The technology that manages our supply chains, delivers our packages and powers logistics analytics is changing at a stunning rate. From drones to wearables, transportation management systems (TMS) to dashboards, it can be challenging for companies to stay on top of what is available and find meaningful ways to incorporate it into their shipping process. Today, companies must have a clearly articulated supply chain strategy. No matter what model fits your business best, key points in the process can be made more efficient and cost effective through technology. Here are 4 ways logistics technology could transform your business.
1. Wearables. Arm or wrist wearables and digital eyewear are changing the face of warehousing and distribution. “Warehouse workers picking and packing and dealing with packages don’t always have time to stop and check their mobile devices, but smart watches or glasses could get crucial information to them in real-time,” according to Barcoding Connected Inc.’s blog. With wearable technology, workers are free to circulate rather than being tied to a computer, keeping operations moving with a continuous flow of up-to-the-minute information.
2. Wireless radio frequency identification. RFID chips are now replacing barcodes. Linked to GPSs, they offer real-time tracking at any point in the supply chain and eliminate the possibility of a missing or stolen package. Delivery drones, pioneered by Amazon, offer the possibility of virtually instant delivery while 3D printers can shift the manufacturing of some products out of the factory and into any warehouse.
3. Transportation management systems. TMSs provide complete visibility and analytics dashboards, eliminating the need to sift through mounds of data to identify choke points or trends. A recent logistics management survey showed an across-the-board increase of 6% ROI for those in the survey using a TMS.
4. Partnerships. Technology is also transforming partnerships. Freight forwarders, for instance, can shorten transit times with e-document capabilities Innovations in software combine not only necessities such as electronic dispatch, carrier bookings and the issuance of required documentation but should also monitor both international and domestic compliance in areas such as denied parties, TSA or U.S. Customs regulations and even dangerous goods. Companies that do not ensure their forwarder is using cutting edge software risk being found in violation or creating unnecessary delays. Penalties for noncompliance can be staggering.
Developing a Plan
CEOs looking to improve their logistics efficiencies should discuss the following steps with their supply chain manager.
- Clarify your supply chain strategy
- Identify choke points—ask what area(s) could benefit from process improvement
- Request an analysis of potential technology solutions
- Review who is on the team and what their responsibilities are
- Establish competitive technology vendor partnerships
- Keep informed on domestic and global implications
The bottom line: If you’re not automating and innovating through technology, your competitors are, and your clients know it.