each being allocated a code, which can be associated with either or both of the label code and the RFID tag. By determining the delivery location data of each order and using that information to formulate a route, delivery efficiency is enhanced. Significant efficiencies arise, however, when the delivery location data is matched with the actual location of the packaged order (as determined by the GPS location of the data device) and linking that data with the stock carrier or the RFID tag (representing the order to be delivered). Additional security benefits also become apparent when the matching of delivery location data and actual geo-location is utilised to authorise release of the order. Authorisation may be by way of activation of an indicator, such as a buzzer or LED, for example, mounted on respective stock carrier receptacles or imbedded in the RFID tags attached to the orders. Such authorisation can be made tangible by providing security hatches or other means to prevent access to the or each packaged order until a verification signal is generated which releases a remotely locked security hatch. Referring now to Figure 4, a carousel mechanism is provided for a vehicle transport compartment. It will be appreciated that the carousel can be built within a framework defining a stock carrier mounted on wheels for easy manoeuvrability into and out of a vehicle transport compartment.
In one construction, a delivery vehicle such as a Mercedes Sprinter is adapted to receive at least one stock carrier, each having a carousel mechanism, which is loaded from a loading bay into the rear of the vehicle and secured therein, either by locking bolts or by engaging a receptacle mounted within the vehicle. The receptacle may include a power coupling for connecting vehicle electrics to the carrier to power the carousel or a battery pack may alternatively be provided.
As noted above, the transport compartment of a vehicle need not be integral with the vehicle and can alternatively be linked to a vehicle via a tow-hitch or other means. A transport compartment formed within a shipping container allows for increased utility of the system of the invention.
The exemplary carousel comprises an oblong drive train to which there is connected a plurality of wire-formed order receptacles. The drive train includes end sprockets held in spaced apart relationship by at least one spine component, one of the sprockets being driven through gearing by a driver motor. The drive motor is powered via a drive power controller under microprocessor control. A logic controller coupled to the driver controller can position each order receptacle according to data received.
Figure 5 illustrates the exemplary embodiment of the invention in which a pair of stock carriers (in hidden detail) is secured in a transport compartment of a delivery vehicle, which has a high security loading door in which a plurality of hatches are provided. Each carrier is provided with a carousel mechanism with two rows of receptacles, one disposed over the other and linked to move together via a drive motor. Each receptacle is adapted to hold a single boxed order and each row of each carousel has a capacity of sixteen boxed orders, that is, 32 per carousel/stock carrier. Each row of each carousel is adapted to align a boxed order with a releasably locked hatch so that when an order is presented for retrieval, an indicator light notifies the driver which of the hatches will be opened. The logic controller circuit is shown in Figure 6 and illustrates the power coupling from the vehicle which includes a data connection for carousel control. One power option for the carousel is to provide a vehicle electrics to mains voltage inverter (12Vdc to 240Vac), through a 24V battery charger to a 24V battery pack. The battery pack in turn connects tc the driver power controller and the logic controller.
To further illustrate the scope of the invention, examples of stock carrier configurations are briefly outlined without reference to accompanying drawings. In one construction, the stock carrier is configures as a two-wheeled trailer, adapted to be towed by a bicycle or a moped (or may be integrated into a tuk tuk or rickshaw design) and is provided with a plurality of tote receptacles, ideally sized so as to receive a standard grocery bag, this size being selected for local area and short distance deliveries from a convenience store or local pharmacy. Each packaged order has a label with wr ten delivery location details and machine- readable code denoting or representing delivery location data. Where this data is associated with RFID tags affixed to the packaged orders, a smartphone or tablet with an appropriate application program can be used to collate the route and provide this to the delivery rider/driver. When the delivery location of the first order has been reached, the rider/driver will be alerted and attention brought to the correct order by way of an indicator. The rider/driver will scan the individual order label to verify that it is the correct order in the correct geo-location corresponding to the order delivery location data provided and complete the delivery.
In an alternative configuration envisaged by the invention, a medicaments trolley comprises a wheeled chassis to allow for manual propelling and steering. Within the trolley there is a stock carrier having rows of receptacles mounted for rotation on a carousel mechanism which conveys sequentially each row of receptacles towards a series of dispatch hatches, aligned to correspond with a row of receptacles. Each hatch is releasable Locked to prevent unauthorised access to the medicaments and each medicament order or prescription remains inaccessible until a verification signal is received. The verification signal can again be generated by matching order location data with geo-location or by matching an order code to a patient utilising a personal wristband barcode or medical record barcode/QR code.
