How Logistics Management Software and Technology Will Transform Businesses in 2021
Without logistics software management, Pfizer cannot become one of the world’s largest sterile injectables suppliers in 2021. Neither can they store, transport, and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to multiple countries, maintaining ultra-low temperatures. Monitoring temperatures, optimizing delivery routes, managing cold storage, tracking vaccines in transit, overseeing distribution – all these prove that the logistics and supply chain sector has been at the forefront of tech disruption in 2021. Various governments are taking measures to expedite vaccine distribution to the masses; shoppers have increasingly moved to online shopping – 2021 is set to witness the increasing adoption of logistics management software.
The Impact of Technology in Logistics
Technology continues to disrupt logistics and supply chain processes by changing it altogether from its core. Research and Markets reports that the increasing use of IoT and emerging technologies across industries will accelerate Connected Logistics’s adoption. The Global Connected Logistics market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 17.5% during 2021 – 2026.
Consequently, logistics will become more refined and fast, changing the way materials, goods, freight, sales orders, inventory, and production are managed.
As efficiency and speed become the determining factors, logistics need to adopt a new approach to deal with the rising demand and complexity of processes. The industry needs a viable solution that manages the flow of things so that the right product reaches the customer within the specified time.
Logistics software adoption streamlines operations and removes process hassles. Organizations that invested in logistics management software have produced good outcomes with noticeable improvements in process, operations, and delivery.
This article attempts to explain all that you need to know about logistics management software, including:
- What is Logistics Management Software?
- Challenges in logistics management
- Pros of a having a logistics software
- 2021 trends that reshape logistics management
- Choosing the right Logistics Management Software
- Checklist of essentials in a Logistics Management Software
- How logistics software improves efficiency
- The future of supply chain
What is Logistics Management?
Logistics involves the flow of things from their point of origin to the point of consumption, usually general customers or businesses. The selection of vendors, transportation means, routes, and delivery methods constitute an essential part of logistical operations.
Logistics management is a part of the supply chain that uses planning and implementation to store and deliver goods and services to the customer. It coordinates several critical activities of the supply chain that range from product development to commercialization.
Typically a logistics management system includes the following:
- Inbound and outbound transportation management
- Warehouse management
- Fleet management
- Processing orders
- Inventory control
- Managing third-party logistics service providers
- Planning supply and demand
Watch Video: Top Challenges Faced by Logistic Management
Logistics management constitutes several functions such as production planning, sourcing, procurement, packaging, and dispatching. It also involves finding the suitable means to deliver goods and services to the end-user. Inbound and outbound traffic is vital in logistics management.
- Inbound logistics is a linear flow of raw materials from suppliers into a warehouse and then a production unit.
- Shifting the products from the warehouse inventory into the hands of the customers falls under outbound logistics.
An example of inbound and outbound logistics at play is that of a manufacturer of electronic goods, which requires several raw materials in the form of components, nuts, bolts, cables, casting, packaging cartons, etc., to build products.
Challenges in Logistics Management
Logistics is prone to several issues that occur primarily due to simple human errors or other factors. Weak decisions usually result in delays in the transport or delivery of goods, leading to customer dissatisfaction. Besides, another challenge that logistics face generally is in the safe transportation of goods. The goods can become damaged or faulty if not handled accordingly while in transit.
Customer demand has also become higher as they want more transparency in the delivery process. Moreover, logistics and supply chains are facing the still unsolved issue of cost control. The rise of fuel charges combined with a steep increase in energy, freight, and labor rates put further pressure on logistics providers.
Effective risk management and managing the relationship between the suppliers and partners are also vital. A reliable solution that covers all these individual challenges in logistics is thus becoming a necessity. The use of logistics management software (LMS) can streamline logistical operations and guide a logistics provider or business to deal with them appropriately.
What is Logistics Management Software?
Logistics Management Software (LMS) simplifies logistics operations by refining the production cycle and making it easier to access important information quickly. A logistics management software helps businesses manage the various processes that go into the production cycle from the delivery of raw materials to shipping the finished products to the consumers.
