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Couriers employ technology to boost business.

Northern Ontario's courier firm managers agree that, like many other businesses, the courier industry is struggling to adapt to the recession and economic change.

The principal difficulty affecting the industry today is the economic downturn, according to Kal Tobias, the president of the Canadian Courier Association.

Businesses are looking for ways to cut costs, and courier expenses have been curtailed by many firms.

Over the last few years some shippers have taken a hard look at whether a parcel was a priority item that had to be delivered immediately, while other companies have cut back by consolidating shipments.

The courier industry, which boasted annual revenues of $1.4 billion in the late 1980s, has had to streamline and reorganize. Purolator, which is estimated to control about 43 per cent of Canada's domestic courier market, has had to downsize its operations in Sudbury and Ottawa, as well as at its headquarters in Cambridge, Ont.


However, technological advances such as the facsimile, computer modem and electronic mail have been taken in stride by the industry.

When the facsimile appeared on the scene about 10 years ago, courier companies were concerned about the potential loss in business. However, the industry adapted by providing 'express' or 'hot' services, e.g. delivery within 30 minutes.

The fax machine created a demand for quicker service, according to Kenneth Flinn, owner of Sudbury-based Lockerby Courier.

"It made people more aware of quick information and the importance of getting material quickly."

Often, rather than putting letters in the mail, a 'same-day' messenger service will be used. Flinn adds that while the industry is competitive in Sudbury, it remains healthy.

He estimates that the industry sustained a five- to seven-per-cent erosion in demand as a result of the fax machine, a loss that was felt primarily by the 'same-day' or in-town messenger services.

Tobias also points out that there are professions that require 'hard copy', for example architects and the legal profession, where a fax is not considered a legal document.

He also notes that the reproduction quality of faxed material is not consistent, and that there are some documents, such as books or lengthy reports, that the fax machine simply cannot handle. Such documents must still be delivered.

Flinn believes that fax machines have created a niche of their own, leaving more than enough room for both the fax machine and messenger services to operate.

The courier industry is also benefiting from technological change. The major courier companies are using more sophisticated tracking systems to trace shipments more efficiently, and they often provide computers and software to key customers (generally the top 10-per-cent users) to help them decrease the amount of time spent on making labels and filling out forms.
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Title Annotation:Report on Transportation & Travel; innovations in Ontario's courier services
Author:Campbell, Joan
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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