With leading software development companies now depending on technologies such as AI and cloud support services, the scope for building custom software is now manifold. Organisations from around the world now have the possibility to use the best talent in the field, with neither physical boundaries nor infrastructure being constraints. To outsource software development means that costs will also be reduced, but without any compromise on quality – while maintaining partnerships with software development teams that are strong as they are sustainable.
The logistics industry, on the other hand, is one that is constantly under pressure to perform – especially during times of excessive demand or duress. With consumer preferences now getting more and more customised by the day, organisations need to step up, else their competitors will. If customer demands are already so complex, hiccups in the supply chain further add to the challenge, especially in the wake of economic constraints such as rising gas prices. With so many intricate factors in the mix, how are logistics operators able to fulfil consignments, maintain compliance and minimise costs at the same time?
The right solution lies in adopting suitable tools which will empower professionals in the logistics industry to be productive, reduce task repetition and gain valuable insights into the workings of their daily operations, to aid in wiser decision making for the future. Logistics management applications therefore need to be built based on what your organisation’s key requirements are, along with keeping staff convenience in mind.
Manufacturing companies which also handle their own logistics may require a system that is different from one that a third-party logistics consultant may need (such as a 3PL provider). Partnerships with a cloud service provider (such as an AWS partner) can also enable organisations to avail an array of virtual infrastructure which can further contribute towards custom solutions that are precisely built to scale.
With so many variables surrounding the building, deployment and maintenance of logistics management systems, where do you start? Here is a guide that offers the information you need to identify requirements, select features and implement the best logistics management solution.
Logistics software records, assigns, manages and streamlines all the functions that are essential for moving items from one location to another, in a goods-producing organisation. While a logistics software development company can build a solution that is bespoke to the needs of your business, third-party tools can also be integrated to create a system that is more module-based.
Irrespective of how your logistics management software has been formulated, integrations are going to be part and parcel, owing to many reasons. For one, logistics management platforms may have to be integrated with other larger systems such as an SCM (Supply Chain Management) system, or even a fully-fledged ERP. In the case of 3PL consultants/providers, being able to connect with the various existing systems of your clientele is vital for the seamless passage of data, so that no task is missed, and fulfilment can happen on time.
Logistics management will likely have to be scaled in accordance to demand and seasonality, along with other economic factors which contribute to operating costs, such as fuel prices. Likewise, your software also should be able to adapt – with technologies such as intelligent recommendations (which are usually powered by AI) and business intelligence determining how companies can speed up fulfilment, while retaining the same level of service and quality.
With fleets of trucks, vans and even motorcycles playing an integral role in the transportation of goods from one destination to another, fleet management software is one of the biggest components of any logistics management system. Monitor every aspect of your fleet, by tracking location, tracking items in inventory and scheduling check-ups, for regular repairs and maintenance.
Delivery and pick-up management.
With growing companies experiencing an influx of orders (especially during times of peak season and demand), creating a cadence which transports goods to the correct address (and within timeframes specified) is imperative for meeting customer expectations. As a result, optimising routes by offering automated recommendations during navigation as well as which deliveries/pick-ups to facilitate along any given route will make fulfilments faster, while saving fuel in the process.
Part of many fleet management systems, telematics technologies come together to offer comprehensive vehicle tracking capabilities. Monitor where every vehicle in the fleet is located, including where it is headed, as well as whether it is deviating from any given routes. Track drivers’ idle times so that workforce productivity can be measured in a data-oriented manner. Telematics can also detect driving habits, thereby identifying any unsafe habits such as late braking, or even falling asleep behind the wheel.
OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) trackers facilitate much more, by even detecting any technical faults in the vehicle, the data of which can be directly transferred over to the fleet maintenance department for immediate action.
Other features include geofencing, which ensures that vehicles are only confined to a certain geographical limit. For long-distance reefer trucks which transport perishable goods (such as frozen items) keeping track of the temperature remotely is also possible, thanks to telematics.
With driver management software, onboard and offboard drivers with automated workflows – including those who are working for you on a temporary contract basis. Record and profile driver information in a central repository, so all departments have a single source of truth.
Driver management systems will go hand-in-hand with telematics, as well as fleet and delivery management, since their daily schedules will be determined by the vehicles available in the fleet, as well as the shipments pending fulfilment.
Other than that, driver management profiles are also key points of access for HR/workforce optimisation teams, as they can plan training schedules and build scorecards for drivers.
Fleet safety and maintenance management.