Logistics software has become broader in its scope and functionality to deal with a vast array of operations and processes. It shares similarities with supply chain management software (SCMS), which contains tools that help deal with transactions, processes, and suppliers. The functionality of a logistics management software extends to areas such as:
- Processing customer requests
- Processing purchase orders
- Inventory Management
- Suppliers Management
- Sales and Distribution
A logistics management software gets rid of all the conventional approaches like paperwork and spreadsheets to simplify management. It comes in three variations: warehouse management systems, enterprise resource planning systems, and integrated supply chain management suites.
Companies with an in-house logistics or supply chain division and third-party logistics providers utilize any of these different versions according to their requirements to efficiently manage their logistical and supply chain operations.
The Pros of having a Logistics Software
In logistics, handing over the process to a logistics management software has several advantages. With logistics management software, a company or 3PL (third-party logistics) provider could avail of the following benefits.
- Refine Transportation: Transportation is a crucial area of logistics. It incurs the most charges in the form of fuel, energy, labor, motorway tolls, and shipping fees. Relying on logistics software can help manage the various transportation means and leverage the operational data for process automation. Logistics management software makes it easy to analyze data and make relevant decisions for reducing costs maximizing efficiency.
- Faster Delivery: The logistics and supply chain industry faces several issues that affect delivery and lead to delays. By incorporating logistics software, businesses can rapidly deliver their products to customers. A logistics management software can improve delivery speed by making meaningful interventions in the production cycle and choosing the suitable carrier. It ultimately reduces shipping delays to a great extent.
- Minimize Human Errors: Another notable advantage of having logistics management software is in reducing human error. Manual analysis of vast quantities of transportation data is difficult, time-consuming, and prone to errors. A logistics software can process these data without any mistakes in less time, seamlessly pushing forward the operations with minimal/nil delays.
- Automates Functions: Process Automation is a tremendous boon of logistics software integration. Certain functions like creating shipment routes, load planning, and tendering of load to carriers are easily automated and managed by using logistics software. Moreover, it eliminates paperwork, which helps deal with the processes efficiently and timely.
- Reduce Costs: Logistics software can automatically compare different shipping services, delivery agents, and transportation methods to find the least pricing ones. The other way logistics software reduces costs is by lowering the expedited shipments through improved shipment planning.
2021 Trends that Reshape Logistics Management
The demand for logistics software management has peaked with the widespread popularity of e-commerce in 2021. The onset of COVID-19 is also a reason behind the peak in demand for logistics technology. As a result, logistics is constantly evolving to accommodate each industry’s rising requests that depend on it. One area where logistics has transformed is the digitization of its processes and resources. In 2021, the industry is expected to embrace the cloud, mobile, and emerging tech to transform logistics operations. Here are some of the top tech trends that will influence logistics and supply chain in 2021.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Logistics companies will use AI to identify patterns in data and churn insights. It will help advance operations such as intelligent transportation, route optimization, demand forecasting, budget planning, etc. McKinsey reports that AI-driven logistics optimization can reduce costs through real-time forecasts and behavioral coaching. The potential incremental value of AI in the logistics and transportation industry (89%) will be more than other analytics techniques.
2. Warehouse Robotics
Over the last few decades, innovative logistic robotic companies have worked hard to mesh AI and machine learning, better sensors and response capabilities, warehouse management software, or logistics management software. Recently, warehouse robotics in the supply chain has picked up pace exponentially. There has been colossal funding and investment in the industry. For example, Alibaba invested $15 billion into robotic logistics infrastructure, and Google invested $500 million into automated logistics for JD. It is also estimated that the global market for warehouse robotics in the supply chain will reach a market value of $22.4 billion by the end of 2021.