In a yet further application of the invention, a delivery vehicle of any configuration described hereinabove but ideally incorporating a receptacle carousel and security door with security hatches is provided as an autonomous
(driverless) vehicle. The autonomous vehicle is provided with route details remotely via a data device and inventory management means. When the vehicle reaches a delivery location corresponding to a packaged order, the order is cycled to a dispatch hatch ready for release. The intended recipient of the order is notified in advance of arrival by a msssaging service, ideally associated with the
SprintShip™ application program, and will be instructed to access the security hatches of the vehicle. Upon presentation by the recipient of a barcode or QR code (provided to the recipient's data device, that is, smartphone or tablet) to a reader mounted adjacent the hatches, an illuminated hatch will release, allowing the recipient access to the cycled order only. Where a RFID tag is attached to the packaged order, to complete verification of receipt, the recipient will scan a barcode or QR code affixed to the tag. The tag data will be communicated via the recipient's data device to the data device associated with the vehicle and the tag will be disabled. The recipient will be instructed to place the tag into an indicated receiver slot, so the tag can be reused.
It will of course be understood that the invention is not limited to the specific details described herein, which are given by way of example only, and that various modifications and alterations are possible within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims

CLAIMS:
1. An order fulfilment system, comprising an inventory management means operable to: receive a packaged order having delivery location data associated therewith; formulate a route for conveying the order to its delivery location; and verifying delivery of an order to its delivery location, a data device for providing real-time location data to the inventory management means; and order delivery verification means for matching real-time location data provided by the data device with the delivery location data of the packaged order before authorising release of the order and completing the delivery.
2. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 1, in which the inventory management means is operable to determine the configuration of the order, issue instructions to create a packaged order having a label thereon, said label including machine-readable delivery location data.
3. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 1 or Claim 2, in which the inventory management means is operable to identify co-located deliveries and formulate a route.
4. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of Claims 1 to 3, in which the inventory management means is operable to coordinate loading of co- located deliveries onto a stock carrier.
5. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which the inventory management means includes means for identifying a packaged order and its delivery location.
6. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which delivery location data associated with an order is scanned or read by a Near Field Communication (NFC) device.
7. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which delivery location data associated with an order is provided by any one or more of barcodes, QR codes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging.
8. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which the data device incorporates the inventory management means or parts thereof.
9. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which the data device comprises a Global Satellite Positioning (GPS) and General Pocket Radio Service (GPRS) mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
10. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which delivery location data is associated with an RFID tag attached to the order, the tag including means for communicating with the data device.
1 1. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 10, in which the RFID tag is selectively paired with the data device using Bluetooth communication techniques.
12. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which the order delivery verification means includes any one or more of: means for releasing a packaged order only at a predetermined delivery location; means for presenting the packaged order only to a confirmed driver/agent or customer/recipient; means for scanning order delivery location data provided on the packaged order into a data device; and means for recording proof of delivery at a real-time location (geo-location) corresponding to the order delivery location data specified on the packaged order.
13. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 12, in which the means for recording proof of delivery includes forming a visual record of the transfer of the packaged order to a customer/recipient.
14. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 13, in which the visual record is stored on the data device.
15. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 13 or Claim 14, in which a delivery conveyance driver is provided with a visual recording means which includes a "heads-up" display element.
16. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 15, in which the visual recording means is in communication with the inventory management means to provide the driver with real-time data.
17. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which the system includes a delivery conveyance having a transport compartment adapted to receive a plurality of packaged orders, the transport compartment having at least one lockable hatch therein, each hatch being so sized and shaped as to allow access to a discrete number of packaged orders.
18. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 17, in which the transport compartment has a security door having a plurality of remotely lockable hatches, each hatch having an assignment indicator means.
19. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 17 or Claim 18, in which each packaged order is assigned to a lockable hatch which is released only when the delivery conveyance is in a physical location corresponding to the delivery location of the packaged order.
20. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of Claims 17 to 19, in which the transport compartment is divided into a number of sections, each aligning with a corresponding lockable hatch.
21. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which packaged orders having delivery locations along an assigned route are loaded onto a stock carrier loadable into a delivery conveyance transport compartment and secured therein.
22. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 21, in which each stock carrier has a plurality of receptacles so sized and shaped as to constrain in transit a packaged order, each receptacle having an identifiable position on the stock carrier.
23. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 22, in which each receptacle is assigned a lockable hatch in a security door.
24. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of Claims 21 to 23, in which the or each stock carrier is configured so that the packaged order receptacles are mounted for rotation on a carousel mechanism held within a frame of the carrier.
25. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 24, in which each stock carrier includes a drive controller which operably rotates the carousel mechanism in response to a drive signal; the drive signal moving a receptacle holding a selected packaged order into a dispatch position adjacent a corresponding hatch, which is unlocked when the order delivery location has been verified by matching it to the geo-location provided via the data device.
26. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 25, in which the carousel mechanism is rotated in response to a verification signal.
27. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 26, in which the controller is in communication via the data device with the inventory management means to receive the verification signal.
28. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in which the inventory management means provides real-time information relating to packaged order location and scheduled time of delivery to a customer and/or intended recipient.
29. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of Claims 25 to 28, in which the data device is registered to the delivery conveyance, the data device being provided with a security identity matched to the conveyance to limit further access to the packaged orders.
30. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of Claims 25 to 29, in which the inventory management means relays order data to a stock carrier controller, the carrier including means to manoeuvre packaged orders loaded thereon to a presentation (dispatch) position within the conveyance to facilitate easy retrieval by the conveyance driver or a customer/recipient.
31. An order fulfilment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, in; which the or each packaged order is conveyed autonomously along its route, the means for autonomous conveyance being selected from a mobile platform capable of elevating a plurality of orders in a stock carrier, a powered trolley upon j
orj within which the orders or a stock carrier is disposed, an autonomous (driverless) vehicle adapted to manoeuvre amongst regular road traffic or a drone (pilotless) aircraft.
32. A method of delivering packaged orders to predetermined locations along a route by conveying at least one stock carrier capable of receiving a packaged order in each of a plurality of individually identifiable receptacles so sized and shaped as to receive said packaged orders, each packaged order having associated therewith a delivery (or return) location which can be associated to its corresponding receptacle location within the stock carrier.
33. A method of delivering packaged orders as claimed in Claim 32, in which each stock carrier includes a drive controller which operably rotates a carousel mechanism within the carrier in response to a drive signal; the drive signal moving a receptacle holding a selected packaged order into a dispatch position adjacent a corresponding secured hatch, which is released from a secured mode in response to a verification signal.
34. An order fulfilment method, comprising: compiling orders to fulfil a request; affixing a customer delivery label to the packaged order; scanning the delivery label to identify order delivery location data; sorting an optimum route for delivery of packaged orders; loading packaged orders according to delivery location or route onto a stock carrier; loading a stock carrier onto a delivery conveyance; dispatching the conveyance to successive locations on a route; presenting a packaged order to a secured hatch upon reaching a physical location corresponding to the delivery location associated with the packaged order; releasing the secured hatch upon generation of a verification signal; scanning the delivery label to confirm order identification and delivery location; and completing delivery of the packaged order.
35. An order fulfilment method as claimed in Claim 34, in which the delivery label includes means for electronically tagging the packaged order.
36. An order fulfilment method as claimed in Claim 35, in which Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging is utilised.
37. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 1 for providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the system comprising: one or more computers having access to updated data regarding order fulfilment, real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; one or more mobile data devices in communication with the one or more computers and having a microprocessor implemented program thereon adapted to inform a conveyance driver and/or customer/intended recipient of order location along a route; means for determining the current location of an order and providing order status data to a mobile data device; and means for transmitting to the data device a plurality of order and pick-up locations on or adjacent a route, wherein the plurality of locations is integrated into an order fulfilment schedule by an inventory management means.
38. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 37, in which order status indicia are presented on the screen of a user data device indicating the status of an order and/or its anticipated arrival time at a given location.
39. An order fulfilment system as claimed in Claim 38, in which the order status indicia are shown as map pins having associated data fields.
40. An order fulfilment method as claimed in Claim 34, the method providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the method comprising: interrogating one or more computers having access to updated data regarding real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; providing means for communicating between said one or more computers and one or more mobile data devices, each having a microprocessor implemented program thereon adapted to inform a conveyance driver and/or customer/intended recipient of order location along a route; determining the current location of an order and providing order status data to a mobile data device; and transmitting to the data device a plurality of order and pick-up locations along or adjacent a route, wherein the plurality of order and pick-up locations are integrated into the order fulfilment schedule by an inventory management means.
41. A computer-readable medium having stored thereon computer readable instructions which, when executed by a processor, cause a computing device to perform a set of actions to providing real-time, location-based, order fulfilment data based on a current or projected route, the actions including: interrogating one or more computers having access to updated data regarding order and pick-up locations, real-time location of an order and projected time of arrival; and communicating between said one or more computers and the or each mobile data device, each device having a microprocessor adapted to execute instructions in accordance with an implementing program thereon to inform a user of order status data and a driver of delivery and pick-up location.
PCT/GB2015/000213 2014-07-25 2015-07-20 System, method and apparatus for facilitating same- day order fulfilment and delivery WO2016012741A1 (en)

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