The logistics industry has been through many automation phases already. A lot of companies replaced manual labour with technology and updated their services. But given the complexity of the processes involved, logistics still suffers from the issues that arise from a lack of automation and, unfortunately, chaotic management.
We touched upon logistics problems and solutions before when we described a mobile app for truck drivers and shippers. But that’s only half the story. Applications can be introduced to optimize routes and boost communication between shippers and carriers, but they’re also useful when it comes to the management of inventory and labour.
The key issues in the industry relate to which technologies logistics companies use, how they maintain their data, and how coordinated their work processes are. Let’s explore the most common logistics problems and some possible solutions.
The biggest problems in the logistics industry come from its inconsistency and fragmentation. Since there are many parties involved (manufacturers, storekeepers, drivers, managers, and end users) it’s impossible to have centralised control over every step of the way. Fragmentation often leads to general inefficiency. A possible silver bullet here is a software solution which synchronises information between the multiple parties.
The technology we’re talking about here should encompass location and activity tracking, asset tracking, and a messaging platform. From the perspective of truck drivers, the empty mileage problem is key. Their most critical need is the ability to connect with available shippers. A mobile app for logistics companies, which links all the parts of the process together, from ordering a load to receiving the delivery, is set to become an industry norm in the near future.
At MadAppGang we worked on a project for a large shipping company. We developed a solution that was suitable for the target area and the type of devices drivers in that region normally use. All of the Atlas app’s essential features came with major challenges. To overcome these we built our own geoclustering tool for grouping multiple points on the map and developed a custom messaging solution since Twilio wasn’t an option. What matters most in any app is how functional, accessible, and straightforward it is for end users.
Stock errors can sometimes cost a company its reputation. Walmart, one of the world’s biggest retailers, proved they were not the example to follow in 2013. That year, the company lost US$3 billion because of misplaced goods. Target missed the chance to enter a new and potentially lucrative market in 2015 because, in a significant oversight, product barcodes didn’t match the numbers in the computer system.
These notorious examples prove once again that current warehouse management systems leave much to be desired. In an era characterised by technological advancement, it seems insane that stocking procedures aren’t properly facilitated through software.
Walmart learnt from own mistakes it seems; now the company has lodged itself within the world of innovations and disruptive technologies. They recently announced the 2020 launch of a new grocery warehouse. Inside this warehouse, robots will stack and load all the products, significantly optimising both space and time.
A warehouse-management mobile application should use relevant technologies for data collection. The majority of companies still rely on barcode scanners but to make smart, data-driven inventory decisions, this technology leaves much to be desired.
Mobile and wireless technologies are already common. Plus voice-directed and put-to-light solutions are expected to be widely adopted within the next few years. A recent automation study showed that 37% of the respondents were interested in such advances, while only 18% currently use these solutions. Furthermore, we can expect a wider adoption of warehouse robots which will identify and transport items throughout the facility and be operated via mobile apps.
Logistics companies need innovations geared at managing their inventory to identify items easily, optimising stock space, and analysing which products are prioritised by customers. An inventory app should have control over segregation, loading, and packaging. Items should be classified according to their storage requirements and delivery priorities. Warehouse zoning is a helpful technique here, for example, space is divided into pickup and reserve areas.
Another important consideration is how companies maintain proper warehouse security and which digital means they use to control their facilities. There should be an access control deterrent which records the credentials of people entering the warehouse, surveillance cameras, and a fire alarm installed in a building.
While these measures are an absolute must already, the next step is a dedicated mobile app to check and maintain security factors. Having control over the security tools inside a single logistics management app would be extremely helpful to say the least. Companies would be able to set up specific alerts and be notified about the activities inside their facilities.
Large retail and logistics companies should be focused on keeping their employees loyal and facilitating their work processes, this can also be accomplished via digital means.
A recent move by Amazon to “gamify” their warehouse workers’ routines had contradictory results. The company developed a game similar to Tetris which guided workers through items and tasks. On the plus side, it made the process fun and more efficient. On the minus side, the system awarded the fastest employees with points and badges, which provoked unhealthy competition and even led to protests.