3. Cloud Computing
Cloud integrated logistics management software allows having real-time price updates, inventory, and tracking. Cloud-based logistics software enables real-time accuracy and 360-degree management of processes and systems. You can track a product through its lifecycle, right from ordering to distribution. It allows to significantly cut down the costs of lost products, missing deliveries, locate a shipment at any stage of transport, and reroute a misdirected shipment. Cloud-based logistics software allows everyone in a trade network to communicate and share data in real-time, make decisions quickly, and scale on-demand.
4. Contactless last-mile delivery
In a pandemic-troubled world, contactless delivery is more critical than ever. eCommerce companies and carriers face increasing pressure due to the surge in online shopping. It’s crucial to stay agile by ensuring business continuity. At the same time, it is also vital to remain safe and meet delivery needs. Electronic parcel lockers, contactless parcel delivery and collection, and self-service pick-up automate delivery processes to reduce physical interactions between customers and delivery agents.
Watch video: Custom Web Application Developed to Enable Smarter Locker Management
Custom logistics software applications can help fulfill the increasing demand for last-mile delivery. Fingent helps build healthy tech partnership ecosystems to ensure uninterrupted supply and distribution of your products and services.
Blockchain, also known as the distributed ledger technology, offers the ability to record transactions between parties securely and permanently. The shared and secured databases enabled by blockchain helps in avoiding intermediaries and third parties that verify, record, and coordinate transactions in a supply chain. Blockchain helps increase the traceability of the material supply chain, improve the credibility and trust of shared data, digitize physical assets like contracts and critical documents, streamline administrative processes, reduce costs, and enable effective auditing of supply chain data.
Example of blockchain application in logistics: The international logistics giant DHL uses blockchain-based serialization of pharmaceutical drugs and products to ensure that:
- the products come only from legitimate manufacturers,
- are not counterfeit, and
- are adequately tracked and traced through their journey from origin to consumption.
6. Predictive Analytics
The emergence of sensor technologies and AI has contributed heavily to the rapid growth of predictive maintenance in the logistics industry. Supply chain leaders want to utilize data effectively to optimize predictive maintenance, forecast demands, adjust inventory levels, improve cold chain transportation, and protect the integrity of the supply chain. Smart and optimized data management through predictive analytics and AI allow logistics providers to refine and transform the supply chain in 2021.
Opting for the right Logistics Management Software
With the trends shifting logistics management in a progressive direction, the need for software solutions in the field has become indispensable. Businesses, whether focussing on e-commerce or delivering services, can benefit from having logistics management software. However, the real question is finding the right kind of logistics software since the requirements vary for each business.
A checklist of essentials in a Logistics Management Software
Before settling on software for logistics management, it is vital to understand the requirements and challenges a business faces daily. Carrying out a detailed analysis can help identify deficiencies in the existing logistical operations of a business. Besides that, it can suggest measures to redeem any discovered shortcomings in the cycle.
When deciding on logistics management software, there are several essential factors to consider. Firstly, it should contain a basic set of functions that can aid in simple logistical management operations.
Besides that, numerous other things should also be present in the software to tackle the wide base of a business’s logistical operations and processes.
Some of the key features to look for in a potential LMS are:
- Compatible Multi-Client Architecture: A logistics software that comes with multi-client architecture support is necessary if a business handles multiple customers. Software with inventory and purchase orders has more emphasis since it deals with several customers simultaneously or in different phases.
- Forecasting: The ability to forecast is a needed trait in logistics and supply chain management software since it can bridge gaps in supply and demand by enhancing the business processes. Demand, supply, and price forecasting can help supply chain management with proper production scheduling, better customer satisfaction, and minimized out-of-stock scenarios.
- Finance Integration: Having tools that integrate the supply chain’s financial side is another critical software requirement. Vital financial aspects like general ledger, account payables, and receivables can help manage the bookkeeping and records of transactions conveniently when included in logistics software.
- Inventory Tracking: Having an inbuilt inventory tracking feature can make logistics management software more dependable. Logistics involves transactions of various kinds. An inventory control feature enables easier processing while ensuring that the customer gets the invoice on time.
