shipment tracking

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Shipment tracking at DPD

Shipment tracking ( track and trace or tracking and tracing = tracking and tracing) is a system with which the status of a delivery can be monitored and checked both before and after delivery. This technology is mostly used to track freight such as mail , i.e. parcel tracking , and to monitor registered mail . Shipment tracking also makes it easy to monitor and improve shipping operations and handle investigation requests for shipments that have not arrived.

In logistics , the more comprehensive English term tracking and tracing (with German capitalization) is often used instead of the term shipment tracking. Tracking and tracing provide information about where goods are at a specific point in time. It also makes it possible to record what has happened to raw materials, semi-finished products and end products as they move through the production chain. If necessary, the entire shipping process and, if necessary, the entire manufacturing process can also be traced subsequently.

Working principle

In shipment tracking, mail , for example parcels , is provided with machine-readable labels (e.g. with a barcode , a data matrix code or an RFID chip ). Automatic sorting stations can use the labels to identify where the shipment should be directed. The result of the scan is saved in a central database. This enables both customers and the parcel service to understand when the parcel was at which location.

Shipment tracking process

The starting point is the order data, which contains the target data for the transport processing (in particular the time specifications). If possible, they are already recorded by the sender and sent to the courier, express and parcel service (CEP service). The information only exists in electronic form and can be easily transmitted, stored, processed and queried. Compared to paper-based processes, the costs are significantly reduced.

When the shipments are recorded, each package is assigned a barcode so that the package can be clearly identified at any point in time during transport. If it is not possible to record it at the sender due to the very low volume of shipments (e.g. in the case of private shipments), a brief recording is made by the shipping agent when the shipments are picked up on site, with barcodes from prepared rolls being applied to the packages and assigned to the shipment data .

The data is transmitted to the KEP headquarters via GSM and the proof of collection ("Proof of Collection") is generated. Depending on the agreed service level, those involved (receiving freight forwarder, recipient) receive this and other status messages in real time.

According to this principle, all packages are scanned during collection and at all transfer points or transfer of risk, and the actual data determined is compared with the target data that was defined at the beginning and the transfer of risk is documented ("Proof of Transfer").

If the time window in which z. B. a certain transhipment point should be reached, exceeded, then a fault message is triggered. If several packages or shipments are being transported in higher-level units such as containers or trucks, messages relating to the higher-level units are assigned to the individual shipments and packages by the system. The vehicle scanners are preloaded with the appropriate target data when they are picked up or delivered. The processing of the results of the scan, i. H. the target / actual comparison also takes place on the scanner. If necessary, information about a discrepancy is given immediately upon collection or delivery (“Proof of Delivery”).

The scans (Proof of Collection → Proof of Transfer → Proof of Delivery) at the individual transshipment points result in a shipment history (trace) that allows a statement about the current status of the shipment or the package at any time.

Example of a delivery

In the following real example, a parcel is brought from Leipzig to Dorsten and delivered there. The individual steps are listed in the shipment tracking:

date time place further information
December 22, 2009 13:40 Dorsten DE Delivered.
December 22, 2009 07:24 Dorsten DE Delivery is being made
December 19, 2009 10:51 Leipzig DE Delivery has left the depot.
December 19, 2009 08:42 --- The delivery has left the shipping center and is on its way.

The two-time naming of the destination results from the delivery steps: Sender: Leipzig, parcel center Leipzig, parcel distribution center Dorsten, delivery base in the delivery district, recipient.

In the example it should be noted that December 20, 2009 was a Sunday. If the order and delivery are within the working days of the same week, delivery should take one day less.

Significance for the service provider

For the logistics service provider , shipment tracking is used to protect against theft and shrinkage, but also to track the shipment during transport. In this way, the handover of shipments to those involved in the logistics chain can be monitored and delivery errors can be avoided.

Importance in customer service

The shipment tracking is also used to satisfy customers' need for information about the current location of a delivery . It should be possible to track the consignment from being picked up at the supplier's ramp to the point of demand, even if several logistics service providers are involved in the transport chain . The tracking of shipments is usually done with the help of information technology .


A label typically consists of the address in human-readable form and a unique tracking number in human- and machine-readable form. It also contains machine-readable routing information that describes the route of the package from the sender to the destination. A service code can indicate which priority the shipment has; an express delivery with a surcharge can automatically be preferred.

Tracking numbers

There are three types of tracking numbers:

  • The number of the shipping unit as a worldwide unique numbering system
  • Number ranges are assigned to the customer by the sender (for example at DHL )
  • Tracking number contains a customer identification ( UPS , Post)

Structure of a UPS tracking number:

1Z [customer number of the sender] [service code] [serial number] [check digit]

Routing information

The best known routing information is the zip code , another is the destination code .

There are also courier express parcel services that use the airport of departure and arrival airport as IATA codes ( DHL ) or proprietary codes ( e.g. the URSA code at FedEx or the hubs at GLS ).

Routing information can also be determined dynamically when it is sent, for example on the basis of current failure data.

Tracking apps for smartphones

More and more deliverers are also offering their customers mobile apps in order to be able to track consignments en route and, if necessary, to frank and label them , e.g. B. DHL , Hermes , FedEx , TNT Express and UPS . However, since the parcel service is mainly determined by the sender and not by the recipient and also through trading platforms such as eBay and Aliexpress, international trade is also increasing in the private customer segment , theoretically every single customer has an unmanageable number of deliverers and thus also tracking apps in various languages, such as B. Chinese to do. Various Internet services that offer apps with which you can e.g. B. can access up to 170 different tracking systems. Because smartphones are also equipped with cameras, many tracking apps also offer scanner functionality that can be used to read the barcodes of parcels or QR codes from websites with tracking information for transferring the shipment number to the app.

See also