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Can Technology Ease Some Of The Supply-Chain Pain For Trucking Companies?
The supply chain has been in the news like never before. Sudden changes in customer demands, nationwide shutdowns, forced quarantines, international factory closures, and other esoteric factors have hit global supply chains.
The post-covid economic recovery and sudden increased demand for goods, has led to a surge in shipments intended for American shores. Operational failure has obstructed unloading goods and moving them inland, taking a toll on deliveries and leaving shelves in stores across the country empty. Trucking is the first or last leg of the supply chain system and is a critical component that carries goods inland or outward to the suppliers and customers. The media is abuzz with speculation about a lack of port workers, huge demand vs. supply, shortage of truck drivers, and the logjam of loaded ships at the biggest ports.
An industry that hasn’t seen major changes for decades, will now have to quickly rethink and innovate its operations, putting technology at the center to create radical improvements. Technology can help minimize the inland travel time and optimize trucking to speed up movement, thus easing some of the pain at ports, and ensuring happy customers.
Route Optimization through Technology:
Often this technology is skeptically viewed only as software that tells you the best and shortest route to your destination. True, it does provide that facility, but today with computers and advanced technology it has much more in-depth utility that enables saving time and money while delivering efficiency to your fleet.
Through route optimization technology you can get the best directions to your destination, manage your fleet, add multiple stops for pickup and delivery of packages, and save fuel costs too. The software eliminates human errors and increases productivity by increasing efficiency and reducing unnecessary labor overtime work.
A Route optimizing software having the following capabilities will be advantageous:
- Real-time Traffic Data analysis is essential. The software should have the capability to estimate traffic congestions when planning delivery routes and calculating the time of delivery. This will bring in fuel cost efficiency and timely delivery along with customer delight.
- Dynamic routing capability, unlike legacy systems where drivers would do multiple trips to the same location, based on static routing, this software can be re-routed on the go. Thus there is the ability to handle scheduled orders along with on-demand orders.
- Order category should be accounted for while routing. Often a certain family of products cannot be put together for delivery with others or may need specific types of vehicles. For example, medicines may require a specific type of vehicle or perishable products and electronics cannot be coupled for delivery. The routing software needs the capability of categorizing with routing.
- Prior Data should be analyzed before routing. Time of delivery and previous customer patterns should be analyzed to understand the least traffic congestions with customer availability and delivery preference patterns.
- Geocoding capabilities are necessary. Accurate geocoding requires deciphering the address for delivery into a location on a map with the understanding of local nuances and terms, having a robust database of addresses and locations is also an advantage.
Efficient Fleet Management With Technology:
Today’s Trucking fleets have to be managed using technology for all aspects like tracking the assets, driving safety, and emergencies. The advances made in Data, telematics, and AI are contributing to new management systems:
- Telematics: Whether it is a truck carrying electronics, perishables, or chemicals, trucks on the road today can be enabled with state-of-the-art technology to be fuel-efficient, safety compliant, and accountable. Sensors, GPS, cameras, and devices on the truck enable fleet managers and back offices to track asset locations across state lines and be connected in case of emergencies. Telematics protects your trucks and drivers by indicating future maintenance needs, increasing the life of the vehicle, and avoiding probable accidents. It also provides reliable data to insurers for correct assessment and better insurance coverage.
- Internet of Things (IoT): Telematics linked to devices that form part of the IoT are a technology that works together to bring efficient fleet management. Damage to packages and products on transit has been a persistent concern affecting profit margins and causing shortages of products being delivered. With IoT devices like sensors, fleet managers are notified of temperature, humidity fluctuations, or shocks causing damage to packages. The orders can be replaced or retracted before delivery to the customer. Another advantage of IoT is the seamlessly connected mobility which transmits information of happenings in the driver’s console to the back office. This gives additional safety and time for proactive planning for fleet managers.
- Big Data and Artificial Intelligence(AI): While gathering data on vehicles, terminals, routers, and through devices and telematics is good, it becomes useful and relevant only when analyzed and studied to give predictions and patterns. This is where Big Data comes into play. Combined with AI and Machine Learning it can bring huge changes to the trucking industry and ease the woes the supply chain is currently facing.
- Back-office Automation: The back office of the trucking industry is a powerhouse of activity and data. Fleet owners have to convert this place into a futuristic one with handheld devices, Data processing through AI and Machine learning, and training staff to use data to arrive at efficient routes, reduce redundancies and arrive at profitable solutions.
- Blockchain solutions: There is reluctance in the industry to employ this technology as its capability is yet foreign to them. Blockchain technology can be used across the supply chain industry and specifically in the trucking industry for secure record-keeping which is visible to all and payments that are efficient and transparent.
Technology is fast evolving and the value of the solutions it powers is growing too. That’s why this is the right time for the entire supply chain industry to study the key issues and aggressively create long-term solutions by turning to technology.