- Customizable and Streamlined Interface: A good logistics management software should contain a streamlined interface that allows for effortless navigation across its chief functions. A customizable logistics software can easily accommodate the unique infrastructure and methods implemented by a business.
- CRM: Logistics software should also cover the customer side. A CRM embedded logistics software allows the customers to know the status of their deliveries. For both inbound and outbound logistics, CRM can answer the customers’ queries and supply them with relevant information and adjustments to the delivery.
- Bill of Lading Creation: As a critical document in the shipping and freight chain, looking for a logistics system that can generate the bill of lading is recommended. This can make it easier to create the bill of lading receipts. It facilitates the seamless exchange of goods under the consignee of the shipper and the logistics company.
Refer the chart below to get a grip on the overall profile of any software logistics management:
With logistics pushed to the forefront of business operations, leveraging the right technology can make your business compatible with the changing environment.
Outsourcing to a software development vendor will help deploy scalable software for logistics management into your entire supply chain operations. A global software solutions provider like Fingent can give you the advantage of custom logistics solutions built solely based on your requirements.
How logistics software improves efficiency
Logistics management software guarantees more efficiency and control over the logistical and supply chain operations of a business. It means simply substituting the existing manual methods with a software-centric solution. The array of features in a logistics system can refine the entire logistics cycle right from its center. For owners, vendors, and the end customers, using an LSM (Logistics Software management) model opens up improved collaboration, which is the essence of effective logistics management.
Opt for logistics software requires considering all the criteria mentioned above. For a business, it involves addressing their needs and then choosing one that wraps around their existing processes. By integrating an LMS into their operations, companies could reduce their turnaround times and streamline the overall cycle of planning and delivery while keeping up with the customers’ requirements.
Transitioning into Cloud-Based SaaS: The Future of Supply Chain
With cloud computing gaining momentum in 2021, a whole new way of processing data is unveiled. The tech innovations in 2021 have influenced the supply chain and logistics operations. Increased adoption of supply chain and logistics solutions in 2021 will lead to a shift from the on-premise model to the SaaS model.
Predictions estimate that a subscription-based SaaS model will dominate supply chain management in 2021 and beyond. Adopting a cloud-based supply chain solution offers benefits in the form of flexibility, robustness, and affordability. Free and open-source software adoption has made the Cloud the primary choice for logistics providers and organizations worldwide.
Cloud-based SaaS supply chain solutions offer numerous benefits. It gives a comprehensive outlook on the overall operations in logistics by making processes more transparent and collaborative. Implementing a cloud system reduces the upfront and operating costs. It also offers the ability to scale up with the business needs and enhances supply chain efficiency.
To sum up,
Opting for a logistics solution is one step to simplifying the entire cycle of logistical and supply chain operations. Effective management of each process from procurement to delivery requires a custom logistics management solution that can accommodate each provider’s demands. For instance, an organization lacking an in-house logistics department needs a software management tool that can wrap around their existing methodology and improve it.
By partnering with a vendor specializing in software development, businesses can deploy logistics management software tailored to their requirements. Pioneers in custom software development like Fingent can assist companies from wholesalers to distributors to e-commerce with the advantage of custom logistic solutions. Get in touch with us to spearhead your operations swiftly and efficiently.
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Here are 8 ways how a good transportation management system could make a difference to your business if you are a 3PL or NVOCC operator.
With the expansion of world trade and multinational business activity, more and more organizations are keen on operating globally and making their presence felt in the global market. Transportation and logistics play a huge role in helping such organizations expand their business and establish new business relationships. Large businesses prefer building their own teams to handle their supply chain & logistics requirements.
However, research reveals that more than 80 percent of all Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies use some form of 3PL (Third Party Logistics) services to handle their logistics and supply chain processes. This is because third-party logistics providers usually have a huge network, which offers a competitive advantage over in-house supply chains. Outsourcing logistics also help the organization by saving time, effort and money involved in maintaining the in-house logistics process.
