MTA WINNERS-Innovation

Host John Bishop, TruckForce business manager at Goodyear, Bob Mason, DPD director of IT Steve Mills, and MT editor Steve Hobson

DPD has been picking up MT Awards for years, but it never gets lazy

Multiple MT Awards winner DPD is no stranger to the spotlight at the Grosvenor House in London, picking up three more trophies at this year’s event. It won the Innovation category for a combination of

its mobile app, which allows customers to set their own profile, delivery preferences and track deliveries in real time; and its behindthe-scenes Precise solution, which lets online shoppers select a one-hour delivery slot on the day of their choice, dramatically improving the delivery experience.

The judges described DPD as “industry leading” in the field of innovation and said it is focused on the requirements of its customers. They praised the firm for its commitment to constantly measure, monitor and improve its products.

Collecting the award, IT director Steve Mills said: “Innovation is at the heart of everything DPD does. To improve on getting parcels delivered first time is the core of our objectives.”

DPD develops all its products through its programme office and design team, including a team of project managers who work with all areas of the business to deliver a project’s goals

and KPIs.

Behind the scenes

DPD also has a data management system – Universe – which houses all its operational data and is the engine behind both the app and Precise. For Precise, DPD has mapped out a matrix for every UK postcode and depot in its network. This allows DPD to plan the availability of slots, by day, by driver route, and by postcode, so it knows how many delivery timeslots can be made available to the consumer.

On the day of delivery, DPD applies the chosen one-hour Precise window to a parcel that is passed to the driver’s handheld device and optimised in their route. Reflecting on the development of Precise,

Mills said the idea came out of an innovation session a couple of years ago looking at how DPD could differentiate itself in the marketplace.

“A guy in my team, Vernon Adams, presented the concept of somebody being able, at the point of checkout, to choose their one hour delivery window,” he said. “At the time we weren’t mature enough with our app development and some of our other solutions. So we shelved it.”

More recently DPD and technology investment fund L Marks launched start-up accelerator DPD Labs, which ran an innovation session where a similar concept was proposed.

“We thought we don’t need to outsource this; we could easily achieve it. Not least because some years ago we launched Predict, our ground-breaking one-hour delivery window.

“It wasn’t the cheapest thing in the world but a lot of the back-end technology was already available.”

But to take this limited premium service and make it available to DPD’s millions of end recipients at the time they placed their order on a retailer’s website was still a tall order.

“The two biggest challenges regarding Precise were to create a manageable matrix that was easy for the depots to maintain and manage, based around their operation or where their drivers were; and secondly, to try and push it into the retailer’s checkout area – that was the holy grail.”


Since its launch, take-up has been rapid among DPD’s largest retail customers. “Three high profile retailers are using it and more are coming on board all the time,” said Mills. “It’s a standard plug-in solution so we don’t have to do any configuration.

“Although we had some ideas about Precise a few years ago, it became the logical thing to do after the app. Because everything we did was about giving the consumer, the person who is receiving the parcel, flexibility about how they want their delivery.”

Precise is a development of the Predict system launched in 2009, which enabled DPD to introduce the then game-changing innovation of giving recipients a one-hour delivery window on the day of delivery.

“In terms of the way we designed the optimisation engine, it was a tweak to an existing rule,” said Mills. “The biggest challenge about Precise is, depending on the volume, some operational inefficiency. But, for the greater good of winning and retaining business, it’s worth making that sacrifice. That ultimately is what it’s about. But the more volume you get, the more efficient you become in operation.”

Precise has secured Next as a new online delivery customer. “Now we’ve got a proposition that is attractive to it and to its customers,” said Mills.


Allowing the end recipient to choose their delivery window has also ratcheted up DPD’s first-time delivery rate closer to the ultimate target of 100% – and zero failed deliveries would also be worth a small loss of routeing efficiency.

While not essential to the success of Precise, the DPD app improves the experience for the parcel recipient and gives DPD the all-important contact information. Take-up of the app has been phenomenal, with 1.7 million downloads in its first year and, with the sign-up rate still running at 5,000 a day, two million downloads is not far off.

The app avoids the pressure to collect consumer contact data at the point of sale. “Now we’ve got 1.7 million records, we can interact with people, not just as a one-off parcel delivery but for every parcel delivery,” said Mills. “Before it was at a parcel level – now this is at a personal level, whether it’s DPD or DPD Local.”

To encourage take-up of the app, there are a range of in-flight delivery options available to users that cannot be accessed without the app, including a 30-minute delivery notification and the option to leave with a neighbour – or avoid a specific neighbour. Users can also get straight through to the customer contact centre by phone or live chat via the app.

DPD encourages consumers to turn on location-based services on their phones so it can attempt a same-day redelivery to any recipients who were not at home when expected.

“As soon as you turn that on, I can see where you are,” said Mills. “So after a driver has completed his route and is driving back at the end of the day it comes up on his handheld that the following people are now back at home and he can make a return visit.”

Another benefit of the app is that DPD can use push notifications rather than text messages

to let recipients know when their parcel is on its way. The personal relationship offered by the app

will allow consumers to request delivery to an alternative address provided it is within the

territory of the delivery depot.

Another development being worked on in the innovation lab is a better system for retail customers to view and book long-distance trailers to collect parcels. “They will be able to book directly off our system, and get additional trailers,” said Mills. “That will be put out to the group, but it’s also a product we’ve built for the market so we are talking to other industries and carriers about it.”

Driver app

Now DPD has perfected its consumer app, next on the radar is a new driver app, designed for use on any smartphone to replace the current Saturn handheld driver terminal.

“We’re redeveloping the driver app that will work on a smartphone,” confirmed Mills. “Most manufacturers in the ruggedised space are Android-based. They’re moving away from Windows Mobile, which technically is challenging and that’s what we’ve got.

“One day drivers will bring their own device and we’ll give them the app to go off and deliver parcels – we are looking at this for temporary drivers in the peak rather than buying or renting additional devices. To further improve our strategy of getting the delivery right first time this app will allow consumers and drivers to make contact to ensure a successful delivery, especially if the drivers needs more information

to aid the delivery.”

Even after a frenetic period of innovation, don’t be surprised if the firm is a strong contender for this award next year – innovation runs through DPD’s veins.