The transport management revolution

Managing Director | 3T Logistics

Advances in technology have brought the logistics and transport industry many advantages, enabling us to do things faster, cheaper and more efficiently.  However, these advances have also changed the way that transport is managed, placing increased emphasis on the importance of instant access to information.

Whether they are suppliers, manufacturers or end users, the bottom line is that customers want their products more quickly.  Whilst demand for JIT deliveries has risen since the 1990s, next day and same day deliveries have now become standard.  The bar has been raised even further this year with Amazon’s introduction of one hour delivery in parts of the UK.

Keeping up with demand

Of course, this places immense pressure on logistics operations.  The telematics systems that have been commonly used to manage transport over the past two decades simply don’t have the functionality required to meet current delivery demands or offer sufficient visibility throughout the transport process.

However, the next generation of transport management systems (TMS) are capable of managing massive amounts of data and processes.  They also offer instant access to real time information to track and manage consignments from loading to delivery – and all with the aid of an everyday device – the smartphone.

It’s no exaggeration that smart phone applications have the capability to revolutionise transport processes.  They are also relatively cheap to buy and operate as well as offering an unprecedented level of flexibility and mobility.

When considering tracking applications, it’s important to remember that although the operating device is a commonly used one, the software platform required to manage the data captured is highly sophisticated and needs to be capable of drawing out relevant information in a form that is useable to the customer.  This complete offering then informs the client’s key decisions to drive continuous improvement and ongoing transport optimisation.

Supplying the right information

Whilst hauliers have been using tracking solutions within their vehicles for many years, there is a significant difference between tracking a vehicle and tracking a consignment.  Ultimately, a client is really only interested where their delivery is, which means that any system needs to link vehicle location back to the consignment, taking into account the timing of multi-drop routes and driver hours to calculate actual delivery time estimates.

At the end of the supply chain, the client just wants to know if their delivery will be on time – and if not, to be notified as soon as possible so they can deal with the issue.

The best systems are able to capture and display customer consignment details with accurate delivery times.  This information is all currently available; for example, Google Maps can calculate delivery time estimates based on real time tracking which includes traffic issues.

Functionality explained

Having developed our own smartphone tracking application in-house, we know that accessibility and instant transmission of information is key to managing delivery lead times.  For example, the SoloTrack app allows users to see proof of delivery (POD) instantly, including capturing an electronic signature almost immediately, negating the need to scan PODs when the vehicle returns to base.

If implemented and managed correctly, the applications provide the data to understand true delivery performance based on fact.  If supported by a complete TMS, the system can also highlight cost issues, providing data which enables an organisation to understand the true cost of service to their customers, as well as capturing any issues that arise during the supply chain fulfilment process.

Not only do applications help improve customer service and communication, the TMS that they are linked to can also enhance businesses processes within an organisation by reducing waste and administration costs within the transport operation.  This is important because if companies are to develop sustainable practice which meets customers’ changing demands and is viable to operate, measurement and management of data is fundamental.

So, it’s an exciting time to be involved in the transport industry. Whilst the demands placed on hauliers, suppliers and transport managers may be intense, there are solutions on the market which will help to resolve many of these issues.  The key is implementation.

Ultimately, a system will only be as effective as the processes that are in place to manage transport within the business.  So, my advice would be to invest in a transport management system with smartphone applications to maximise the great potential that they offer.

About the author and company: Tim Fawkes has over 20 years’ experience working with companies from a range of industries, helping them to reduce their transport cost.  3T has offices in UK, France and Spain and customers include JCB, LINPAC Packaging, Saica and F Benders.

http://www.3t-europe.com