3PL is, therefore, a highly competitive market and providers must compete to win and retain their clients. Providers typically specialize in transportation, warehousing, order management and other integrated services, which can be scaled or customized to meet the customer’s specific need.
Challenges faced by 3rd Party Logistics Service Providers
Effective utilization of time is one among the most critical factors that determine the success of any logistics service provider. 3PL providers should be able to support customers by minimizing the inbound lead time, i.e., the amount of time taken from the point of placing an order to the point the shipment is received by the customer. To achieve this, providers should be able to effectively communicate and coordinate with the shipping agents, transport carriers, customs agents, etc. on a prompt and timely basis.
Lack of Infrastructure
Lead logistics providers are 3PL providers without their own assets, who have specialized industry expertise along with low overhead costs. However, they have lower negotiating power since they have with them fewer resources to offer compared to other service providers in the market. In such a situation, the success of the 3PL provider depends on their ability to partner with independent transport carriers and offer competitive rates to customers.
It is a difficult task for small and mid-sized 3PL providers to keep track of information related to all their shipments. There are different types of documents involved in international trade transactions. These include purchase orders, bills of lading, air waybill, cargo insurance certificates, commercial invoices, packing lists, delivery note, certificates of origin, dock receipts, export licenses, etc.
Management of transport documents is a challenging task due to the administrative process involved, large volumes of documentation, transfer of the document and ownership of goods from one party to another. Logistics service providers must ensure that the right set of documents are transferred between the shipper, consignee, notify party, transport carriers and other parties involved in the transaction.
Lack of Reporting Systems
In most cases, the upper-level managers working with 3PL service providers and Non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) tend to focus on their core activity of transportation and logistics management. This leads to situations where they do not have enough visibility or insight into the other functional areas of their business. Depending on the size of the business, poor management of the business processes and resources could result in the loss of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Benefits of a Transportation Management System (TMS)
3PL providers could utilize transportation management systems to refine their existing processes and improve overall efficiency. There are many ways of automating the logistics process, including tracking and monitoring each delivery. Some of the key features offered by Transportation Management Systems include:
Transportation management systems help logistics service providers (LSP) to streamline their order management process by integrating their ERP and distribution modules. This adds a lot of value to LSPs, especially in situations where they have to manage large amounts of shipment or order data from multiple sources. It also offers customers the ability to track the status of their orders or shipments.
Supply chain transactions involve various sets of standardized documentation flowing from the buyer to the seller, documentation required for trading or banking requirements, and also by customs authorities. In case the shipper, consignee or notifying party does not have a dedicated team to handle their supply chain & logistics process, LSPs play a vital role in managing the documentation and supporting them in complying to commercial laws like the Incoterms. Transportation management helps in automating the documentation process and allows for the generation and transfer of shipping documentation using the system.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI has become a crucial part of modern business, allowing for the electronic exchange of business documents between trading partners. It helps service providers to communicate with their trading partners and electronically transfer documentation like purchase orders and invoices. EDI solutions help by leveraging various transaction sets like:
- 204 – Motor Carrier Shipping Information: Used by shippers to tender an offer for a shipment to a full truckload motor carrier.
- 210 – Motor Carrier Freight Details and Invoice: Sent from the carrier to a shipper, consignee or third-party payment center for payment of freight charges.
- 214 – Motor Carrier Shipment Status Message: Used by transportation carriers, such as trucking companies, to provide shippers and consignees with the status of their shipments.
- 990 – Response to Load Tender: Used by motor carriers to indicate whether it will pick up a particular shipment previously offered by the shipper.
- 997 – Functional Acknowledgment: Serves as a receipt, to acknowledge that an EDI transaction or a group of transactions was received by the remote party.
