Manisha Raisinghani, of LogiNext Solutions, explains why technology must redefine the future of logistics.
We are all connected with the world via our smartphones and laptops. Technology has made our daily work and personal life much more efficient and hassle-free. This is the face of connectivity.
However, there’s another side of connectivity, something that sustains this face. It’s the roads. No matter how simple it is to order something, it still has to reach you in time. The product you ordered has to reach the dealer or warehouse from where it would be shipped to you. Before that, the product has to reach the warehouse on time from the distributor or manufacturing centres.
There are three elements here that are common across all such logistics movements. The roads, time taken to move on-road, and the cost of movement. Infrastructure can vary from state to state, city to city, even local block to block. This means that no two roads are the same in terms of quality and traffic congestion. Now, this is directly proportional to the time taken to move across these roads.
On-the-road! What’s holding us back from reaching our full potential?
The world is changing. Retail and e-commerce demand are high. Customers want their orders faster. Multiple factors like regulation and driver shortage put a strain on the carrying capacity of trucks. All these things have a direct or indirect relationship to the number of vehicles on the road and the volume of loads carried. According to the American Transport Research Institute (ATRI), the trucking industry experienced about 996 million hours of congestion along the national highways. This is in addition to the lead times possible for many products moving to retail outlets or distributors.
“Yet, customers want their orders in their hands faster than ever.”
It would appear that it is a problem out of the hands of any company. Their options are limited to pushing in more money to meet increasing freight rates, decentralising their distribution networks with more locally accessible warehouses, or getting in more vehicles and drivers (or third-party contractors) to cater to incremental demand changes. The sense of ‘lack-of-control’ may put a dampener on their scalability.
However, in an increasingly competitive market, sustaining high customer satisfaction along with fluid scalability is of the utmost importance.
So, ignoring a sense of ‘lack-of-control’, isn’t an option.
How can technology bridge the gap between logistics issues and customer satisfaction?
This brings us to the other two elements, which can be influenced and bettered in logistics movement.
Time and cost.
Technology plays a vital part in compensating the factors like industry-wide driver or traffic issues. It can give you the foresight to plan your operations properly. You would know exactly how many vehicles you would require to fulfil all incoming demand. You would know the skill sets of your drivers matching them to the ideal vehicle they handle or the shipment they carry. Carrying load would be automatically allocated to them and loaded in quick time. Picking and sorting would be simple using scanning mechanisms within smartphones.
LogiNext’s proprietary delivery scheduling and route planning software do this and more. The manager can plan delivery schedules taking into consideration all preferred time-slots at the destinations. If a distributor, retailer, or customer wants their deliveries around a specific time-slot, this can be adjusted into the schedule. All schedules are built on robust route plans which would direct the trucks through the shortest routes avoiding unnecessary traffic. This means that the lead-times reduce, the trucks are able to reach more destination points than before, spending a far lesser time on the road and have a quicker turnaround time.
Once the plan is in place, the schedules are pushed to the smartphones of the pickers and drivers. The pickers know exactly what to take from which stack and load it in which truck. The capacity of each truck is optimised within the schedule.
No truck moves under or over utilised.
The system knows exactly how much capacity would be required to move the load. If any more trucks are needed, the manager can ensure they are made available before time without having to dip into spot markets at the last minute.
Loading and dispatch are simple and smooth. The drivers have an interactive map within their routing apps. It shows them exactly which route to take and where to go. The address is verified through multiple artificial intelligence layers. The driver won’t have to spend any time searching for the actual location, the app would direct them with perfect precision.
Minimising on-road unpredictability and maximising logistics control
Now, the trucks are on-the-road. In the past, logistics managers would tell you that this live logistics part makes them most anxious. Even when a person plans everything to perfection, there is always an element of unpredictability on the road. What if there are sudden traffic snarls? What if a truck breaks down? What if there are ad-hoc pickup orders from customers? What if there are service level agreement (SLA) violations en route?
Technology can help companies minimise this unpredictability too. It turns out that the delivery schedule and route plans made previously are dynamic in nature. With live tracking of every truck, along with the driver’s behavior, while driving (and the hours of service), the company can be on top of all delivery movement in a real-time ‘control tower’ of sorts. This is a totally live dashboard where companies can view each truck, its location, where it is moving, whether it is stuck, whether there are any violations, whether the orders are being delivered on-time, and more. All this also comes as instant alerts.
All of this happens through a single connected system working on the ethos of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. All planning activities and on-ground movement, with final delivery validations, is connected to the system. The more the system is used, the better it gets. It reads patterns into multiple real-world use-cases and issues, such as a particular road which gets congested between 5-7 pm on Fridays but is comparatively traffic-free on other evenings, then the system uses it to predict future traffic behaviour and factor that into planning schedules and routes.
The manager can also plan and manage all their logistics movement with only their voice. Just talking to the system through a voice-enabled assistant (anything from Alexa, Google Home, Siri, or Cortana) can give them the ability to do everything mentioned above without even opening their smartphones or laptops.
Right logistics technology to build the perfect business model
Technology saves time and costs within logistics movement for companies. This is a statement with far-reaching benefits and applications. The shorter lead and turnaround times mean that companies can reach their customers on-time, as promised, and offer an enhanced delivery experience sure to boost overall customer satisfaction.
Better capacity and driver time management reduces resource and fuel costs considerably. It gives a more economical, even profitable, platform for proper logistics management. This helps companies pursue their scalability targets and not let road infrastructure or other such external factors stand in their way. It builds-in a unique core-competency within their repertoire which would be hard to emulate by any of their competitors.
So, now with the help of the right technology, the company can meet incoming demand while managing their resources efficiently, sustain high customer satisfaction, ensure easy scalability, and create a unique distribution and logistics setup which is inimitable.
“This is the way for the ‘now and the future’ of delivery movement.”
At this year's IRU World Congress, innovative minds will deliberate and look for the best way forward for road transport. Moving into the new age, customer satisfaction, and logistics efficiency are the two pillars for any company. Technology has made life easier for companies, it’s time the road infrastructure across developed and developing nations catches up. Wouldn’t it be a utopia where roads and technology are in perfect sync?