Digitalisation of the transport management process – requirement or fantasy?

The digitalisation of processes has been discussed for many years. Does this mean that processes are waiting for digitisation? Well, no – they do not wait. There are people behind them who are worth listening to in order to know and understand their expectations. Therefore, an analysis in at least three dimensions is crucial to evaluate each process: external customer, internal customer and people involved in the process.

Who needs digitalisation

As a set of actions leading to a certain result, the process does not wait for anything. Sometimes it happens unnoticeably by itself. Admittedly, it does not always happen in an orderly manner. Even if it is effective (it brings the expected results), can it be considered appropriate? Not necessarily.

Whether digitalisation will take place depends on the decisions of process leaders, area managers and management boards.

 An excellent example of a process that is crucial in the supply chain is the organisation of goods transport. It may seem quite uncomplicated to arrange and easy to implement. However, if you look a little further and take a closer look, you will find that there are quite a few parties involved in the delivery of goods, and their expectations are often contradictory. Only then will reality present itself as it is.

First dimension – process satisfies the needs of an external customer, who is not always the one ordering the transport. It can also be the recipient who orders the goods and awaits delivery to the place at the agreed time. He is not interested in the process itself but its result.

Second dimension – process satisfies the needs of an internal customer. Before the information about the transport demand is transferred to the department responsible for logistics, very often it passes through the sales and customer service department which are  “a window to the world”. The requirements also arise here, mainly in terms of obtaining information about the status of implementation.

 Third dimension – the process meets the needs of those involved in its implementation. The customer bought, the sales executed the plan, customer service confirmed the availability and delivery date. So it’s time for logisticians. It is their responsibility to “find transport”. Therefore, they contact subcontractors – carriers, forwarders – so that they accept the transport order for execution. They set deadlines, conditions, confirm the contract price or negotiate individual transport conditions. Additionally, there is a transport order… Such a daily mixture of e-mails, phone calls, messages. Then, the driver and vehicle data need to be obtained and  sent to the warehouse, the sales and customer service department so that they could notify the customer.

The logisticians in this part of the process remain in the centre of attention. It depends on them whether the customer will receive the ordered goods. So they send e-mails, make phone calls, reply to text messages and communicate via instant messenger. Everything is under control… until something changes, e.g. possible shipping day. Then, for logisticians, the process starts from the beginning… emails, phone calls, offers, negotiations, text messages… in a word, “one-man band”.

If something works well, why change it?

Usain Bolt won the 100-metres races. He ran faster than his competitors because he was better at every element. He started better, moved his legs more effectively, took a better body position at each stage of the race. I know that it may seem strange that a 9.58 sec race is divided into stages. Indeed, It can be divided – just like any process. Taking the starting position, starting reaction, exiting the blocks, accelerating, reaching maximum speed, maintaining speed, crossing the finish line.. Will there ever be someone faster … I hope so. And it will be very exciting to be able to watch another record… maybe it will be beaten by just 0.01 second, so just 1 per mil (0.1%).

So what to do to be faster during a 100-metres race? Just run better than Usain Bolt once 🙂 However, this is not the case in operational processes where repeatability is crucial.

So how does it relate to the transport organisation process? Well, the longer you try to improve the current process, the smaller gains you can expect in the future. Will the 0.1% improvement be satisfactory? You probably already know the answer. To paraphrase Albert Einstein – while still doing the same thing, do not expect any other effects.

Digitalisation = strategy + process + tools

First, strategy:

  1. Enter data only once in one place.
  2. Gain access to the data you currently receive by e-mail, telephone or SMS.
  3. Use shared information and share information.
  4. Obtain data from the community.
  5. Stop calling, writing and sending emails or text messages.
  6. See the process as consisting of  little operations that drive bigger elements in the supply chain.
  7. Improve the flow of information between customers, process participants and their contractors.
  8. Focus your operations on the exceptions, i.e. on what requires reaction – real attention, the rest is supposed to work automatically.
  9. It has to be simple and effective.
  10. It has to be efficient and automatic.

Second, process:

  1. Do not try to reinvent the wheel.
  2. The transport market is very fragmented, with a large number of participants who should be included in an efficient process.
  3. Use a universal process for all carriers and forwarders.
  4. Combine multiple participants in one process.
  5. Make your and the transport community’s information needs satisfied.
  6. Do not look for carriers at all costs – the technology will do it for you thanks to the algorithms.

Third, tools:

  1. Use a platform that implements a universal process.
  2. Choose a platform that is already used by the community of carriers and forwarders – including your current subcontractors – if they are already there, your cargoes are there too.
  3. Combine your own tool with a universal platform – send and receive information automatically.
  4. Adapt your own tools to the digital world.
  5. Do not invest in a tool that you can have practically for free. If you have a budget for tool development – invest in integration.
  6. Do not build a tool for your own needs to which you will try to convince logistician, customer service, sales, customer, carrier or freight forwarder. Believe that they need access to information, not your tool.

Digitalisation means the use of shared data and the possibility to use it to effectively achieve the goal

If you want to move quickly, you do not buy a train or a plane, you do not build stations or airports. You buy a ticket and use a given means of transport. You benefit from a common solution, a huge infrastructure that everyone pays for when they want to use it. You share and use it like everyone else. Thanks to it, you gain.

Remember that the tools for your processes should not be a hindrance, another barrier to achieving efficiency – especially when there are many process participants. According to them, “their tool is better than yours”, according to you: “Yours is better”. The universal platform eliminates this problem. It connects you and them on equal terms with equal access to information.

Personal concierge – where to look for savings

The concierge service is expensive. In the past, concierges used to light candles, then took care of the guests, and today he does things that are commonly considered impossible to do (e.g. buying a concert ticket when it is no longer on sale). They have access to information that are not generally available. In ordinary activities, technology has long since replaced them.

If the success of your offer is determined by price and not by emotions, why do you still use the services of a personal analogue advisor?

Forwarders or carriers “on call” (by email or phone) are equally convenient. You call… they organize. You write… they provide the car. No matter if it is something standard or unique… Pulse… Action. You ask… they perform. They work well but every time they devote all the energy and time to your case. That is why it is so expensive… Luxury has its price.

And what if… Welcome to the new digital world of logistics 4.0

Digitalisation consists in accessing information in real time, from any place, automatically (without asking). Once entered, also by the carrier or forwarder, the information is immediately available to the shipper.

Such opportunities in the area of road transport management are offered by the Platform. It allows for efficient communication with carriers and forwarders, exchange of freight information (sending with a price inquiry, with a buy now price, without a price), sending an order to a selected carrier and observing the status of its execution, obtaining vehicle and driver data for notification purposes, exchange of documents necessary to settle the order (e.g. CMR, delivery note, VAT invoice).

It is all fully digital – no emails, spreadsheets, text messages, phones. And when you decide to connect the Platform to your own system via API, you can have all the information automatically “at your place” and you and your carriers and forwarders can work on your own systems. This is no longer a fantasy. It is a necessity.

  • Piotr Roczniak
  • Global Account Manager,
  • The process of digitalisation, although it may seem difficult, lengthy and complicated, does not have to be so. Contact me and find out that logistics 4.0 is closer than you think: 

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