Rate Sheet Management
Freight rates are made up of a complex combination including the type of load, base rate, surcharges, equipment charges and other additional charges. Cargo may be transported in various loads depending on the mode of transportation, for e.g., as FCL (Full Container Load) or LCL (Less than Container Load) in case of sea freight. Each mode of transportation could, therefore, have an implication on the rate of the shipment. Transportation management systems help LSPs to create rate sheets for the specific service they offer and assign them to a customer or vendor based on the contract and rates agreed. Shippers can access the system at their convenience and manage or review the applicable rates before they place the order.
Dispatch management provides the capability to dispatch, deliver and track shipments. It allows LSPs to track the shipments, review driver activity, locations of pickup and delivery, manage load types like FTL or LTL, split trips, etc. A good dispatch management software could help LSPs to consolidate shipments from various customers and review the dispatch process handled by different vendors, which in turn saves a lot of time. It offers a business opportunity for owner-operators and independent drivers, to engage with the 3PL or NVOCC provider and track their upcoming, ongoing or previous shipments by using the service providers system.
Smartphone-based GPS-tracking systems provide logistics service providers, especially trucking companies, with real-time information regarding their shipments. 3PL and NVOCC operators will be able to track the location of trucks managed by their vendors and assign shipments or orders to the relevant trucks based on their GPS location and route.
Warehouse management systems allow 3PL companies and NVOCC to manage customers, processes and billing schedules. The system enables access to real-time information and provides integrations with warehouse management technologies, including e-commerce shopping carts and QR or barcode scanning. The software also helps operators to manage different stock levels in warehouses, streamline the supply chain process, and satisfy customers by keeping them updated and informed on the status of their cargo.
Data Warehouse ETL and Reporting Tools
Logistics service providers have to handle large amounts of data related to shipments, their weights, sizes and contact details or returns on a regular basis. This leads to an incredible amount of information over time that has the potential to be analyzed for identifying business trends. This, in turn, could help the service providers to take important business decisions based on real-time data. It would also help conduct detailed cost-benefit analysis to improve profitability and optimize on-time deliveries to ensure customer satisfaction.
Timely and reliable delivery can mean the difference between repetitive business and a one time sale. Hence, the ability to plan, optimize, execute, analyze, and react to every logistics requirement is a critical factor that determines the success of any 3PL provider. Transportation Management Systems help 3PL providers to streamline their business processes and resolve any operational challenges that they are facing. It provides a competitive edge and improves their ability to manage and dispatch orders, with a lesser lead time. A good transportation management system could thus help 3PLs to reduce transportation costs, lower total cost of ownership and increase customer satisfaction.
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In an increasingly real-time economy, the speed of services and timing are the prime factors for the logistics and supply chain industry. As per researchers, 76.9% of executives in the industry affirm that the shift towards a real-time economy has impacted their business strategies, structure, and processes. Here’s how Fingent helped a leading logistics and supply chain company enable new and productive business process automation.
A Prominent Logistics and Supply Chain Management Client
A leading third-party contract administrator for owner operators servicing in the transportation and logistics industry, who has partnered with critical providers, wanted to offer them access to vehicle rentals, background checks, and discount programs promptly and efficiently. They are specialized in a variety of segments like Settlement Processing, Personalized Customer Service, Logistics Management Technology, Owner Operator Programs, Fleet Data Visualization, Mobile Applications, Occupational Accident Coverage, Cargo Insurance, Cargo Insurance, and Customizable Enrollment Workflows.
The client handles over 11,000 contract drivers servicing 400+ clients in 46 states. They had a web portal through which drivers and clients could register, update, and manage vehicle-related and personal information. Limiting employees’ working options to desktops was indeed making their processes very unproductive and caused so much lag. Also, drivers were unable to update real-time information, or view important announcements from the company on the go.
A Mobility Shift for a Smarter Business
Today, amidst the accelerating technology evolutions and digitization, efficiency, speed, optimization, and timing have become critical aspects of a successful logistics business. It is mobility that allows logistics professionals to access important information or data, wherever they are, whenever they want. This enhances the productivity of workers, allowing them to do more work in lesser time, and thus be more efficient.
