By Ken Weinberg
Carrier Logistics Inc.
This Opinion piece appears in the Oct. 4 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Long known for its simplistic and low-tech approach to logistics, the trucking industry fortunately has begun to realize how valuable technology can be in improving productivity and boosting efficiency throughout a company.
As evidenced by the presentations at my companyâ€™s recent user-group meeting, a greater sophistication and respect for technology has developed within the industry.
Data and information are key components of a successful transportation company. Analytics, business intelligence, forecasting and planning tools are becoming increasingly important to the way logistics companies around the world run their businesses.
Over the years, I have witnessed logistics moving from action to planning. Managers no longer need to walk around on the dock pointing to freight and telling a dock worker on which truck to load it. Using technology, managers now can plan on the prior day for the setup and loading of the trucks on the next day.
Technology is becoming the rule rather than the exception. I have identified six trends that reinforce my point and help explain what the logistics industry can expect from technology in the future.
Trend No. 1 â€” Everything goes on the Web: Carriers, shippers and their customers are processing more and more of their information on the Web, eliminating the need for phone calls, faxes and e-mail. Carriers and shippers can access all pertinent information online, at any time. Shippers can trace shipments, view freight charges and rate information, get price quotes and inquire about transit time, accounts receivable and payments. Carriers can provide a wider array of services to shippers.
For example, a Web application enables shippers to log pickup requests, locate and print out bills and send pickup requests to the carrierâ€™s dispatch system automatically. Shippers can access reports and analytics online and carriers can provide automated e-mail alerts and updates.
The Web also is enabling more carriers to benefit from technology to manage the intricacies of their business. Software developers are offering to host carrier systems on a subscription basis, i.e., software as a service, an application of â€œcloud computingâ€� that eliminates the need for trucking companies to make large capital expenditures and take on sizeable upfront costs for in-house software systems.
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