Software and systems key to continuing sector success

Chairman | Association of Freight Software Suppliers

This year’s Multimodal Show at the NEC promises to be even better than that of previous years.  The range of products and services on show expands year on year covering all the modes of transport and products provided to the freight and logistics industry.

Software and systems providers are amongst the groups of exhibitors each year and play an important part in participating in the success of Multimodal.

Once again this year many AFSS members will be exhibiting, providing systems that are suitable for all modes of transport.  The provision of software and systems within the industry is now, and has been for many years, a key part of any company’s operation in the freight and logistics industry.

When the first software was introduced to the industry it was often mode specific.  However in recent years this has changed as the demand for multi-modal software has increased.  I predict that with the forthcoming changes resulting from the introduction of the Union Customs Code (UCC) and other legislation, many more companies will use a combination of transport modes for the movement of their goods and products.

The removal of National Customs Simplifications under the UCC, which includes the National Transit procedure, will I believe bring about alternative options for the industry to utilise.  The ability for goods to remain in temporary storage for 90 days and to be moved from airports and ports to the various types of Customs Warehouses may be one option widely taken up by trade.

With effect from May 2016 goods in temporary storage can be moved under the operator’s guarantee without the need for a Transit Declaration, using the trader’s software to maintain the record and audit of such movements.  In the UK this will initially be limited to the Community Service Providers (CSP) systems or any system that can technically meet the requirements of a CSP.

In practice the movement of goods in temporary storage can cross multiple modes of transport.  This is providing that the systems used for the management of these movements can pass the required data to and from each participating system.

Other legislation also sets increasing demands on our industry to reduce pollution by the reduction and off-setting of CO2 emissions.  Irrespective of transport mode there are also increasing demands to increase efficiency and keep operating costs to a minimum.

The development of any new applications and systems includes the ability to better manage their customers operation.  The provision of systems that maximise utilisation of the chosen mode of transport is just one area that can deliver real cost benefits whichever transport mode is used.  The ability to utilise all modes of transport efficiently can significantly remove unnecessary journeys and reduce CO2.  It also reduces the costs to the carrier and ultimately the customer.

I was very fortunate in my career to work with some developers who had amazing foresight in identifying the systems that are now common place within the freight industry.  I once worked with a group from Cardiff University who developed an interactive system that calculated an optimum size for a package when it was to be loaded onto a standard warehouse package.  This system was later extended to provide loaders in the air cargo industry with a loading plan for the loading of containers and thus optimising the container space.

This concept is now widely used in all modes of transport and extended to point of manufacture and package design to ensure that the outer container or warehouse pallet can be fully utilised.

With increased demands to use a variety of transport modes and different container types, the software suppliers are now providing single systems that are truly multimodal.  In some cases the need for specialisation within some of the software applications is designed to enable data integration with other applications or systems.  The ability to move a package using a unique identity through multiple transport modes from manufacture to end use is now a reality.

AFSS members cover a wide and diverse range of software and system providers whose products may be designed to meet specific specialist customer needs or provide wide ranging functionality.

Despite the diversity of these systems the common thread is the ongoing movement towards improving and updating the software.  The ability to move goods from one mode to another without the need for unnecessary duplicated data entry is a common user requirement, as is the ability to track and trace the goods at package level throughout the distribution network.

Software developers and systems suppliers are therefore continually seeking to enhance their products in order to meet the changes in legislation and their customers’ requirements.  The objective being to ultimately provide a modern safe, secure and robust service to the benefit of all parties.

For more information about the Association of Freight Software Suppliers, and the services its members provide, visit: www.afss.org.uk