Fingent knew that it is enterprise mobility that will solve the challenges of improper and untimely communication channels and the inability to offer real-time information to the drivers in the company. We proposed to build a mobile application, that not only replicates their drivers’ web portal but also helps drivers to update personal and vehicle information on the go, check payment related details, know the benefits offered to them, view important announcements from the company, contact the company easily and do much more. Drivers can use their mobile device camera to scan and upload important documents (like driving licenses, truck permits, owner operator agreement, regional permits, insurance certificates etc.) into the database, track all their active vehicles, activate or deactivate vehicles in use etc.
The app was a significant investment to enable efficiency for their drivers in terms of better communication, real time information and increased visibility. The solution also helped to free up a lot of staff, improve accuracy, save the customer’s time and offer a greater deal of choice and flexibility.
The Impact of Fingent’s Enterprise Mobility Solution in their Logistics Business
The client noted the following impacts once the solution was deployed:
- Increased efficiency, throughput, and communication through process automation
- Real time information visibility leading to better asset utilization and work optimization
- Reduction in cost, effort and handling time for drivers
- Real-time proof of all active and inactive vehicles
- Increased accuracy of information exchanged between drivers and the company
- Improved vehicle utilization, order fulfillment, driver productivity, satisfaction and thus better customer satisfaction
- Increased Return on Investments.
In the current connected and globalized world, there are many people involved to get an object delivered from its manufactured place to its destination. There is always someone waiting for something, whether it be customers, logistics firms, distributors, retailers or any other part of the supply chain. The longer these parties must wait, the more they risk on resources, reputation, money etc. Logistics businesses, thus, must increase their speed, making use of every best technology, to strive and remain relevant in the industry.
Researches show that more than a quarter of logistics and supply chain businesses have still no digital strategy in place. As per Capgemini Consulting, most logistics companies today still operate on hybrid supply chain models, which combine both paper-based and IT supported processes. Papers and excels have always been a huge risk and challenge in optimizing any business. These are slow, only locally available, under the risk of damage and inefficient. Moving from hybrid supply chains to complete digitalization is the only key for a successful logistics business. A flexible, secure and easy to integrate platform for automating processes will surely work wonders for logistics and supply chain in terms of better efficiency, sales, and ROI.
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Logistics is of critical importance in today’s highly competitive world. The success of an enterprise largely depends on its internal efficiency and the extent to which it can delight its customers. A well-oiled supply chain and seamless logistics are essential to realizing both these objectives, and this by and largely depends on deploying the right logistics management software.
Good Logistics Software Solutions Gets the Basics Right
The basic function of any logistics management software is productivity and efficiency enhancement, in warehouse operations, aimed at saving money and improving customer satisfaction. A comprehensive suite covers everything from supply chain planning to control of inventory, and from the refining of warehouse functions such as picking, packing, slotting and shipping, to streamlining transportation routines, and much more. Side by side, it co-opts logistics tracking software to improve transparency and enforce greater control over operations.
Some of the basic features include:
- Multi-client architecture to support more than one customer
- Efficient costing and invoicing control functionality to process and apply service contract policies in real-time, to facilitate prompt invoicing
- Real-time inventory control and visibility, to nip issues in the bud
- Automated vendor-managed inventory management, to processes and record replenishment requests, aimed at speeding up the supply chain and minimize stock-out situations
- Logistics tracking software, which automatically sends and receive shipping data, to improve accuracy and offering unbridled transparency into cargo movements
- Comprehensive reporting capabilities, with key data such as inventory figures, product histories and shipment records are all accessible remotely at the swipe of a finger or the click of a button, and more.
Smart enterprises go in for inherently customizable and scalable solutions in software and data depositories. While this screams out “cloud,” not all cloud-based tools are equal. Smart players opt for packages or solutions with the right chain management architecture, rather than satisfying themselves with a simple multi-client deployment model.