In any respect, Amazon remains the most innovative brand in retail and logistics. Walmart is also in step with the latest trends. Apart from launching stock robots, the retailer opened a supply chain academy to train employees. The more technologies involved in daily processes, the higher the demand for STEM-educated workers.
While management training tools are already being adopted, a new way of coaching and adapting employees to changing work environments can be introduced via applications, another area for logistics mobile app development to focus on.
At the end of the day, customers are the driving force for any logistics company, and the demands set by customers should provide objectives for developing innovative solutions. Omnichannel experience is a notable trend now. Customers would like to have flexible options: order online or offline, have a package delivered or pick it up in the store, and the ability to track their shipments at any stage. Faster delivery is another crucial point to work on. Modern customers want their orders to arrive as fast as possible, which requires more local storage and delivery complexity from logistics businesses.
An efficient CRM system which gives customers relevant details about the delivery can be extremely helpful. CRM tools provide necessary analytics on customer behaviour. These systems work in logistics much the same way as they work for POS systems installed in restaurants. With such tools, companies can analyse demands to inform manufacturers about the optimal production volume and make their own service highly customer-oriented.
Customers also want higher transparency when it comes to tracking their orders. Taking into account last mile delivery problems, shipping companies should include offline support in their service. It would be a noticeable advantage if customers could check previously saved delivery information or contact a carrier offline.
So how exactly can a mobile app deal with the large problems affecting the logistics industry? The McKinsey Global Institute defined the supply chain management sector as having the third-highest automation potential. This potential can be unlocked with mobile solutions which combine several management tools inside one service. Let’s dig into a few details about the key technologies logistics apps need.
A mobile app with a navigation function should help reduce transportation expenses greatly. By minimising stops, identifying trouble spots, and calculating the optimal routes in a given situation, these applications guarantee the best possible speed and quality of delivery. An important aspect here is the inclusion of parties in the service. It should be convenient to both shippers and carriers, and the end customers should be satisfied with the result. Every party involved in the process should have their own version of the app − we covered the essential considerations when we looked at truck logistics apps for drivers here.
In a nutshell, any logistics application needs a customisable map and navigation functionality with route optimisation and traffic information available. The more links there are in the chain, the more pressing the issue is. An all-in-one mobile app can facilitate the means by which transportation is managed and enhance delivery speed − these are sources of major concern for logistics companies nowadays.
To not go out of business, logistics companies need to check the condition of their vehicles on a daily basis. To streamline this process they can integrate fleet management solutions. There are apps like Fleetio, which enable easy inspection and report processes.
Fleetio also offers a separate solution for inventory management and there are several more apps designed for a similar purpose, such as EazyStock. Having an automated system for the storage of various types of packages and an analysis of their performance makes procurement deals more efficient and storage safer.
Since there are many people involved, it’s impossible to maintain transportation services without a tool for assigning roles and tracking activities. Labour management systems emerged to reduce human error, eliminate paperwork, and boost general performance. With a proper mobile app, companies can easily monitor the availability of personnel and equipment, track vehicle locations, and check on activity inside their warehouses.
Mobile apps can also reduce many tiresome manual actions, for example, by enabling documentation exchange or providing a log for drivers and warehouse workers. Instead of manually singing out of a task people have an automated tool to do that for them.
While all this is already part way implemented by big transportation businesses, there aren’t enough present-day solutions which combine all the essential functions in an elegant way. Having all aspects controllable via an application opens not only the possibility to facilitate work processes but also the potential for better analytics and anticipatory strategies. Automated systems which record all the details of successful shipments, and the failures, offer useful statistics and real-time insights.
With relevant digital tools, logistics companies will not only solve problems but prevent them. Companies that take this logic on board and develop custom apps to manage their shipments at all stages will eventually displace all those who can’t keep up.
If you know how to improve logistics processes with a mobile app or you have a burning question, just drop us a line and we’ll be happy to discuss your ideas.
02 July 2019
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