Logistics and supply chain businesses have never been in so much need for change and upgrade, as they are now, and this is only because of the growth of e-commerce and other digital delivery businesses. Online delivery apps and online shopping apps provide things from a safety pin to heavy machinery, from ice-cream to home insurance easily available to customers in just a couple of clicks, all in the comfort of their homes. Therefore, it comes at no surprise more than 80% of the customers opt for a digital model of shopping and purchasing than a traditional one.
Not only customers but technology has also enabled businesses to reach greater audiences, boost sales, and cater customers with a ride a range of services and products with enhanced logistics and supply chain management.
To understand better, we can see the latest example of the trillion-dollar eCommerce company Amazon.
The Seattle tech giant has previously relied on logistics partners such as FedEx, UPS, and USPS of the delivery of its packages. But now the company is investing in its trucks, trailer trucks, and related infrastructure to help support its one-day prime deliveries. Recently Amazon added cargos and drones to enhance the deliveries by launching this insourced strategy.
The fundamental function of logistics and supply chain business is that there is a lot of ground to cover; the business is often spread across the continent and even overseas. The goods and assets are scattered miles away from their destinations.
Logistics and supply chain businesses to keep track of the operations going on the ground should maintain reliable communication with its on-field personnel all the time. This communication should be bi-directional; therefore, it is also important for the people on the road to be able to stay connected to HQs, be able to find locations easily, and also be able to find the nearest cafe and gas station.
To enable all these technologies, logistics and supply chain businesses should develop software that is loaded with functionalities and features, making the business operations flow smoother and enhance the overall company performance better.
The Technologies Logistics and Supply Chain Businesses are Implementing
Let us have a look at what all functions logistics and supply chain apps and software offer in 2019:
In this blog, we will explain the two sides of logistics and supply chain technology, namely desktop and mobile.
The need for two interfaces
In logistics and supply chain businesses, one part of the business is always stationed at a fixed place like the human resources, warehouse storage facilities, headquarters, and dispatch stations, on the other hand, goods, delivery executives, and vehicles are always mobile. This asks for a need to have two interfaces in logistics and supply chain businesses.
The fundamental task of a logistics or supply chain technology is to create a bridge between the stationary and mobile aspects of a business and ensure smooth functioning. And for this reason, it needs to have two interfaces — web or desktop interface for the in-house employees and a mobile one for those on the road.
It is no doubt that they form a single system and rely on each other to provide data and information making the functions of the two interfaces overlap, but they serve distinct and different purposes and, therefore, their technology is also different. Let us explore the same.
The Digital Supply Chain: The Landscape, Trends, Types, and the Application in Supply Chain Management
Desktop or Web Software
Admin Panel for central control
The admin panel overlooks the overhaul of the entire supply chain and logistics business. This piece of technology is obviously for the in-house personnel like the management, sales executives, and customer care executives needing to perform tasks like track deliveries, customer calls, vehicle status, and warehouse inventory management.
Geolocation Tracking Systems
This technology allows the dispatching team to know about the entire fleet of the company in real-time. It also allows them to track the delivery executives by the GPS trackers in the vehicles; furthermore, in case of the absence of GPS trackers, the positions can be tracked by the WiFi signals of the mobile phones. For a supply chain and logistics business knowing the current location of the deliver assets is necessary to meet the following necessities:
- To provide the end-users with an accurate estimated date of arrival of their goods.
- To track the movement of the driver, in cases of an idle vehicle, the admin can inquire about the well-being and whereabouts of the driver and also inform the same to the customer along with arranging another delivery asset.
- To check for deviation, the admin panel is useful. A deviation in the delivery vehicle may denote vehicle theft.
The geofencing structure sends automatic notifications to the customers. With this technology, customers will be alerted when a delivery executive enters a predefined area or exits one.
- Businesses use Google Maps API to embed in their app UI and geolocation API for tracking through GPS or Wi-Fi.
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence
In logistics and supply chain business software, an internal chat communication tool is necessary. Through this technology, the dispatchers can assist the drivers as and when needed. For instance, the dispatcher can notify the user on the best route to take for deliveries and avoid traffic jammed areas. They can also notify them about any inputs given by the customers.
This chat feature is a must tool when it comes to interacting with the customers to answer any queries they have regarding the status of their deliveries.
Furthermore, businesses can also implement a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence that is able to solve the basic-level of queries of the customers like prices, refunds, order status, etc.
Automobile Fleet Management
The admin panel, as mentioned above, is also used to manage the vehicle fleet management. The management can see the status of the company’s vehicles in real-time and takes care of all the points mentioned earlier.
It also allows the driver to contact the in-house team in case of breakdown or inconvenience. The drivers can feed the data in the app easily to stay connected to the rest of the team.