Good Logistics Management Software Facilitates Seamless Integration
While there are several stand-alone and off-the-shelf software for essential functions related to logistics, today’s highly competitive and integrated business ecosystem requires either a single comprehensive suite covering all these activities or seamless integration between the various stand-alone suites.
The requirements of integration extend to the ecosystem. There would hardly be any enterprise handling the entire gamut of its logistics operations, end-to-end. Outsourcing is the norm, and striking strategic alliances with competent partners is an established industry best practice and a source of competitive advantage. Many enterprises partner with 3PL companies, who in turn work closely with mainstream parcel carriers such as FedEx and UPS. The smoother the interactions with such partners, the more productive the business.
The best logistics management software requires the capability to tap into the software of all these 3PL and other partners, draw critical information from it, subject it to analytics, and present it to the stakeholders in the form of actionable information.
For instance, seamless logistics requires smooth integration of the software managing warehouse operations and logistics tracking software to the ERP suite of the enterprise, enabling decision-makers and managers to sync and plan inventory and product movement between the warehouse and the store. State-of-the-art automated logistic management software automates such a function, scheduling warehoused dispatches in sync with the movement of the cargo through the supply chain, to avoid stock-out situations. Likewise, it may schedule a slowdown of production if the cargo is blocked at some point in the supply chain, to reduce inventory glut or warehouse over-capacity situations.
Success, however, depends on a caveat. Businesses would need to resolve the traditional aversion many businesses have, to share too much information with third-party providers, regardless of whether they are business partners in noncompeting businesses and part of the same supply chain or not.
Logistics Tracking Software Goes Beyond Offering Visibility to Aid Tactical Planning
The core of any logistics software is warehouse operations management. Likewise, logistics tracking software offers visibility and helps maintain control of the supply chain. Success depends on a well-integrated logistics software solution, integrating all these critical solutions, and deliverable to the right stakeholders in easy to use dashboards, preferably through mobile apps that facilitate anywhere, anytime access.
However, mere visibility is no longer enough in today’s hyper-competitive age. Visibility must be combined with insights on what to do next, and here Big Data analytics step in. Embedded analytics is much in demand among today’s successful logistics players.
As the business becomes more complex, the nature of the data also becomes more complex, necessitating the deployment of advanced analytical tools. The best analytics tool separates the wheat from the chaff, to pick out the relevant and timely information from the data corpus, subjects it to analytics, and presents it to the stakeholders in the form of actionable information. For instance, a consistent delay in shipment delivery over a period may be a signal to change the logistics route, or the logistics partner. An ordinary logistics tracking solution would make explicit the delay, but integration with the analytical solution would enrich the insight with possible solutions, such as quotes from other providers, alternative viable routes, or any other solution. Today’ system goes beyond ironing out chinks in the armor but also become a valuable tool in tactical planning.
Good Logistics Software Solutions do not Rock the Boat
Logistics providers would do themselves a favor by having clear-cut objectives when implementing their logistics management software. Legacy providers would do well to devise a system least disruptive to their existing operations, for otherwise they would be saddled with the additional headache of managing resistance to change, a situation underestimated by most enterprises. Always review each feature of functionality in terms of why it is needed, the benefits it brings to the table, and the issues or problems it would solve. Also, have a blueprint of how the new system of functionality will gel in with the logistics operations.
Several off-the-shelf software offers valuable add-ons, such as industry research and peer-to-peer events. Nothing prevents custom software developers to co-opt such features, but the keywords are relevance. The hallmark of a good software is not an extended bucket list of features or functionality, but the extent to which the relevant features are co-opted, and implemented in a non-obtrusive way to the smooth functioning of the enterprise.
Developing and deploying a robust logistics management software is well-nigh impossible in-house for logistics firms, as their core competence and focus are elsewhere. Implementing a brand-new logistics system isn’t a cheap affair either. To get maximum bang for the buck, logistics firms are better off roping in the services of a reliable and competent tech partner who has experience in delivering cutting edge solutions.