Quick Question: How does package tracking work?

Every Friday, we answer a common question about fulfillment, shipping, or business. This week’s question comes from one of the board gamers who entered our giveaway contest for Root. Today we will answer the following question: “how does package tracking work?”

 

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Package tracking falls under the larger umbrella of order tracking. Order tracking involves tracking everything about an order – including the steps before it’s sent out for delivery. Package tracking involves the delivery process. According to ShipBob, order tracking benefits your business in three ways:

  1. Order tracking reduces customer service costs. Customers ask fewer questions because they can see their order status online.
  2. Customers expect to be able to monitor orders.
  3. Package tracking gives you the ability to address issues after goods leave your warehouse.

 

How Package Tracking Works in 5 Steps

With all this in mind, let’s talk about how package tracking works from a technical standpoint.

  1. The postal carrier creates a unique bar code. In order track packages, you need a bar code. There is no way around this. Bar codes are nothing more than unique strings of digits. They are formatted in a way that can be read by scanners. In fact, you can make your own.
  2. The shipper applies the postage with a bar code to the package. When you print postage for shipping, notice that the postage contains a unique bar code.  Upon applying it to the package to be tracked, you essentially assign a unique number to each package.
  3. Bar codes are scanned as items are picked up or dropped off for delivery. Whenever UPS, FedEx, DHL, or any other postal carrier picks up a package, they always scan it.
  4. The system updates information on each package’s location as the bar code is scanned. Once scanned, the system marks packages as “picked up” or “out for delivery.” That way, anyone with a tracking number can see where the package was last scanned.
  5. The bar code is scanned at different checkpoints. You may notice when tracking a package that you’ll see a history of different locations. A package may start in Hong Kong, pass through Anchorage, AK, then again through Seattle, WA, and then eventually to its final destination. Each time the location changes, the package is scanned in at a different hub.

 

Final Thoughts

Bar codes and scanners are simple technology. Brought together with a global network of computers, though, they bring us incredible amounts of information. We are now able to track packages as they travel across the globe.

Customers need not fret about the location of their purchases. Businesses need not fret about the lack of control over their inventory once it leaves their warehouse. It’s a beautiful system!

 

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