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  October 14th, 2015 | Written by

Working Smarter and Faster with Automation in Logistics

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  • Shippers want 3PLs to know about driverless vehicles; 0.75 percent of providers have any knowledge.
  • Automating has allowed businesses to grow by finding technology that puts the skills of their teams to greatest use.
  • Reducing documents and automating the delivery of notifications can bring efficiency gains of 30 to 50 percent.

The rise of globalization and ever-changing regulations and security over the last decade has meant logistics providers had to change how they do business. But it is the shift in IT that has had the most profound effect on the logistics industry.

Advancing technology in the past meant reducing staff, but the tech coming in the future may not necessarily lead to layoffs. While some companies may be able to survive without advanced technologies, they certainly can’t thrive without the productivity benefits new tech brings.

The transportation and logistics sector is going through a rapid and unprecedented transformation. Take the online retailer Amazon as an example. It now promises its customers in some areas that their deliveries will arrive within an hour after being ordered online. It’s no secret that this global giant is investigating the use of drone technology to make that speed and efficiency really happen everywhere.

There is a long-standing joke that teleportation could replace delivery, but consumers can see that idea moving a step closer to reality with the advent of 3D printing. Rather than wait for a man in a van to bring your replacement part for the washing machine, you simply receive an electronic file and print the item yourself from the convenience of your own home.

The world is also well on its way to true interconnectivity through the internet of things, which enables various devices to communicate with one another without human activation. Applications that can change the face of the logistics industry are closer to coming true every day, and there are more to watch out for.

A recent study found that 42 percent of retailers and manufacturers would like 3PL companies to have some degree of knowledge about driverless vehicles. Counter to this enthusiasm, however, is the position of the 3PLs themselves, where only 0.75 percent of the providers said they had any knowledge of the technology, and only 12.78 percent said they were even aware it existed.

This is a clear sign of what the marketplace demands for the future, and it’s a resounding call to action for the world’s 3PLs to start investigating the opportunities.

Today, even simple tools—such as POD signature capture devices, in-cab GPS, various vehicle telematics, and RF scanners—are reducing the workload of staff and speeding up processes. But when these devices are integrated across your global transport management system (TMS), you not only speed up the process for a single user, you do so for the whole business. Accurate, timely data is readily available to all, without a second thought.

Automation will, of course, have an impact on your staff. While that may at first signal a reduction in staff numbers, many in the industry are finding that by automating they have been able to significantly grow the businesses by finding the technology that puts the skillsets of their highly valuable teams to the greatest use.

A small change inside your business can allow you to completely restructure the roles of your staff, putting them right where a human face is best placed, rather than where capability limitations dictate them to be. Operating from a single, integrated TMS, they can be easily reassigned to new or different areas of the business whenever the need arises.

TMS software is increasingly automating tasks to replace the manual processes historically managed by staff. Reducing the number of documents you need to produce alongside automating the creation and delivery of emails and various notifications to numerous trading parties can bring efficiency gains of between 30 and 50 percent. When you add other productivity tools, the further potential for automation can completely change the job role or workflow of your personnel. Technology can help you embrace the new era.

Driverless trucks may not happen for a decade yet, and your Amazon order might not be landing in your garden by drone for another couple of years, but technology does exist right now to completely change how you do business. Take advantage of what’s out there, and everyone will see how you work smarter and faster on the outside, all while reducing costs and scaling your business efficiently on the inside.


Darren Matthews is a business development analyst at WiseTech Global, a developer of cloud-based software solutions for the logistics industries, headquartered in Sydney, Australia.