Upholding the overall health of your fleets is essential for subsequently maintaining timely fulfilments as well as the safety of your drivers and delivery personnel. Preventative maintenance scheduling is a proactive process of building check-ups into the regular routines of your vehicles, so any problems can be detected well ahead of time, and repaired before they worsen. Engine diagnostics and emissions testing also form part of overall fleet maintenance, thereby making logistics companies comply with safety and environmental regulations from relevant governing bodies.
Accident management forms a crucial part of fleet and driver safety, by integrating panic buttons into vehicles in the case of an emergency. Again, use telematics to remotely detect possible collisions while vehicles are on the road, while all-round autopilot and remote control further ensure an extra layer of support for drivers who may be travelling along treacherous roads, while being far away from company quarters.
Inventory and logistics management go hand-in-hand, especially since stocks determine whether fulfilments can even happen in the first place. By profiling, kitting and monitoring the reduction of stocks, replenishment orders can be automated with suppliers so no shortages are experienced in the warehouse. If multiple warehouses are maintained, logistics teams can be directed to the nearest one, in order to maximise efficiency via reduced fulfilment times and fuel costs.
Leading inventory management systems also enable businesses to conduct space and floor planning, to resourcefully make use of all available space in order to curb costs. With the right analytics tools, inventory management systems can also track competitor prices for enhancing product costing and development. Warranty management is another capability, so that complete lifecycle management can be conducted for every item that resides in, and then leaves your warehouse.
By automating repetitive and/or mundane workflows, staff are freed from the daily grind so they can instead focus on tasks that require more of their strategic and analytical insight. By configuring policies and rules to reflect your business’s objectives, workflow automation can be easily customised at scale, so that any errors due to manual intervention are reduced (if not eliminated) and punctuality is maintained across the entire supply chain.
AI and machine learning.
With AI, machine learning and other subset technologies such as computer vision now dominating every industry across the digital landscape, logistics management is also no exception. Business intelligence can be powered by AI to reveal valuable insights from big data, while also forecasting possible future trends for wise business decision making.
On top of that, big data can also be used to train algorithms that can offer intelligent recommendations for automating certain workflows. Chatbots are another use case, which can understand context that’s akin to human communication and thereby provide responses which are sentimentally accurate.
IoT and edge computing.
With smart devices increasing in popularity, businesses have immense scope in using a variety of network-backed devices for tracking a variety of data – and then programmatically actuating responses, with little to no human intervention. Remote temperature sensors in reefers are one great example, while RFID tags for tracking the location and condition of items that are in transit, is another.
Beacons are also popular trackers of customer traffic, and are generally placed in physical stores. With even the smartphones of staff accounting for IoT devices, the logistics industry at large has numerous spots and uses for incorporating IoT and edge computing, in order to streamline operations.
As cyber breaches increase by the day, organisations need to constantly protect their network perimeters from attackers. The same rings true for your logistics management system; from protecting customer data to comply with regulations such as GDPR, to controlling access rights for employees, many protocols and tools need to be in place for preventing any compromise of your business systems.
Round-the-clock threat detection and incident remediation is another key cybersecurity component for enterprises – and something which your company also needs to incorporate, so that no attacker can gain access to and sabotage your company’s vital data.
Assess the logistics needs of your business.
What problems are your teams currently facing, when it comes to logistics management? Are there any bottlenecks, or is data getting missed somewhere along the process? List all of these down into a brief, which can then serve as a key point of reference for future blueprinting.
Discuss your needs with your software development team.
Discuss the contents of the assessment brief in greater detail with your software development team, so they obtain a clear idea of what problems your business is having with its existing software – and how they can improve it with the right tools and functionalities.
Start small, preferably with an MVP.
With a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), software development teams are able to narrow their focus towards select features that are absolutely essential for your software – thereby reducing downtimes when it comes to implementation. This also reduces the learning curve for end users, as only a small number of features need to be mastered in terms of navigation.
Create a DevOps cycle to upgrade and scale.
Once the MVP is established and feedback is generated from users, your software can now be iterated for improvement. This can ideally be part of a DevOps cycle, so your software is constantly being upgraded only based on what users need, and therefore, at scale.
The logistics industry is vast, intricate, complex and very much essential – especially as the world’s goods are transported over from one destination to another. Being an integral part of any supply chain, knowing what to incorporate into your logistics management system is something which requires a thorough assessment, while identifying which features and capabilities are most useful for streamlining business processes.
Together with a software development company that has your business’s best interests at heart, building a bespoke logistics management software will require a variety of components, such as fleet, delivery, driver and inventory management. All of this needs to scale with growing enterprise demands, so your software will stay on par with the times, and serve you in the long term.