To improve logistical data tracking to deliver nearly one million parcels a day, PostNL migrated to a serverless platform using Amazon DynamoDB, AWS Lambda, and Amazon Kinesis. Co-created with Amazon Web Services partner Architechts, the platform provides greater agility and lower operational costs.
Architechts Helps PostNL Deliver with Real-Time Data
Delivering nearly one million parcels a day across the Benelux region, PostNL needs to process and provide large volumes of logistical data in real time: locations, expected delivery times, and more. Because its demands vary widely by time, day, and season, PostNL needed technology solutions that could quickly adapt and scale.
AWS Partner Architechts delivered an end-to-end solution by migrating a PostNL application to a serverless computing platform using Amazon DynamoDB, AWS Lambda, and Amazon Kinesis. This new setup has not only dramatically improved business agility, but leaned heavily on a pay-per-use architecture that is expected to significantly reduce PostNL’s operational costs over the long term.
Growing Demands Push Servers to the Limit
PostNL’s fast-growing parcel service was pushing its old server-based infrastructure to its limits. With so much data to manage from multiple platforms and sources, PostNL needed a future-proof infrastructure that could meet expected growth and fluctuating demand. The company also faced challenges during peak season days, such as Black Friday and Christmas, when it struggled to prevent deliveries from running late.
To make the right decisions in business-critical processes and provide recipients with accurate logistical data, PostNL needed complete, up-to-date information about other applications in the supply chain. This required integrating and processing data from over 20 applications before putting it into a format that could be accessed by thousands of online shops and other businesses.
The old server-based database also constrained PostNL’s ability to deploy new data-driven features for users. Because components were tightly coupled, every update required a complicated and time-consuming build process.
Making the Move to PLI, a New Serverless Platform
Starting in January 2020, Architechts began working with PostNL to develop a new serverless platform called PLI that would run on AWS. The goal, says Annemarie Vlaming-Hendriks, a Business Consultant at Architechts, was “offering up-to-date, fast and timely, reliable logistics information within the context of the decision-making processes of internal and external operators and customers.” That required bringing together in one place all of PostNL’s contextual logistics data—and doing so in near-real time while also applying smart business logic.
“We need a very stable and robust control platform,” says Hanneke Lingen, Head of PostNL’s PLI Platform. “It must be very strong in receiving and pushing data.”
Following Agile and DevOps principles, Architechts set out to co-create a solution with PostNL and the cloud service provider Schuberg Philis. Architechts typically starts a project with a proof of concept, with the goal of delivering a production-ready prototype that begins bringing business value in just four to eight weeks. For PostNL’s move to a serverless solution, it was able to deploy PLI quickly with the help of AWS CloudFormation.
PostNL migrated its database to AWS DynamoDB to improve the company’s ability to manage large volumes of data at scale as needed to meet peaks in demand. The delivery teams achieved quick wins by using AWS API Gateway and AWS Lambda to connect PLI to its backend services and run code rapidly without the need to provision servers. With Amazon Kinesis, PostNL was able to optimize its handling of data in real time, giving it stronger event-driven insights.
Together, all of these services enabled PLI to be “enormously scalable,” says Vlaming-Hendriks. “That was very important for us.” Architechts also ensured that—from the moment it went live in July 2020—PLI would run as quickly as PostNL needed.
Agile working made it possible to incorporate feedback and adjust as needed to keep delivery on track. When COVID-19 led to lockdowns starting in March, the team was able to successfully continue its collaborative efforts remotely, thanks to its longstanding close relationship with PostNL.
“By using AWS, we have no capacity limits. Now we have a more modular architecture that helps us to innovate faster.”
- Annemarie Vlaming-Hendriks, Business Consultant, Architechts
Quick Results, Ongoing Evolution
PostNL started seeing improvements within just a few weeks of the project’s start: by using AWS services, the team was able to quickly build the new environment.
Improving the efficiency of data handling and calculations is generating significant cost savings for PostNL. While the transition to the new platform is now about 30 percent complete—after PLI is fully adopted by all of the PostNL applications and shops that use PostNL’s platform—the logistics company expects to see a dramatic reduction in its monthly operational expenses. That could save as much as €100,000 year over year.
The move to PLI has also improved agility and availability for PostNL, while removing the previous constraints of its server-based system. This has proved to be valuable, helping PostNL to manage the large increase in online shopping seen during the COVID-19 pandemic that is expected to peak at 11 million parcels every week.
“By using AWS, we have no capacity limits,” Vlaming-Hendriks says. "The cloud-based, serverless architecture makes it easier to update services and add new features as needed. Now we have a more modular architecture that helps us to innovate faster.”
More innovations will also be coming. The next update is likely to focus first on improving PostNL’s disaster recovery capabilities, but other new features are currently being discussed.
Fit for Digital Business
Architechts continues to help PostNL fine-tune PLI for optimized services and performance. With a solution built on AWS, PostNL today is assured of a delivery system that is highly available, always up to date, and fit for fast, efficient business in the digital age.
About AWS Partner Architechts
Architechts helps supply chain impact makers in markets such as food, logistics, retail and industry improve critical business processes with the latest AWS technology.
Published February 2021