The evolution of freight and logistics requires you to acknowledge (and apply) the role technology is playing in the industry.
Would you like to grow your transport business without having to buy new trucks and trailers? How about diversifying into freight storage without investing in warehousing? Would you like to become less reliant on human capital?
All these things are possible today, and it’s thanks to technology. But, according to Barloworld Logistics chief executive officer, Kamogelo Mmutlana, you have to make strategic decisions and you have to be prepared to evolve your tried-and-tested business model.
“We are in the business of moving the goods that drive the economy, so when the economy slows down we feel it immediately. In this environment, the ability to maintain a competitive world-class service requires new thinking.”
According to Barloworld’s Logistics Supply Chain Foresight report, the opinions of South African businesses regarding supply chain technology show that companies are preparing for digital. But, the Barloworld Logistics CEO cautions that: “It’s one thing to find a new gadget, but entirely another to use it smartly to create sustainable transport solutions.”
Related: What does the future of transport and logistics look like
Make strategic decisions around technology for your transport business
Smart technologies are expected to become industry benchmarks, not differentiators, according to the Barloworld report. This requires company leaders to get creative in terms of growing their revenue. It also means that executives in your business need to buy into changes.
“Our research shows that within the local transport industry there is a low-level of urgency and high-level of resistance to the adoption of the major technology trends,” Mmutlana says.
Despite the resistance to change, here are a few considerations for your freight business that could help you grow turnover in the years to come:
1. Consider moving to an e-platform to manage the company
What is an e-platform?
An e-platform is a digital portal, powered by the Internet (and Cloud) to facilitate interaction between two or more interdependent groups.
Example of a company using an e-platform
LinkedIn’s e-platform allows professionals to interact, seek work and engage in knowledge-sharing. As more people connect, the e-platform’s usage increases, prompting an infinite growth cycle.
How your business will benefit by moving to an e-platform
As e-platform models become more entrenched within supply chains, more participants are expected to use e-platforms to purchase transport services. Using an e-platform, your business is able to amend rates in real-time based on current capacity, route optimisation and vehicle deployment. Traditional cargo carriers might be forced to adapt to this online booking environment, as e-platforms are expected to decrease the barriers of entry for new ‘transport companies’.
2. Make more use of big data and analytics
What is big data and analytics?
Any large amount of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that can be mined for information is known as big data. Data has increasingly become critical to a business’ daily operations, whether it’s being used for sales forecasts, spotting customer trends or establishing delivery lead times.
Example of a company using big data and analytics
Mining big data for key insights and acting accordingly, despite it being contrary to traditional knowledge, is how Walmart made record sales. As one of the largest businesses worldwide, the huge amount of data collected daily across Walmart’s footprint helps provide deep insights into consumer behavioural trends.
Related: ‘Uberising’ rail: Should we think like Warren Buffet?
How your business can benefit by embracing big data and analytics
When collated and analysed correctly, data from sales, tracking and inventory could be helpful in crafting responsive and connected delivery services for customers. For a competitive edge, it’s advised to capitalise on your digital assets by hiring smart, creative people with the ability to make data interpretations.
3. Make room for robots in the transport team
What is robotic technology’s impact on the freight sector?
Employees are already being assisted by technology such as automatic sorters, conveyor belts and goods-to-picker solutions in warehouses and distribution centres globally. But most large hubs’ operation still depend on hundreds of people.
Example of business leveraging robotics already
Locus Robotics’ warehouse solution, Locusbots, is a joint effort between robots and humans, where robots select a location in the warehouse to meet the picker. The product being delivered is then dropped into a plastic bin located on the robot’s body by an employee. Not only does the solution create higher productivity by decreasing the distance walked by pickers, it also reduces the chances of an incorrect item being picked for delivery.
How the business can benefit by using robots more prominently?
Using robots, an advanced warehouse management system and highly-skilled employees could ensure better use of your existing depot or yard space. Robots can also improve stock control, and quicken pick speed and loading. The ability to operate for longer hours, process more orders hourly minimise error and injury are also added advantages of robotics use.