IoT and Cloud for Better Customer Service

12.07.2021 by Annalena Rauen
flaschenpost employee transports drinks on a hand truck

“Delivered in 120 Minutes” is flaschenpost’s USP, and to deliver on this proposition in peak periods the beverage supplier now relies on IoT devices and Telekom’s Azure Cloud.

Two hours is the longest customers need to wait for their sparkling water, fruit juice or beer. They won’t have to wait longer to slake their thirst if they order drinks for delivery by flaschenpost. This attractive promise has made a major contribution toward the young enterprise’s success. It is also one of the greatest challenges the delivery service has set itself. Drivers of the pink and white vans currently deliver around 60,000 crates of beverages a day that are ordered on the Internet, providing an express service without schlepping, deposit “congestion” or extra charges.

Digital Processes From the Word “Go”

In order to cope with the brisk demand the beverage delivery service relied from the outset on digital solutions and made ordering beverages as easy as ordering a pizza on the Internet. Once the customer has placed an order – on the website or using the app – the race against the clock begins. The order is sent to the warehouse at one of flaschenpost’s 135 sites around Germany. There it is picked by an order picker with the aid of smart wearables, loaded for transportation and delivered door-to-door within two hours. The driver uses an IoT-enabled handheld device with a sensor to scan the empties returned, deducts the deposits from the order and has the customer sign digitally on the display to confirm receipt.

This logistics process did not always run as smoothly as desired, especially before public holidays or at the beginning of the covid epidemic when orders skyrocketed for a while. At times, Internet customers had to wait longer for their orders or could only order a day or two in advance. So flaschenpost CTO Aron Spohr decided to further upgrade the existing IT infrastructure. To lay secure foundations for further growth, flaschenpost, a tech-savvy company, collaborated with Deutsche Telekom, starting with the migration of its entire IT infrastructure to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.

Smooth Migration to the Azure Cloud

Cloud migration enabled the Internet beverage supplier to further digitize the digitization of its processes. “The computing power at the IT’s disposal was to be able to grow faster than the company itself,” Spohr says. Migrating to Microsoft Azure’s public cloud meant that bottlenecks at the data center are now a thing of the past, and with the Azure platform flaschenpost can now also book additional server capacity at short notice to respond flexibly to order situations. The cloud migration went ahead smoothly and thanks to the experienced team did so with no impact on the running system. All that happened was that the drivers’ handheld devices had to be updated once after the transition to Azure.

Smartly Networked via the Internet of Things

IoT devices are now upgraded automatically and no longer need to be updated manually. Handhelds are preconfigured and equipped with IoT-enabled SIM cards. Smart devices map all processes: from ordering and order picking to order completion with the customer. A secure and stable cellular network ensures the Internet connectivity required to reliably record by sensor the empty crates at the customer’s, to offset them against the delivery and to send the new information to the warehouse and head office. And the navigation software’s artificial intelligence always finds the optimal route to the next destination.

Man next to a van of flaschenpost smiling holding a beverage crate

The Internet of Things also plays a leading role for the intralogistics of the company’s 135 beverage warehouses. The IoT devices in use there were also modernized in the course of the technical makeover. “Fast ordfer picking is essential for punctual delivery,” says flaschenpost COO Niklas Plath. That is why scanners in the form of cordless IoT wearables are now used in the warehouses. Attached to the order picker’s glove, they read the barcodes of beverage crates automatically.

Fiber Optics for the Trend to Glass Bottles

Thanks to fiber-optic connections at head office and in the warehouses patchy connectivity within the IT landscape is no longer an issue at the company despite the high data volumes. Order pickers have their hands free, which speeds up the logistics at the 135 local sites and makes orders ready to ship even faster.

In-house, the company’s 350 employees communicate via Microsoft Teams. Chats, video meetings and shared files slake the flaschenpost crew’s thirst for straightforward communication in a low-threshold network and are a harmonious match for the image of a modern enterprise that is helping to shape the trend toward more sustainability by supporting glass bottles.

The cloud strategy’s benefits are also directly apparent for customers – and not only on long weekends. Orders are now often delivered in less than two hours.

Telekom’s IoT Solution for flaschenpost at a Glance

  • Migration f the IT infrastructure to the Microsoft Azure Cloud
  • Fiber-optic connection with head office and warehouses, 50 MBit/s DeutschlandLAN IP connection
  • Delivery drivers’ handhelds upgraded to incorporate IoT SIM cards
  • IoT glove scanners for order pickers in warehouses
  • Microsoft Teams as the central communication platform


 

Annalena Rauen
Annalena Rauen

Marketing Managerin IoT

Back in 2016, Anna worked on IoT topics at Deutsche Telekom for the first time. Since then, she has been supporting customer best practices in a wide range of industries – always focusing on the benefits that the Internet of Things can provide. Her IoT blogposts describe real use cases and the value these innovations add to market players, their business models, and even entire industries.