The other day when I was grocery shopping I discovered that a bunch of asparagus I bought had traveled to Ukraine all the way from Ecuador. That’s a long way to go! This asparagus made me think about how logistics have changed with online shopping and how locally made goods are on the decline.
Today, the transportation industry faces a number of challenges, but there are four main areas in which new technological advancements have been improving logistics processes:
Storage and distribution
Transportation and logistics
How much do businesses actually use apps to improve their processes?
[Source: Logistics Viewpoints]
What are some examples of technology used in logistics and transportation?
A recent survey by uShip gives us some answers to this question: more than 57% of respondents in the industry say they’ve used their mobile phones for daily business operations within the last year. Almost 40% of those surveyed reported using their phones to book loads, whereas 35% of people working in logistics say they use mobile devices to bid on loads.
Other uses included checking for severe weather alerts, comparing gas prices at different stations, and learning about routes with fewer traffic jams.
Technology successfully automates essential operations for transportation companies; it gives us real-time fleet and cargo tracking, optimizes our routes, and helps to improve transportation management and the overall quality of service.
All these technologies have three use cases:
1) Automating paper-based logistics processes
Mobile reports can easily be synced across users and saved in cloud storage. In logistics, filling out orders and delivery reports electronically saves time and optimizes the order workflow. Various processes at different stages of delivery can be automated, from accounting to invoicing and quality assurance reports.
Going paperless also introduces e-signatures, which lower the risk of fraud.
2) Keeping track of cargo bids, shipments, and routes in real time
In the past, delivery companies could only track the arrival of their orders at key destinations (for example, at a depot) and then again at the end of the journey when it arrived at the customer’s address. Mobile apps allow both customers and delivery service workers to track cargo movements in real time.
3) Adding flexibility to the delivery process and allowing third parties to tap into delivery routes
Being able to predict how busy certain routes will be and plan ahead is very useful. Delivery companies that are flexible like that also offer services customised based on what a particular client wants (for example, leg-to-leg delivery, where each leg is performed by a different carrier, resulting in more efficient service and a lower price). Technology also gives delivery companies additional flexibility as schedules and routes can be changed in-transit to avoid traffic jams, severe weather, or other delaying factors.
What are some of the most popular apps for drivers and transportation companies?
Logistics and warehouse management apps
WEBFLEET is a software-as-a-service fleet management platform that helps plan and manage the everyday operations of drivers and truckers. Available for web and mobile, WEBFLEET provides real-time delivery vehicle tracking so logistics companies always know where their vehicles are and can optimize routes and cut down on fuel costs. Another very useful feature of WEBFLEET is that it visualizes your fleet performance according to a set of KPIs you choose. All data about your fleet’s orders, trip reports, and mileage logs are stored in the system too.
EazyStock is an app that can come in handy when you need to do inventory in warehouses.
EazyStock is a cloud-based tool that helps warehouses reduce maintenance costs and at the same time optimize stock to turn over more profitable items faster. EazyStock can be integrated with other tools for enterprise resource planning that allow inventory managers to automate the procurement of goods and replenish their stock in advance. It also allows managers to define a set of KPIs and monitor results on a dashboard. EazyStock turns inventory stocking into an efficient process no matter the size of the business.
Scandit is another useful tool for inventory management. It offers an SDK for mobile apps that works both for Android and iOS, turning mobile devices into barcode scanners. Its serious advantage is that Scandit recognizes even low-quality images and processes barcodes that are difficult to see or reach. Scandit also allows sharing data across smartphones and computers.
Trucklogics is a cloud-based solution that helps drivers manage all paperwork that comes with trucking services – from dispatches to international fuel tax agreement (IFTA) reports.
Trucklogics allows business owners to set up different levels of access for different employees. Its “Less Than Truckload” feature lets warehouse employees dispatch multiple loads on one truck and create a separate invoice for each shipment. The chart of accounts allows you to easily track invoices in the payment system.
Mobile apps also solve a number of everyday problems for professional drivers: tracking time and mileage, keeping in touch with management and family, and choosing the most efficient routes across the unknown terrain.
The FleetSafer mobile app eliminates the temptation to text or browse the web while driving. The app allows drivers to block texts or automatically respond with a message that they’re on the route.
Trucker Tools. This app was an addition to Groupon. Using Trucker Tools, drivers can source coupons from more than 5,000 truck stops around the US, locate gas stations with the lowest fuel prices, and get turn-by-turn directions to each truck stop on their way.
GasBuddy is an app that relies on a community of users who share gas and diesel prices. Fuel prices are gathered from hundreds of stations all over the US and Canada and displayed in the app. GasBuddy allows drivers to sort gas stations according to the type of fuel and see what additional amenities these gas stations have to offer.
Truck drivers in the US and Canada are legally required to fill out logbooks where they indicate their hours of service as well as when they take a break or sleep.
Logging hours of service is a pain point for a lot of truckers, but it’s gotten much easier with the BigRoad electronic log app. This app is fast and convenient, allowing drivers to send documents from their mobile devices, and it’s free for individual drivers. For fleets, the service is paid, but it starts at the very reasonable price of $15.00 a month.
BigRoad is a real-time fleet management solution that’s very user-friendly and complies with US and Canadian regulations for logbooks.
APIs by trucking and warehousing businesses
On top of stand-alone mobile and web apps, freight marketplaces and logistics businesses often release APIs that can be integrated with existing fleet management or warehouse inventory solutions to save businesses time and money.
СomFreight has released an API for carriers, shippers and freight brokers that allows businesses to automate freight bidding and truck loading processes. ComFreight’s API automatically pushes available trucks to the market to find matching loads.
Fleet Manager’s Open API helps businesses track the location and performance of their vehicles as well as the results of engine diagnostics and share this data with third-party systems.
Transportation apps come in various forms and can be tailored to particular needs of your business, be it warehouse management system or another on-demand trucking solution.