Q&A: Digitisation of logistics processes brings visibility to the supply chain

David Williamson, Global account director Transporeon Group

What social and technological trends are driving new challenges in logistics?
Some of the main technological trends are the move to cloud-based platforms, the drive for real-time communication, and better use and understanding of what big data can do for business. The need for communication and information is now anytime anywhere, which is driving digitisation and seeing the rise of the e-logistics market. This drives challenges such as driver and capacity shortage across all of the industries. Increasing road congestion and regulations do not help either. Horizontal and vertical collaboration is insufficient and transparency is lacking. If you look at fast-moving consumer goods, or FMCG, and retail particularly, the manufacturers, shippers and retailers all have distribution centres in similar places. They are all sending vehicles to and from these locations, which means there are a lot of empty miles. Being able to fill those empty vehicles is quite difficult because of insufficient collaboration, as well as a lack of visibility and digitisation in the supply chains that each manufacturer, supplier or retailer operate.

What are the key inefficiencies in transportation today?
Empty running is a huge issue. Vehicles leaving the manufacturers, consolidators or suppliers are normally full, but once they’ve delivered their load, they have a period of empty running. Between 15 and 20 per cent of all trucks on the road are empty, and that’s a massive problem. Meanwhile, up to 90 minutes are wasted when a truck gets wherever it’s going to be offloaded or unloaded. These inefficiencies are the result of poor transparency, a lack of connectivity and because of the manual processes involved. Phone calls, faxes, emails and manual processes are all still commonly used throughout supply chains, so that’s your visibility gone. It makes it increasingly difficult to tackle empty trucks, and reduce idle and waiting times when you don’t have software, ideally cloud based, to be able to give you visibility and the ability to do something about it. All companies want an end-to-end visible supply chain and this is where digitisation comes in because that’s the only way you can truly achieve it. Only if you have a true end-to-end vision can you fully control and see where inefficiencies are, and then drive them out.

How is Transporeon helping companies to tackle these inefficiencies?
Connectivity is the heart of what we do – we give manufacturers, shippers and retailers the ability to connect with their carriers. When you connect with your carriers and multiple suppliers through software as a service (SaaS), you can link thousands of independent companies within your supply chain, irrespective of which system they operate. Then you can connect your warehouses into that particular chain, providing the opportunity to manage both your inbound and outbound flow, removing peaks and troughs. If you’re able to connect all the different partners you have in your supply chain and see them in one place, then you have total visibility. But that isn’t enough. You then need platforms that help you to act on that visibility to reduce empty miles, for example, or reduce CO2.

Connectivity is the heart of what we do – we give manufacturers, shippers and retailers the ability to connect with their carriers

As companies continue to digitise their logistics processes, how will supply chain strategies evolve?
Collaboration and seamless connectivity between different suppliers, retailers and manufacturers holds the key to reducing empty miles. Accessing big data offers real-time optimisation, and will provide business-relevant analytics and paperless connectivity with carriers. Dynamic rerouting and capacity planning will also help supply chain strategies to evolve. Having visibility and being able to co-operate will overcome those huge barriers. That’s where we will play an even bigger part in the future because connectivity and visibility are absolutely crucial to being able to achieve closer co-operation and better efficiency.

For more information please visit transporeon-group.com