Digital supply chain management for transport and logistics
As a direct result of recent and current events – the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, a lack of HGV drivers and other transport and logistics staff – there is now an urgent need for digital supply chain technologies in transport.
A change that was happening anyway has been greatly accelerating, because supply chain issues generally, and transport in particular, have been identified as pain points in the UK.1
For some companies, this is worrying – particularly if they are struggling to get back on their feet after lockdown or have problems with recruitment. But in fact, making transport and logistics ready for the digital supply chain does not have to be costly or overwhelming. That’s why The Barcode Warehouse has a new, and very practical, guide to the deployment of supply chain technologies in transport and logistics (which you can download by clicking here). It has a handy six-step guide to making transport ready for digital supply chains, based on the current position of the firm.
Does transport and logistics need a digital supply chain?
A digital supply chain uses technologies (e.g. mobile computers, RFID trackers, barcodes) to get the best from every point in that chain, and the process as a whole. A digital supply chain uses digital solutions to achieve three main aims:
- To make goods and events visible in real time, across the supply chain
- To make all parts of the supply chain flexible and responsive, able to prevent or reduce disruption while maximising efficiency
- To reduce costs/get best value at every stage
Most digital supply chains use transportation, so many transport and logistics providers are part of more than one supply chain. This means they must generate, analyse and respond to lots of data. This is complex, but need not be hard if the company has good digital skills in house or chooses to work with an enterprise mobility managed (EEM) services provider. For firms that lack digital skills, danger lies in choosing the wrong technologies, failing to get the most from the tech they do have, managing data poorly or in ways that break the law, or ignoring innovation. So, given that firms have no realistic choice but to digitalise, recruiting for digital skills and/or identifying a third-party provider should now be a priority. Why not download our guide now (by clicking here), and find out more about the value that managed services can add?
In some areas – e.g., for courier services and their clients, and in warehousing – the need to digitalise processes linked to the supply chain is truly urgent. However, even that does not mean that all digital transformation has to happen at once.
Easy steps to digital supply chain management
Companies vary in their post-pandemic recovery, the resources they have and the extent to which they already use digital supply chain technologies. Many will have legacy systems and will be more concerned with integrating digital elements than with starting again from scratch. The Barcode Warehouse’s new guide to integrating digital supply chain technologies to transform transport and logistics (which you can download by clicking here) suggests breaking down the process into the following steps:
- Draw up an inventory of current digital capability; this includes digital expertise
- Document current processes relevant to data supply chain activities. For example, how is data currently shared? What happens to data now; what value is being extracted and is it being put to best use for the business?
- Next, assess current capability and processes in light of digital supply chain management needs (i.e., visibility, access /response to information and flexibility/efficiency/value for money). What must the business do to make data visible across the supply chain, and useful?
- Identify current pain points. Some of these will probably have been identified in step 2. Root cause analysis can be extremely helpful here
- Identify and implement digital solutions for existing pain points, bearing in mind the long term need to gather, share and use data. If this seems daunting, it may be time to identify an enterprise mobility managed (EEM) services provider. Step 5 should give the firm some helpful quick wins while positioning it to benefit from digital supply chain integration
- Consider automation and look to the future. If business automates routine tasks, for example through software, this generally reduces error rates and releases time and resource that can be spent on digital transformation, instead. Businesses should consider what value they can add to any digital supply chain, since this will become a commercial asset and distinguish them from competitors. For example, can staff use data to predict and mitigate disruptions (for example, by re-directing deliveries or changing rosters), or observe patterns that could be used to improve scheduling at other points in the supply chain?
The digital supply chain is badly needed and, in a world driven by technology, an intelligent evolution that will make businesses far more agile, responsive and efficient than they currently are. Major events, including COVID-19, are bringing change more quickly than expected, and firms that can respond to this and become digital ready will have a real commercial advantage – particularly in key elements like transport and logistics.