Some advanced dashboards can also provide you with detailed information like the type of vehicle, its age, date of its upcoming inspections, making fleet efficient.
Inventory and Asset Management
Big logistics and supply chain businesses have to handle thousands of shipments simultaneously at different locations. They also have to keep track of wrong items delivered, lost items, misplaced items, damaged items, etc. and for this, the software is a must.
To ensure efficient tracking, all shipments are marked with QR codes, Radio Frequency Identification, or near field communication tags.
Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons are also installed in the warehouse, and this technology allows signals to be sent by a product to the warehouse personnel. These products need not be in a clear line of sight, and they anyway provide high accuracy locations.
The mobile logistic apps are only intended for the field personnel and most vehicle drivers, and they are mostly related to the needs of the drivers. Let us have a look at the technologies they need.
For drivers, geolocation is one of the most important aspects. It helps the drivers to give their location to the nearby police whenever they are in an emergency. They can also find nearby drivers in case they need any urgent assistance.
Amenities on the way
For drivers, it is always good to know where the nearest gas stations are located. So they can know where to make a run when the fall less on gas and ensure no hassle in deliveries.
Some smart apps also allow drivers with a lot of discounts, offers, and all sorts of promotions on petrol through them.
One can find a lot of navigation applications for free and for a cost online. But things are easier when you have voice navigation in your app. While driving, it often gets difficult to check for directions and find the easiest way to the customers.
Most voice navigating features will get the driver updates on the road situations, traffic signs, speed limits, major repairs, and closures and use this information to allow drivers to plan their journeys.
The time tracking feature is one that is of the utmost convenience to the customers. Drivers can use the app as they enter the warehouse, leave for the next journey, arrive at the customer’s door, return to the base, and the time they call it a day.
This data can easily be monitored by the admin panel to plan the mobile resources more effectively, and this function can allow drivers to get promotions, hikes, and constructive feedback as well.
This piece of technology can also allow drivers to measure their night shifts over time, holidays, etc. This helps them to keep track of their hourly rates as well as increases or deductions that may come during the salary day.
Other Technologies That Logistics and Supply Chain Businesses Will Utilize in 2020
Here are some of the generic technological trends that are advanced in nature and are adapted very quickly by logistics and supply chain businesses:
AI can be used for all kinds of organizations in ways specific to the business. The level of automation can be semi-automated, fully automated, or a mix of both. Artificial Intelligence can help in processes like product planning, predictive maintenance, and demand forecasting of a supply chain business. Artificial intelligence also helps with what is called augmented human decision making, where it can save the time of humans while making simple decision-making processes.
Artificial Intelligence in logistics and supply chain business uses technology that emulates human performance and knowledge to a great extent. It can help with improving order delivery and customer service by choosing the routes to take considering traffic or taking managing after-sales customer sales services like replacements, refunds, etc. in cases of damaged or wrong products.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The adoption rates of IoT are on the rise. The logistics and supply chain businesses are now trying to bring IoT in end-to-end processes. The IoT can help businesses with a broader and profound impact on the many areas of the supply chain. Areas like higher uptime, better customer service, and customer relationship management, improved supply availability along with supply chain visibility and reliability.
Automation to Help Manpower
As mentioned earlier, drones, robots, and other autonomous vehicles are used to enable efficiency and promote faster growth. These physical devices operating in the real world, carrying out complex functions in a seamless, coordinated, and connected fashion help the manpower in a lot of ways, we are naming a few under:
- It reduces the workload of humans
- Helps to carry out menial tasks, so that humans can partake in executive functions
- Doesn’t tire out, need no breaks — so saves time with no possibility of error
To run an efficient and successful logistics and supply chain business — the business should have software that is work on cross devices, both web, and mobile. This application has to be loaded with the basic functionalities, as mentioned above, for smooth operations.
This holds true for any size of the businesses, regardless of their means of moving goods and geo-location of their customers. The logistics and supply chain businesses are adapting to technology very soon and make sure that you not only adapt but thrive as well.
Any logistics business can get software deployed, can easily get huge leverage over their more traditional competitors. These applications can help you save resources — money and time, help you plan the company’s resources in the most effective manner, increase customer satisfaction and increase retention rates, reduce unwanted cases of misplaced items, thefts, underpaid or overpaid staff or disgruntled employees.
So for logistics and supply chain businesses to keep pace, personnel spear-heading the technology department should figure out how to be agile, innovative, and accepting of the new technology advancements that are out there to not only survive but thrive in this ever-growing business of e-commerce and supply chain and logistics.
Juned Ghanchi is the Chief Marketing Officer of Indian App Developers a prominent mobile app developers in India developing apps that can ease the workload of human hands. 10+ years of marketing experience for the tech domains, where he has developed a skill set to write on various tech updates to share his core expertise and insights of technology vulnerabilities and how we can utilize them into the current scenario.