Australia Post is building a digital twin of its delivery network

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Australia Post is building a digital twin of its delivery network
A screen overlay in Parcelbot (Credit: ARQ Group)

Continues to chase insight-led improvements.

Australia Post is building a digital twin of its entire delivery network as part of continued efforts to use advanced analytics to detect and intervene on mail and parcel delivery problems.

The delivery network digital twin was revealed by Australia Post’s general manager of data science and strategy Silvio Giorgio on the Data Futurology podcast earlier this month.

Much of the work of the data science team that Giorgio leads is well-documented.

The team, which was formed under finance but now sits in Post’s transformation and enablement function, is responsible for standing up a number of advanced analytics assets, including a data lake of sorts called Zoltar, named after the fortune telling machine in the 1988 film Big.

More recently, it is responsible for Dexter, an “AI databot” fed real-time data on mail movements that alerts facility managers to potential issues.

“If your parcel is moving through the network and it’s due to be delivered today but we don’t see it get scanned onto a van by 6am, the facility manager will start to receive emails from Dexter saying, ‘these are parcels we’re supposed to get out today, they’re somewhere in your network, go look for them’,” Giorgio told the Data Futurology podcast.

However, it is Giorgio’s work on a multi-layered digital twin of the entire Post delivery network that is likely to be of substantial interest.

Digital twins are digital copies of physical assets that are often used to plan and test future scenarios without impacting normal operations.

“The big [thing] that we’re working on is a digital twin of the entire Australia Post network. That is huge”, Giorgio told Data Futurology.

“We’re approaching it holistically. When people think of digital twins, they think of more scenario-based modelling but we’re thinking about it more as a grid, so three layers - an intervention layer, a forecasting layer and a simulation layer, and then interaction zones - an interaction with our retailers, an interaction with ourselves in the network, and then an interaction with our customers.

“Our [data] models have to fit within one of those grids, and then every model we develop now has to be part of what we’re calling the digital twin ecosystem. 

“It has to have a life that contributes to that ecosystem, and then over time we will have eventually built a digital twin of the network.”

Postie VR 'twin' breaks cover

The delivery network digital twin appears to be the second digital twin project at Australia Post.

Having hinted at producing a virtual reality tool that could help posties complete difficult or unfamiliar delivery rounds back in 2018, a proof-of-concept emerged in October last year.

ARQ Group said on its website that ‘Parcelbot’, as the proof-of-concept is called, also counted as a digital twin environment.

It said it worked “in partnership with Australia Post” and used a mix of virtual reality technology, Amazon Alexa and the Unreal gaming engine to create the tool.

“The PoC: create a digital twin environment for posties to capture and surface important information along their delivery routes, including customer preferences like: safe to leave parcel unattended, locked gate, and protective dog,” ARQ Group said.

The unlisted video accompanying the PoC shows how a postie can ‘look’ at an address and immediately see an overlay of information, such as recorded notes about the residents, how many parcels they receive, and how often missed delivery cards need to be left at that address.

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