How technology is changing the Logistics industry
Building resilience into the supply chain
Logistics companies are surrounded by a plethora of challenges. They face the rising expectations of businesses and consumers to have deliveries faster, more transparency and at ever lower costs, as well as responding to the wider challenge of changing supply chains and shopping patterns.
In the consumer world, the rise of the internet and global ecommerce continues apace. The global parcels delivery market was worth €392 billion in 2019, up from €347 billion in 2018, according to Research and Markets. On the face of it, good news for logistics businesses, but along with this rise in business and required capacity, comes the added expectations of faster, cheaper and more transparent.
In the business to business world there are different dynamics driving the change in business needs but they are no less challenging. With organisations streamlining supply chains and reducing warehousing capacity to save on costs, the need for logistics companies to be able to deliver “just in time” in ever tightening time windows continues.
For many logistics companies, the answer is better and more wide spread use of technology. According to PWC research:
“There is no other industry where so many industry experts ascribe a high importance to data and analytics in the next five years than transportation and logistics – 90% in Transportation and Logistics compared to an average of 83%. The sector has never had access to more data. There are vast opportunities here to improve performance and serve customers better, and LSPs who are part of a digitally integrated value chain can benefit from significantly improved forecasting to scale capacity up or down and plan routes.”
Rather than circle the wagons and defend their traditional way of business, logistics companies are responding to the challenges through the innovative use of technology. The leading logistics operations are building resilience and flexibility into their businesses, whilst driving down costs.
One area of successful deployment of technology is in the warehousing side of the business. Otto Pachmayer GmbH & Co Mineralwasser KG is one of the oldest, family-owned beverage wholesalers in Germany. The new company site has 11,000 square metres of warehouse space and every year the company supplies its customers with approximately 6 million crates and drums out of its wide range of 1,800 products of beer and soft drinks, as well as catering products.
The warehouse and delivery operation uses Panasonic TOUGHBOOK tablets alongside its warehouse management system. Using the devices they have virtually eliminated the need for training for the workforce for consigning and picking goods and with the graphic interface language barriers are a thing of the past. With the system implementation product availability has increased to 99.5% and error rate for consignment picking has reduced to under 1%.
Postal and courier deliveries
For postal and courier organisations, equipping the workforce with mobile computing devices has helped to digitalise the entire process. PostNL, the largest parcel delivery company in Benelux, is equipping its workforce with almost 5,000 rugged Panasonic TOUGHBOOK handheld devices. The organisation deals with 575,000 packages every day and this number is increasing. Using the new handhelds, PostNL plans to offer customers better and more real-time tracking of their deliveries, from the sorting centres to the delivery address.
In the international logistics business, many organisations have switched to equipping their drivers with one device to help they stay connected to the ever changing requirements of a 24/7 operation when they are on the road.
Planzer, the Swiss logistics company, has equipped its drivers with 2,000 rugged Panasonic TOUGHBOOK handhelds for use in transportation of temperature-controlled pharmaceutical goods, as well as parcel and overnight delivery services. The company, with 59 locations in Switzerland and nine more internationally, chose Panasonic TOUGHBOOK handhelds for their durability and fast, ergonomic scanning capabilities.
The company used to use ordinary consumer smartphones but many of them quickly became damaged. The new rugged devices are used to support the traceability of goods during transportation, for communicating orders to drivers, and to obtain the customer’s digital signature when the goods are delivered. The drivers also use mobile devices to make phone calls as well as for email and navigation.
Approximately 4000 Panasonic devices have been deployed in 65 branches of the Raben Group. The project covered 11 countries (the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary and Ukraine). The 4.7-inch rugged TOUGHBOOK N1 handheld combines the functions of a tablet, phone and a barcode reader. The devices are used to collect and provide real-time data on the status of shipments to provide customers with accurate arrival times.
In addition, the handheld is used by drivers to navigate, communicate with the transport dispatcher and customer service department as well as support additional applications that facilitate their daily work. The angled barcode reader enables efficient scanning of labels all the way through the whole loading and transporting process. The device also allows signature capture confirming the delivery of goods and creating electronic Proof of Delivery dates. In addition it saves the location of each delivery and maps the route the truck travels, monitors the start / end time of the route, the number of kilometres travelled, stops visited and each operation performed on the shipment.
From these examples alone, you can see that the digitisation of the logistics industry is well underway but with the promise of additional new technologies, such as blockchain, autonomous vehicles and drones, the technology transformation looks set to continue for many years to come.
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